Buckeyes: Kent State Can't Be Taken Lightly

With Ohio State now firmly planted in the top five of the national rankings, the only thing that could derail a promising season would be a loss, especially if that comes against Saturday's opponent, Kent State. With the spate of recent high-profile upsets, don't expect the Buckeyes to overlook the Golden Flashes.

Playing on the popular phrase that compares any difficult task to brain surgery, comedian Jim Gaffigan wonders aloud during one of his bits to what brain surgeons must compare such tasks. Gaffigan surmises that brain surgeons must compare difficult tasks to trying to talk to women.

Clearly, the comedian has never attempted to get any member of the Ohio State football team to admit that squad is overlooking an upcoming opponent. Under head coach Jim Tressel, that would be a truly impossible task.

Such a fact is even true when the Buckeyes have to face a nonconference opponent during the middle of the Big Ten season, as they have each of the past two years since the NCAA moved to a 12-game schedule. With Ohio State off to a 6-0 start and a national championship run becoming more possible by the win, the team says Kent State is no different than Illinois or Northwestern, thus underestimating the Golden Flashes is not an option.

"You can't really think about it like that because if we lose this game, we're not going to play for the national championship," receiver Brian Hartline said. "We still want to be undefeated. It's just another game; nonconference or conference doesn't really matter."

That message has been driven home more than usual during what has become a season of monumental upsets in college football. It started on the Big Ten's opening weekend when Michigan fell to Appalachian State of Division I-AA, then continued during the Sept. 29 weekend when top-10 undefeateds West Virginia, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas and Rutgers all lost.

Perhaps most shocking was USC's loss to Pacific-10 brethren Stanford, a 40-point underdog, on Saturday. The Trojans were playing at home and facing off against a Cardinal team that entered the game just 1-3 and playing with a backup quarterback. None of that, or a 23-14 fourth-quarter deficit, could stop Stanford, which posted a 24-23 victory to yet again shake up the polls.

The announcement that USC had lost was broadcast over the loudspeaker at Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium during Ohio State's win over Purdue, which some Buckeyes admitted that they noticed. Other than the fact that the Buckeyes moved up in the polls because of the second-ranked Trojans loss, the thing they said they realized most from the result was that no opponent could be taken lightly.

"The way the games have gone this year with the Appalachian States and the Stanfords and all that, there's no underdog anymore," long snapper Dimitrios Makridis said. "You can lose any given week, so we take it one step at a time."

Kent State will come into Ohio Stadium with a 3-3 record and just a 1-2 mark in the Mid-American Conference. They will be the third Ohio opponent, after Youngstown State, which OSU defeated 38-6 to open the season Sept. 1, and Akron, which the Buckeyes dismissed 20-2 a week later, to enter Ohio Stadium.

"I think a lot of teams come into the ‘Shoe and play their hearts out," offensive guard Steve Rehring said. "Especially Ohio teams because whatever you say, I don't care who you are, whatever, when you're in high school and you're getting recruited, everyone wants to go to Ohio State. Everyone wants to go to a big school. When you come here it's your chance to shine. You're going to play hard and you're going to play hard all game."

History should be on Ohio State's side Saturday. Since Tressel took over, Ohio State teams are 10-0 in games against in-state opposition. In addition, Tressel's ranked teams are 59-8 when facing teams that were ranked below then or unranked.

Tressel's one-game-at-a-time approach has often been credited with instilling his players with a sense of importance for every contest, and his players have begun to take notice of that trend.

"I don't think in general he's been upset very often in his career," Hartline said. "He's pretty good at game-planning. I haven't seen anything to say otherwise. The national championship game was a little rough, a little different, but overall throughout his career things like that usually don't happen."

No matter what happens Saturday, Rehring said it will beat sitting at home and watching the competition.

"We're playing games," he said. "It's better than a bye week. I didn't like bye weeks when we had them. I'd rather be playing a game."


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