Saturday, Noon, Ohio Stadium
Ohio State's return to the Big Ten Network for the third time this season is, on paper, one of the easier battles the Buckeyes should have as they hit the second half of the season.
But one would be wise not to sleep on Kent State. The Golden Flashes, who were expected to contend for a MAC East title this year, are not at Ohio State's level, but they are probably a better than their record would indicate, should they not turn the ball over.
For example, against local rival Akron on Sept. 22 in the battle for the Wagon Wheel, Kent State lost 27-20. During the game, the Golden Flashes lost two fumbles and were intercepted twice, and also gave the ball over on downs twice. Two of the interceptions and a fumble came in the fourth quarter.
Then, a week ago against a hapless Miami (Ohio) squad, Kent State again did its best to give away a win. The Golden Flashes lost three turnovers and committed 10 penalties for 110 yards during a 20-13 loss against the RedHawks. Two of the turnovers were in Miami territory.
"It's frustrating," head coach Doug Martin said. "When you're playing as well as we are playing, it's really frustrating, because we really feel like if we don't beat ourselves, we can score a lot of points on anybody we play. It's real fine line with the turnover situation. You don't want kids playing cautious, but at the same time, you've got to take care of the football."
The opposite has been true in the games in which Kent State has done well. The Golden Flashes coaxed Iowa State into three turnovers, which canceled out three turnovers of Kent's own in the Flashes' 23-14 win Aug. 30. They won the turnover battle 2-0 against Ohio, who was also supposed to battle them for the MAC East title, in a 33-25 win.
"You watch their games this year, the games this year they lost the turnover margin like 4-2 or something, they were losing the game," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "The games they win the turnover margin like Ohio U, who I think is a solid team, they decisively won the game, so they're not far from becoming a lot more consistent."
The numbers piled up by the Golden Flashes both offensively and defensive support the point. On offense, Kent State piles up 420.7 yards per game, 42nd in the country, but averages only 24.5 points, which puts the Flashes 35 spots lower in the national rankings. Despite giving up just 332.7 yards per game, good for 34th in the country, Kent State has allowed 24.8 points per game, 56th in the nation but first in the MAC.
Jarvis Cookie Of KSU Offense: A name fans will probably hear quite often Saturday in Ohio Stadium is that of KSU tailback Eugene Jarvis. A 5-5, 170-pound dynamo from Pittsburgh, Jarvis does not have breakaway speed, but he has excellent moves, quick cutting ability and superb burst.
He enters the game ranked fifth in the nation with 141.8 yards per game, and until the game against the RedHawks he had improved his rushing totals in each game, topping out at 230 yards against OU.
"He's good," Tressel said. "I don't sit and watch the opposing offense that much, but as I'm watching the defense, I look at the play-by-play as I'm going, so as I looked on the play-by-play, (I see) plus-17, plus-9, plus-14. This guy, he makes things happen. I think he's fifth in the country. He is a little bit like Garrett Wolfe, and we had a tough time with Garrett Wolfe."
Wolfe, a similarly stature-challenged tailback from Northern Illinois, gashed Ohio State to the tune of 171 rushing yards and 114 through the air during the season opener in Ohio Stadium last season.
On the whole, Jarvis has 144 carries for 851 yards and eight touchdowns and a 5.9-yards-per-carry average. He's also KSU's leading receiver, hauling in a total of 15 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
One thing to note about Jarvis is that he does not go down easily, something that might not be surprising given his background. Lightly recruited out of Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Jarvis went to Kent State as a two-star prospect and had something to prove.
"I'm not surprised by what he's done," Martin said. "He's a special player. I remember the first time meeting him he had a monumental chip on his shoulder. To me that means you've got a kid who's going to go out every Saturday with something to prove. A number of our players are the same way and I like that. He tries to know the whole game."
He's The Edel-Man: Manning the under center spot for Kent State will be Julian Edelman, a second-team All-MAC selection last season when he completed 55.4 percent of his passes for 1,859 yards, 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and added 658 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
This has been a similar year for the Redwood City, Calif., native. The 6-0, 198-pound junior's passing stats don't knock your socks off – he's 86 of 166 (51.8 percent) for 1,141 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions – but he throws a good deep ball, looks for the big play and can run as well. Edelman has run the ball 93 times for 158 yards and a touchdown.
He'll join the ranks of Washington's Jake Locker, Northwestern's C.J. Bacher and Minnesota's Adam Weber as mobile quarterbacks to face the Buckeyes this year. Locker fared best, rushing for 102 yards on 14 carries.
Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock favorably compared Edelman to the Washington freshman.
"Locker was real fast at Washington, but I don't know if we've faced a guy that can juke like Edelman," Heacock said.
Secondary Concerns: It's been no secret that Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman likes to throw the deep ball. Whether he will be able to or not will depend on the play of Kent State's secondary, which boasts what is probably the Golden Flashes' best defensive player and some of its most inexperienced.
Senior cornerback Jack Williams is getting buzz as a possible NFL prospect. Wearing No. 2, Williams is second on the team with 46 tackles, including a team-leading 38 solo stops, and has added six pass breakups.
"No. 2 on defense sticks out to you as an aggressive, very talented corner," tight ends coach John Peterson said.
The problem for Williams is that two redshirt freshmen are backing him up at the safety spot. Cincinnati Colerain product Brian Lainhart has started every game this season and is third on the team with 42 tackles and leads the squad with two picks. He's aggressive and a good hitter but will be challenged should OSU go deep.
Next to Lainhart at strong safety will be classmate Dan Hartman, who has been pressed into service because of a knee injury to senior Fritz Jacques. Hartman has 17 stops but has started only one game after Jacques' injury.
"Any time you're playing with young players, you have a lot of youthful energy that they may get out of place here or there because the game changes schematically as far as speed goes," Peterson said. "They definitely are young guys who fly around, and they'll hit you."
Who's On First: It's fair to say that Martin's team will give Ohio State its best shot given its chance on the big stage, but the head coach will also be playing nearly everyone on his roster.
A MAC title and a bowl appearance could still be in the cards for the Golden Flashes, so Martin has said going into the game he will play everyone on his travel squad in an effort to keep his team fresh for the stretch run. That will filter all the way down to second-string quarterback Anthony Magazu, who should see time to spare Edelman given the starter's accumulated bumps and bruises thus far.
"Early on we will play the other guys no matter what," Martin said. "I have told everyone who is going on the trip they are going to play. Late in the game if we are hanging around, fortunately, then we will try and win this thing, open it up and go play."