Game Four: Eastern Michigan Eagles
Location: Ohio Stadium (Columbus, Ohio). 3:30pm EST kickoff, ABC
Head Coach: Ron English
Eastern Michigan Players Recruited By Ohio State: N/A
There is an old Scottish proverb ~ "Charity begins at home, but shouldn't end there."
Considering Ohio State tickets sell for $70, and Ohio State routinely sells out its games, Ohio State is being extremely charitable to Eastern Michigan for the beating the Eagles will sustain in Ohio Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Am I being overly optimistic about Ohio State's chances in this game? Hardly. Eastern Michigan last won a football game back on October 8, 2008, as they enter Ohio Stadium winless in its last fifteen games. Eastern Michigan is currently ranked 174th in Jeff Sagarin's rankings, well below many FCS teams. This is the type of game that opens Ohio State up to well-deserved ridicule by media pundits and rival fan bases across the country.
These critiques are not meant as a slap or putdown to Eastern Michigan's Ron English, who is in his second year as head coach and trying to build a program. Jim Tressel tries to teach his players to respect all of his opponents, but in this circumstance, he may come across a little more like Al Czervik when he tries to deliver a compliment to Eastern Michigan.
What would I concentrate on for this game against Eastern Michigan, as this could be a blowout with minimal effort by Ohio State? If coaching this game, I would focus upon the following areas that need improvement ~
1. Special Teams - Oh vey. How UnTressel-like to have bad special teams at Ohio State. So far this season, Ohio State has had an extra point blocked (Marshall), a kickoff returned for a touchdown (Marshall and Miami), a punt returned for a touchdown (Miami), and a punt blocked (last weekend against Ohio University).
While injuries are a concern for any team in college football, Ohio State needs to develop cohesive special teams over these next few weeks - Ohio State's reserves, as well as many of its starters, need to play well on special teams to improve before Big Ten play begins next week at Illinois.
The Eastern Michigan game is as best a time to start as any - Ohio State will hopefully have spent this week on every aspect of better special teams play. Otherwise, Ohio State fans may be saying far worse when another special teams gaffe occurs.
2. Work The Running Game - Ohio State should be able to rest Terrelle Pryor and its starters after the first half. It may even be the first quarter, but I am hopeful that Ohio State will get a comfortable lead, then focus upon running the ball the remainder of the game.
While Ohio State has been winning convincingly, Ohio State's running game has not been dominant, relying upon Pryor's scrambles far too frequently to keep drives going. Whether Brandon Saine or "Boom" Herron, Ohio State needs to work on running the ball this week against Eastern Michigan.
With the game well in hand in the second half, Ohio State should rest both Saine and Herron, and play Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry. Highly touted Carlos Hyde has not been seen since the opener against Marshall, and this game would be a great opportunity for Hyde to get some meaningful playing time, provided his injured ankle has healed sufficiently.
3. Play Many Reserves - These are not only the type of game that invite criticism, but Ohio State's recent history has not done well with starters playing against lesser opponents. Three examples come to mind - in 2007, Ohio State lost starting DE Lawrence Wilson for the season when playing FCS opponent Youngstown State. The following year, RB Beanie Wells sustained an injury against Youngstown State that essentially ended his Heisman Trophy campaign. And last season, Ohio State lost PK Aaron Pettrey when playing against New Mexico State.
Get the lead, then get the reserves in. Keeping people healthy for Big Ten play is paramount at this point.
More importantly, with next season in mind, here is a good chance to see the future at various positions on the offensive line (Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley, Andrew Norwell), defensive line (Johnathan Hankins, Garrett Goebel), linebackers (Storm Klein, Jordan Whiting, Dorian Bell), defensive backs (Christian Bryant, Corey Brown, Dominic Clarke), and wide receivers ("Philly" Brown, Chris Fields, James Jackson). Ideally, I would give QB Joe Bauserman the entire third quarter, then give redshirt freshman QB Ken Guiton Jr. the fourth quarter.
Outlook: As I have been suggesting all along, this game is going to be brutal. Any Ohio State fan who has never been to a game, here is your best chance to get tickets, as the sellers will be outnumbering the buyers on this one prior to kickoff.
While not as brutal as the thought of clubbing baby seals or any of those old videos of cheetahs chasing and killing gazelles, this one is pretty close to an analogy on the football field.
I am hopeful Ohio State will get the lead, then focus upon running the ball throughout most of the game to mercifully conclude this one, saving some respect for beleaguered Eastern Michigan coach Ron English. I am saying Ohio State 42, Eastern Michigan 0.
Ron English, Eastern Michigan head coach