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End Zone: OSU Buckeyes

'Pre-season' over for Bucks who outscored opponents 102-14 in the first quarter

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Four weeks of open-book pop quizzes give way to midterms when fourth-ranked OSU hosts No. 23 Wisconsin.

So far, the Buckeyes have faced less scrutiny than a Russian election, outscoring a who's who of small potatoes 102-14 in the first quarter before turning on autocruise. They have played the 165th-toughest schedule in the nation, according to the Sagarin ratings.

At last, the main course is here, starting with an acid test to answer two pressing questions: Is Braxton Miller back to his old self? And can a rebuilt defense slow a bruising run game?

How Miller looks after two-plus weeks of rust is anyone's guess, but I suspect coaches will place unyielding faith — within reason — in him. Even a downsized two-quarterback system with Miller and backup Kenny Guiton could gnaw at the star's confidence. If Miller is healthy and starts, a slow start can't mean a quick hook.

A new-look defensive front seven, meanwhile, is in for a test of wills. Lacking a competent passing game, the Badgers will run right at OSU with the nation's leading rusher (Melvin Gordon) and the country's active career rushing leader (James White).

These Buckeyes are a more talented version of their perfect selves from last season. Now they must prove it.

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.

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