The bad news may not be completely behind Ohio State, but with the start of the 2011 season just a mere 5 days away, the ongoing NCAA investigation, and possible additional pending sanctions the committe on infractions may still levy on the University and its football program are, at least temporarily, on the back burner for now.
After a tumultuous off-season for the ages -- [/understatement] -- the season is finally set to kickoff this Saturday, September 3rd, 2011, as the No. 18 Buckeyes host in-state foe Akron at Noon. The game can be seen on ESPN or online at ESPN3.com.
These aren't your Dad's Buckeyes...given how much has changed from just one season ago, they're barely even your Buckeyes.
Head coach Jim Tressel and starting QB Terrelle Pryor are both gone.
Tressel was essentially fired for his post-email/tatgate cover-up, and Pryor decided to leave OSU and enter his name into the NFL supplemental draft once Tressel "resigned".
Enter interim new head coach, Luke Fickell.
Fickell is a true Ohio State man. He's from Columbus and was a 4-year-starter for the Buckeyes in the mid-1990's. He has been on the Ohio State coaching staff since 2002 as the linebackers coach and then as the co-defensive coordinator.
The biggest decision looming for Fickell early on this season will be who to start at quarterback. The first handful of games are sure to feature both sixth-year-senior Joe Bauserman and true freshmen Braxton Miller under center, though Bauserman has been given the nod.
Is Fickell right to go with an experienced but average veteran, over a promising but young and inexperienced potential superstar?
Ultimately, Miller could take over in his first season, just as Pryor did as a true freshman in 2008.
Once the QB issue is resolved, the Bucks still have to overcome the five game suspensions of three starters — WR DeVier Posey, OL Mike Adams, and RB Dan Herron.
But remember, despite the various changes and suspensions, THIS IS STILL OHIO STATE, with a roster that's chock-full of blue-chippers ready to step in.
The old cliche' we always hear is "Any Given Saturday", but realistically the first five games of the 2011 season (starting with the Zips) shouldn't provide that much in the way of underdog theatrics, so rest (somewhat) easy until week six, Buckeye fans.
Oh, and no worries, this isn't Michigan, so don't expect any Appalachian State shockers!
Brief Game Outlook
Second year coach Rob Ianello and the Zips are replacing eight starters (five on offense and three on defense) this season. It might have actually been a bigger blessing if they were replacing 22, considering the 1-11 season Akron suffered through in 2010.
The good news is there's nowhere to go but up. The bad news is they must start the season in Columbus at "The Shoe".
Offensively, Ohio State will treat this game as a glorified scrimmage, looking to find which QB, RB, and WRs appear ready to assume the full-time starting roles, respectively.
In the QB battle, as previously mentioned, it's going to either be Bauserman or it's Miller time.
Backup running backs Rod Smith and Carlos Hyde will be looking to increase their chances of (temporarily) being named the No. 1 tailback while Jaamal Berry just hopes to get healthy. He too has his sights set on the starting job, at least until Herron returns in week 6.
Jordan Hall is expected to start against Akron, but Berry is the front-runner to take over if he can overcome the injury bug that has continually bitten him. Smith and Hyde aren't far behind.
At receiver, Corey Brown and Verlon Reed, along with Hall, Chris Fields, and T.Y. Williams will look replace Posey (5-game-susp.) and offensive POY Dane Sanzenbacher (NFL). Bauserman and Miller need someone to make plays for them if either is going to separate himself from the other as the clear No. 1 QB.
Even though OSU lost seven starters from their defense that was ranked in the top 5 statistically in most every key category, that's nothing new here.
The Buckeyes are constantly sending defensive playmakers to the NFL, and then consistently replacing them with a new crop of future NFL draftees on the defensive line, the secondary, and at linebacker.
If Akron gains more than 150-200 total yards, both sidelines might likely be surprised. In fact, as far as expectations go, most will be surprised if this game doesn't get ugly for the Zips.
However, there are a couple silver linings for Akron. First, their players are getting the experience of playing in front of 102,000+ fans and on national TV, and second, there's that nice payday for their trip down I-71.
So, despite what happens on the field, it's not all bad news for the kangaroos...
Ohio State—Akron History Lesson
• This will be the 8th all-time meeting between Ohio State and Akron.
• The last 20 Ohio State coaches are 19-0-1 in their debuts.
• Ohio State is 6-1 all-time vs. Akron, with the lone loss coming in 1894.
• Ohio State has won 32 straight home openers, by an average of 21 ppg.
• Ohio State has won 54 consecutive regular-season non-conference home games against teams not ranked in the AP Top 25.
• Ohio State is 108-8-4 all-time in home openers.
• Ohio State's defense has allowed just three 100-yard rushers in their last 35 games.
• Ohio State has allowed their opponent to fewer than 10 points 29 times since 2006.
• Ohio State is 27-1 all-time vs. MAC schools.
• Ohio State is 40-8 vs. non-conference opponents since 2001.
• Ohio State is 64-7 at home since 2001.
• Akron is 10-28 vs. non-conference opponents since 2001.
• Akron is 16-49 in road games since 2001.
Final Score Prediction
The bottom line in this one is Akron just isn't very good on either side of the ball right now, and the Buckeyes are overloaded every year with talent no matter their personnel losses.
Given the high level of motivation these coaches and players undoubtedly have from endlessly dealing with the negative headlines and doomsday predictions leading into this season, the following quote comes to mind:
"To be a champion, you have to believe in yourself when no one else will" - Sugar Ray Robinson
Ohio State 42
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