Ohio State wraps up the non-conference portion of its schedule on Saturday evening against Akron, which has won just two games over the last three seasons and comes to Columbus as a nearly seven-touchdown underdog.
The uninspiring matchup got a little more interesting, though, when head coach Ryan Day announced on Thursday that quarterback C.J. Stroud will rest his nagging right shoulder injury and the Buckeyes will start either redshirt freshman Jack Miller or true freshman Kyle McCord in his place against the Zips.
With that, Saturday’s game will be the first time a quarterback other than Stroud has taken a snap for Ohio State this season. It could also give fans their first glimpse at some of the underclassmen waiting in the wings if it gets out of hand early, as expected.
“It really hit me the past couple weeks just how inexperienced this team is,” Day said during his radio show on 97.1 The Fan on Thursday afternoon. “When you look across the board, how many starts our entire team has had. It’s very few and a lot of guys with zero.
“Not only that, the guys who don’t have any starts, they didn’t play much last year at all. They didn’t get any meaningful snaps, so a lot of it is new to all of them. That’s part of the growing process. We have a bright future here and we’re going to be really good so, the question is how soon are we going to get really good? That is a challenge for the coaching staff and the players.”
With conference play set to resume next week, the coaching staff will undoubtedly look to get as many players as possible on the field against Akron in order to see who can help the Buckeyes moving forward.
Date: September 25, 2021
Where: Ohio Stadium (Columbus, Ohio)
Expected Weather: 64 degrees, partly cloudy
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Current Betting Numbers
Spread: Ohio State (-48.5)
O/U Total: 66.5
Betting: Check out the new SISportsbook!
How to Watch/Listen
Streaming: fuboTV (get a 7-day free trial)
Announcers: Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play), James Laurinaitis (analyst) and Rick Pizzo (sideline reporter).
Local Radio: Ohio State Sports Network from Learfield IMG College
Flagship: WBNS 97.1 The Fan
Announcers: Paul Keels (play-by-play), Jim Lachey (analyst), Matt Andrews (sideline reporter), Skip Mosic (pregame/halftime/postgame host and producer)
Ohio State leads Akron, 7-1
* OSU record at home: 6-1
* OSU record on the road/neutral: 1-0
LAST TIME THEY MET
2011: Ohio State 42, Akron 0
* Ryan Day
* At Ohio State: Third Season, Record: 25-3
* Overall: Same
* Tom Arth
* At Akron: Third Season, Record: 2-19
* Overall: 50-38
Ohio State Team Capsule
On one hand, it would make sense for Day to lean heavily on the running game with a first-time starter under center. After all, the Buckeyes got a single-game freshman school record 277 yards and three touchdowns from running back TreVeyon Henderson in last week’s win over Tulsa.
On the other hand, there would be value in letting Miller and/or McCord throw the ball around a little bit to see what they bring to the table – especially since Miller didn’t throw a single pass in 10 snaps last season and McCord would be making his college debut.
Defensively, the Buckeyes need a dominant performance after giving up more than 500 yards of total offense to Oregon and Tulsa, which was much closer than the final score indicated.
Akron doesn’t have anywhere near the talent as the Ducks or Golden Hurricane, as the Zips ranked 94th nationally in total offense. That should give the unit some confidence as Ohio State resumes conference play.
“We had a lot of guys that didn’t have that much experience last year, so we’re still all learning, getting those crinkles out, and I think we’ll get better as the year goes on,” redshirt sophomore safety Ronnie Hickman said during his media availability on Wednesday night. “You know, there’s a standard that’s been held by the greats that have come before us, especially the guys on defense. We want to set that standard, if not exceed or surpass that standard.”
Akron Team Capsule
With Kato Nelson sidelined by injury, Akron redshirt sophomore quarterback D.J. Irons made the most of his first career start, accounting for 432 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in a 35-14 win over Bryant last Saturday.
Now, that’s only a limited sample against a Football Championship Subdivision school, but the 6-foot-6 and 215-pounder could test the Buckeyes’ defense with his arms and his legs, as evidenced by his 296 passing and 136 rushing yards against the Bulldogs.
“He’s a big athlete who obviously threw and ran the ball really well last week,” Day said during his radio show on Thursday. “We’re going to have to account for that, and it’ll be a challenge for our guys to get him on the ground.”
Offensively, the Buckeyes will have to deal with Akron redshirt junior linebacker Bubba Arslanian, whose 37 total tackles this season rank fifth nationally. That includes 12 tackles against Bryant, which earned him the Mid-American Conference East Division’s Defensive Player of the Week last week.
The 5-foot-10 and 215-pounder is a bit undersized and may struggle against Ohio State’s massive offensive line, but it's worth noting he still recorded eight tackles in the season-opening loss at Auburn after leading the nation with 12.3 tackles per game last season.
“This is a team that has good scheme on both sides (of the ball),” Day said. “They haven’t quite found their rhythm yet, but they’re very well coached. They’re going to come in here with a lot of energy, so we have to match that.”
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