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Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel will test Ohio State secondary

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel has thrown for 689 yards and 10 touchdowns in two games.

Statistically, Ohio State's secondary looks fine, as the Buckeyes lead the Big Ten and are third nationally in pass defense.

But the main reason for the good ranking has been the opponents. Navy uses a triple-option attack and doesn't pass all that much and Kent State ... well, Kent State's offense is just bad. The third opponent was Virginia Tech, which threw for 199 yards and two TDs and hurt the Buckeyes through the air in an upset victory.

That's why coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes should be worried this week with Cincinnati heading to Columbus.

The Bearcats' quarterback is sophomore Gunner Kiel, who set an NCAA record in Cincinnati's opener by throwing six TD passes -- the most in history by a player making his college debut.

Kiel (6-foot-4, 208 pounds) was the nation's consensus No. 1 quarterback and a top-30 player overall in the 2012 recruiting class. Kiel originally committed to LSU before changing his mind and eventually signing with Notre Dame. He left Notre Dame after his true freshman season and transferred to Cincinnati, where he sat out last season.

In two games this season, Kiel has thrown for 689 yards and 10 touchdowns, and is completing 65.8 percent of his passes.

Meyer was asked about Kiel on Monday during his weekly news conference. "I see one of the top quarterbacks in the country," Meyer said, praising Kiel's arm strength.

While cornerback Bradley Roby was the unquestioned star of last season's secondary for the Buckeyes, no one truly stands out -- at least not yet -- in this season's group. Senior cornerback Doran Grant (5-11, 193) is the most experienced player among the defensive backs; he has good speed, but consistency is an issue. Sophomore safeties Tyvis Powell (6-3, 208) and Vonn Bell (5-11, 200) have intriguing upside; Powell's size stands out.

Cincinnati wide receiver Mekale McKay (6-6, 195), who began his career at Arkansas, has gotten off to a fast start this season (12 receptions, with three for TDs), and his size makes him a dangerous weapon in the red zone.

Kiel has said he was nervous before his college debut and Tuberville said during his weekly news conference Tuesday that Kiel "needs to quit pressing."

Check out the top images from the fourth weekend of college football play.

Tuberville also wondered how Kiel would handle the crowd at Ohio Stadium, which has an official capacity of 102,329.

"Hopefully, he doesn't recognize how many people are there," Tuberville said.

While Kiel has good size and a strong arm, his mental makeup already seems to be an issue with pro scouts. In a recent "Sources Tell Us" post, NFL Media analysts wrote that "there are plenty of skeptics who wonder if the former five-star recruit has the mental fortitude to eventually develop into a franchise quarterback at the next level."

An extra storyline is that Meyer will be coaching against his alma mater for the first time. He played minor league baseball for two years before becoming a defensive back at Cincinnati and graduating in 1986.

"I probably wasn't a good enough player to go there, but I did play a little bit and went right into coaching right afterward," Meyer said.

In addition, Meyer noted during his news conference that one of his sisters is an associate provost at Cincinnati and his other sister was a homecoming queen at the school.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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