Ohio State (1-0) vs. Kent State (1-0)
at Ohio Stadium
12:10 pm EST - Televised on ESPN Plus
Lots of talk has been swirling around Buckeyeland over the past week and a half... and for once, it's been all good. The Buckeyes' impressive performance against Texas Tech in the opener was better than many people expected, and the buzz surrounding this team is pretty high right now. The next step comes in the form of the Kent State Golden Flashes -- a MAC team that is coming off a 6-5 season and hopes to continue their winning ways this year.
Let's be honest -- while it is never advisable to overlook any opponent, this looks like a one-sided matchup. The Buckeyes are coming in ranked as one of the top ten teams in America, while Kent State is somewhere in the bottom 50 in most likelihood. But despite what the game looks like on paper, the Buckeyes and the fans have learned first-hand that no team is to be taken lightly. Consider the following examples from the last couple of seasons alone:
- 2000 -- The Miami (OH) RedHawks come to town in a game expected to be lopsided. The Buckeyes' play, however, is passive, and Miami makes it a scare as they hung around for most of the game, only to lose 27-16.
- 2000 -- The unbeaten Buckeyes are flying high, ranked 5th in America after toppling Wisconsin on the road. The buzz is big and fans and players are thinking national championship. Someone forgot to tell the Minnesota Golden Gophers that though as the Gophers, a team most assumed OSU would handle, came into the Horseshoe and did the handling themselves as they knocked off the Buckeyes and killed the buzz.
- 2001 -- The Buckeyes open against Akron, a team that you'd think they would run over. The score, however, was closer than expected as the Bucks won 28-14. While the Zips didn't exactly threaten to win that game, the Buckeyes didn't exactly take it to them either.
- 2001 -- In a truly scary game, lowly San Diego State comes to town. The Buckeyes were flat, and for a while, it actually looked like San Diego State may have a shot to pull off a shocker. They were leading at halftime 12-6 and carried that lead well into the third quarter before the Buckeyes gathered themselves and were able to pull out a 27-12 win.
Will this game against Kent State go down as one of those "closer-than-it-should've-been" games?
For Kent State to do that, they will have to rely heavily on sophomore quarterback Joshua Cribbs. Cribbs pulled off a great feat last year as he ran for over 1,000 yards and passed for over 1,000 yards as a true freshman, and he is well on his way to putting up big rushing numbers once again as he ran for 191 yards in the season opener against New Hampshire.
Cribbs wasn't the only one who had success on the ground in that game. Kent ran for 399 yards, including 104 from Eddie Beccles and 65 from Antonio King. Beccles and King are the top two tailbacks on Kent State. DeMarcus Robinson and Darrell Dowery are listed as the top two WRs, and Maurio Medley was the leading receiver against New Hampshire. The offensive line returns three starters from last year.
In case you haven't guessed, the Buckeyes could see a lot of running in this game. This may not a game in which the defensive backs will be tested by the pass.
Defensively, Kent State returns eight starters, with linebacker Anthony Henriquez being the top returning player (although he is not listed on the depth chart this week). Shawn Armstead and Roy Attieh are returning starters in the front seven, and Kent's entire secondary is back from last year, including two of the better defensive players in CBs Justin Baugham and Nashville Dyer.
We can break down Kent State all we want, but when it comes down to it, it's like this -- OSU has the advantage at every position. The Golden Flashes are going to be competitive in many of their MAC games, but this team, which has won 10 out of their last 45 games (although they've actually won seven out of their last eleven), does not (on paper) appear to have the horses to run with Ohio State. Like the games listed above, the Buckeyes would have to come out passive to let Kent State hang around.
If the Buckeyes come out ready to get the job done, the game shouldn't be close. The talent gap between these two teams is large, and the Buckeyes should be able to overpower Kent State. We've said that before only to see the above-mentioned teams keep things closer than expected, but the guess here is it won't happen in this game. Look for OSU to cruise to a victory of 24 points or more.