Kent State (0-2) at (22) Ohio State (1-1)
Saturday, September 13, 12 p.m. (ET)
The Sports Network
GAME NOTES: No longer owners of the nation's longest regular-season winning streak, the 22nd-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes get back to work as they entertain the Kent State Golden Flashes on Saturday afternoon.
Kent State has had a rough go of it here in the early stages of the 2014 campaign, dropping its first two games, both at home, to Mid-American Conference rival Ohio University (17-14) in the opener, followed by a double- digit setback to South Alabama (23-13).
The Golden Flashes, who are coached by former Ohio State assistant Paul Haynes (2005-11), are playing their first road game of the season this week, and that will be followed with trips to both Virginia and MAC foe Northern Illinois.
Ohio State's dreams of reaching the inaugural College Football Playoff were all but dashed last Saturday night, as the Buckeyes dropped a 35-21 decision at home to Virginia Tech. The campaign was already in question, as Heisman hopeful quarterback Braxton Miller was lost for the season to a shoulder injury suffered prior to it even beginning.
The loss ended Ohio State's regular-season winning streak at 25 games, and it was also the team's first setback in a home opener since 1978. The loss also marked the Buckeyes' first at home against an unranked, non-conference opponent since suffering a 34-17 setback to Florida State on Oct. 2, 1982, ending a 64-game win streak in such contests.
This is the second of three consecutive home games for OSU, which will host Cincinnati on Sept. 27 before kicking off Big Ten Conference action at league newcomer Maryland on Oct. 4.
Ohio State leads the all-time series with Kent State, 2-0, and the Buckeyes are seeking their 39th consecutive win over an in-state opponent. Their last loss to another team from the state of Ohio took place back in 1921 in a 7-6 final versus Oberlin.
Chances are that when you muster up just 277 yards of total offense, more times than not you're going to come up on the short end of the final score. That was certainly the case for Kent State in last week's clash with South Alabama, as the Golden Flashes put forth a disappointing offensive effort for the second straight week (they had just 295 yards in the loss to Ohio).
The team's rushing attack has been virtually non-existent through the first two weeks, tallying just 31 net yards in the opener and only 64 yards last Saturday.
With the run a non-factor, quarterback Colin Reardon has had to man up and do what he can to keep the team competitive. He has thrown for more than 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns in each contest, but after going 30-of-41 against the Bobcats, he was a much-less efficient 17-of-40 versus the Jaguars.
Chris Humphrey (six receptions, 91 yards, one TD) was Reardon's top target in game one, while Casey Pierce (four receptions, 80 yards, one TD) served in that capacity last week.
No ball carrier has more than 53 yards (Nick Holley) on the season, and the team as a whole is averaging a paltry 1.9 ypc.
Defensively, the Golden Flashes are yielding just 20 ppg, doing so behind typical yardage allowances of 180.5 ypg rushing and 211.5 ypg passing. They have proven to be somewhat opportunistic by coming up with five turnovers already, the bulk of which came in the Ohio game (four fumble recoveries).
They have just two sacks on the season, and while their two opponents have scored each time they've reached the red zone, they've only been there a combined three times.
South Alabama churned out 186 yards on the ground last weekend, but managed just 161 through the air. Davin Hawkins led the way with nine tackles, more than doubling the effort of his closest teammate. Hawkins also had one of the club's two sacks on the day.
A week after going a stellar 12-of-15 for 226 yards and two touchdowns against Navy, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett had a much tougher time of it last weekend versus Virginia Tech, hitting just 9-of-29 passes. He did finish with 219 yards and a scoring strike, but threw three interceptions and was sacked a whopping seven times.
Michael Thomas was OSU's top receiver, pulling in six balls for 98 yards and a TD.
While he struggled in the passing game, Barrett did what he could on the ground, finishing with a game-high 70 yards and a TD on 24 carries. No other Buckeye tallied more than 32 yards (Ezekiel Elliott).
On the defensive side of the ball, the Buckeyes did a decent job with regard to allowing yards (121 rushing, 199 passing), but they permitted the Hokies 9- of-17 success on third-down conversion attempts, and gave up touchdowns on Tech's four trips to the red zone.
They did manage to log three takeaways in the game (two INTs, one FR), but had only two sacks, 1.5 of which was credited to defensive lineman Joey Bosa. Curtis Grant paced the OSU defense with seven tackles, including two of the team's 10 TFL.
Ohio State, which has lost three of its last four games after reeling off 24 straight victories, is scuffling right now. Coach Urban Meyer is concerned, but optimistic his team can turn it around.
"How much of a surprise is this performance? A little bit surprised," Meyer said after the Virginia Tech game. "I thought our skilled guys would perform better. I thought we'd protect a little better. A little bit disappointed. I don't know, coaches don't get surprised, get disappointed. And obviously we just gotta work a little harder, and I still have confidence. We have enough skill on this football team to get by people. It didn't look like it, but we have to get by people or you're going to see what you saw today you'll see every week."
As lackluster as Ohio State was last weekend, expect Meyer to light a fire under his guys and get them back on track as they prepare for the rigors of Big Ten play. Simply put, Kent State is overmatched in nearly every facet of the game, and it shouldn't take long for the Buckeyes to show their superiority.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio State 35, Kent State 10
09/10 10:38:49 ET