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Football: Can practice make perfect for Cal?

The Bears boarded a flight to Columbus on Thursday morning, hoping they have made the necessary adjustments in practice this week that will pay off Saturday against No. 12 Ohio State.

Cal wants to get out of the blocks faster, make fewer early mistakes and avoid putting itself in a hole. It figures that climbing out of that hole against the Buckeyes will be substantially more difficult than it was against Southern Utah.

“We had a good week of practice and it’s been our focal point. Guys have worked hard at it,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said Thursday morning. “It’s not like we’ve practiced slow in the past. We’ve practiced fine.”

The fact is, the Bears won’t know if their work translates until kickoff Saturday.

“It’s a game-day thing,” Tedford said. “You get the confidence from good practice and you go out there with poise and composure.

“It’s just a matter of dealing with the game environment and being comfortable with what we’re doing and being poised and focused. And not being too amped.”

— Click here for my game preview, focusing on the Bears’ concerns with Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller.

— Here’s a breakdown of how Cal has fared under coach Jeff Tedford in road games vs. nationally ranked opponents.

CAL AT OHIO STATE

RECORDS: Cal 1-1, Ohio State 2-0.

KICKOFF: 9 a.m., Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio.

TV: ABC

RADIO: 810-AM

SERIES HISTORY: Ohio State leads 5-1. Cal won 28-0 in the 1920 Rose Bowl, but Ohio State has won the past five meetings, most recently at Berkeley in 1972.

STORYLINES: On the heels of back-to-back unsatisfying performances, the Bears take on the No. 12 Buckeyes, then return to the road to face No. 2 USC next week. Cal lost its season opener to Nevada, then led just 20-17 entering the fourth quarter last week vs. Southern Utah before winning 50-31 . . . Cal will try to run the ball against one of the Big Ten’s top rush defenses, despite playing again without top offensive lineman Matt Summers-Gavin.

INJURY UPDATE: Cal — TE Richard Rodgers and OLB Chris McCain are probable. OT Matt Summers-Gavin (knee), ILB David Wilkerson (ankle), ILB Khairi Fortt (knee), OG Dominic Galas (shoulder), CB Stefan McClure (knee) are out. Ohio State — RB Jordan Hall (foot) is probable. DL Michael Bennett (groin) is doubtful. RB Carlos Hyde (knee) and RB Warren Ball (foot) are out.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal’s defense vs. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. The Bears have struggled in recent seasons against running quarterbacks, including games this season and in 2010 against Nevada’s pistol offense. At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Miller will challenge the Bears out of new coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense. Passing or running, he has accounted for 668 of the Buckeyes’ 949 yards this season. The Bears will have to maintain outside containment on scramble situations, but also be aware that the Buckeyes call lots of designed runs for Miller.

STATS THAT MATTER: Cal beat three nationally ranked teams on the road in Jeff Tedford’s debut season of 2002, but is 2-10 since under those circumstances . . . Ohio State has outscored its first two opponents 49-13 in the second half . . . OSU’s Urban Meyer is 36-4 as a head coach in the month of September . . . Meyer and Cal’s Jeff Tedford each have worked 129 games as a college head coach. Meyer is 106-23, Tedford 80-49.

Jeff Faraudo