Ohio State’s largely rebuilt football team has played in some difficult games so far this season–including a loss, at home, to a very tough Oregon team and an unexpectedly close win over Tulsa. So I’m pretty sure OSU head coach Ryan Day was happy to see that the University of Akron were the next team on the schedule, because (with all due respect to the hometown college of the city of my birth) the Zips, this year, are the definition of a “cupcake.” And who doesn’t like a cupcake every now and then?
Nevertheless, the Buckeyes fell behind last night, 7-0, which I’m sure had the home crowd wondering what the heck is going on with this team. But then the Buckeyes righted the ship, got defensive turnovers and a score, and steamrolled the Zips, 59-7. The Men of the Scarlet and Gray padded their sack stats, racked up 600-plus yards of total offense, ran the ball at will, and got lots of yards after catches against a totally overmatched Akron defense that simply had no answer for Ohio State’s speed and bulk up front. And we got to see two other highly touted freshman quarterbacks, Kyle McCord and Jack Miller III, as Coach Day gave C.J. Stroud the night off to rest a banged-up shoulder.
So, what do you make of a game like this? I think not very much, although I’m glad to see that the Buckeyes got to play an easy game, everyone got some snaps, and no one got hurt. The idea of a cupcake is to allow your team to get an easy win and, hopefully, approach the upcoming games with a bit more confidence. But it’s also important not to get too excited about the result, or think that some of the problems on the defensive side of the ball have been fixed. For example, the Buckeyes defensive line was able to bull rush the Akron offensive line all night long and get pressure simply by pushing the Zips directly into the backfield. Will they be able to do that against teams where the size and strength and conditioning and talent levels are more equal? I guess we’ll just have to see.
I would make one more observation, as we get ready to move into the Big Ten season, where the fun really begins. I think this season is going to be one long lesson for Ohio State fans about just how good Justin Fields was–how accurate, how smart, how athletically gifted–the last two years. I have no doubt that Stroud, McCord, and Miller are all very talented with lots of upside potential, but so far they are playing a lot like freshmen. After two years of confidence in Fields’ steady leadership and playmaking ability, we’re going to have to get used to wildly inaccurate passes, inexplicable decisions, and other mishaps by guys who are still learning the system and adjusting to football in a big-time program.
But that’s all part of the fun of the college game.