Kevin Harvick once stated, "Winning cures all problems." Unfortunately for Harvick, the Ohio State Buckeyes are living proof that his quote does not necessarily apply.
Yes, Ohio State defeated Tulsa last weekend, 41-20. At first glance, one could say that the Buckeyes played well since they won by three touchdowns.
It is after close scrutiny that reality sets in. Late in the fourth quarter, Ohio State only led Tulsa 27-20. The Buckeyes were able to tag on a touchdown pass by C.J. Stroud to Garrett Wilson with 3:07 remaining to push the score to 34-20, then redshirt freshman Cameron Martinez intercepted a pass and returned it 61 yards for the final touchdown.
Defensively, Ohio State was better than it was against Oregon, but the issues remain. The Buckeyes are lacking a strong pass rush and have been unable to get the opposing team off the field on critical third downs.
Akron enters Saturday's game at the Horseshoe after a dominant 35-14 win over FCS member Bryant. The game was punctuated by the play of Zips quarterback DJ Irons, who accounted for four touchdowns, three of them passing.
This game will mark the ninth time that Akron and Ohio State have played, with the Buckeyes leading the series 8-1. The most recent meeting was in 2011, a 42-0 Ohio State win. Even though the schools share the same state, they really haven't played each other that much. Case in point, the Buckeyes have won four in a row with the Zips' only win coming way back in 1894.
Akron at Ohio State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Ohio State -49.5
When Akron Has the Ball
This may turn out to be the Irons Show. Irons is a tall (6-6, 215) dual-threat quarterback who leads the Zips in both passing and rushing. He is currently second in the MAC in total offense (233 ypg) and has already accounted for seven total touchdowns (five passing, two rushing). He will be a marked man by the Ohio State defense.
Irons' favorite target thus far is wide receiver Michael Mathison, who has 18 catches for 230 yards and a touchdown. Mathison may wind up being covered by true freshman defensive back Denzel Burke, who is slowly emerging as one of the better players in the Buckeyes' secondary.
Ohio State is hoping to use its final non-conference game to fine-tune things on defense and should have success against an Akron offense that has managed to produce just 550 total yards and 34 points across two games against FBS competition (Auburn and Temple).
When Ohio State Has the Ball
Stroud, the redshirt freshman quarterback, is nursing a sore shoulder, so the plan is for him to serve as the emergency quarterback on Saturday and to give him a chance to rest before the Buckeyes resume Big Ten play. Redshirt freshman Jack Miller III and true freshman Kyle McCord will share the duties against Akron, although it's unknown who will start. Neither Miller nor McCord has gotten on the field this season. Look for head coach Ryan Day to simplify the play-calling and lean heavily on his running game.
The Buckeyes may have their next star at running back with true freshman TreVeyon Henderson. Last week, Henderson broke the legendary Archie Griffin's school record for rushing yards by a freshman with 277 (and three touchdowns) against Tulsa. He did all of that damage on 24 carries, meaning he averaged nearly 12 yards every time he ran the ball.
Akron was able to hold Bryant to only 14 points in their victory, but defensive stops may be difficult to come by for the Zips. Akron gave up 60 points in their first game to Auburn, followed up by 45 to Temple. The Owls have scored a total of 17 points in their other two games (at Rutgers, vs. Boston College).
Night games are always welcomed by Ohio State fans, but this game is probably the exception to that sentiment. The Buckeyes are still seeking answers defensively, from the inadequate pass rush to their dreadful performance on third down. Akron will provide one final opportunity to get things squared away before they return to conference play, as the Buckeyes still have their sights set on defending their Big Ten title in 2021.
Prediction: Ohio State 56, Akron 7
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— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is podcasting for Buckeye Scoop. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.