1. How will the suspensions of junior running back Jordan Hall, sophomore defensive back Corey Brown and junior defensive back Travis Howard impact Saturday’s game against Akron?
OSU announced Thursday that Hall, Brown and Howard were suspended for the Akron game for receiving impermissible benefits of $300 or less each in total at a charity event they attended earlier in the year.
Similar to the suspensions of DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, Dan Herron and Solomon Thomas for the first five games of the 2011 season, the latest round of Buckeyes’ suspensions significantly hurts the team.
The latest OSU depth chart listed Howard as the starter at left corner back while Hall was slated to start as the Buckeyes’ punt and kick returner, as well as tailback.
For starters, don’t be surprised if Akron sophomore quarterback Clayton Moore tests Howard’s replacement, sophomore Dominic Clarke, early and often.
Perhaps more significant is the loss of Hall, who led all Buckeyes’ kick returners in 2010 while averaging 27.9 yards per return. He was also the only OSU kick returner to record a touchdown last season.
As a rusher, Hall recorded modest numbers last season, gaining 169 yards on 37 attempts and scoring two touchdowns. However modest those statistics are, taking the team’s current No. 1 rusher out of the equation on Saturday is a negative development and limits the OSU ground game considerably.
2. How will the Ohio State offensive line fare in protecting the Buckeyes’ quarterbacks against Akron?
Ohio State coaches have already said that the team lacks depth at the offensive line position. That, coupled with the fact that the offensive line allowed 12 sacks in the April 23 spring game and the Aug. 20 jersey scrimmage combined, makes the position an area of concern. Akron collected only 17 sacks during the 2010 season, however.
An unsuccessful showing by the offensive line against Akron would be cause for additional concern because OSU will face stronger and faster defensive opposition in almost every other game this season. Protecting the OSU quarterbacking tandem of redshirt senior Joe Bauserman and true freshman Braxton Miller shouldn’t be an overwhelming task for this weekend, though.
3. What should you expect from redshirt senior quarterback Joe Bauserman?
At a Tuesday press conference, first-year coach Luke Fickell announced that Bauserman would probably take the first snap of Saturday’s game against Akron.
For his career at OSU, Bauserman is 25-for-47 passing for 320 yards, two touchdown passes and one interception.
At the Buckeyes’ Aug. 20 jersey scrimmage, Bauserman demonstrated great accuracy and the ability to lead receivers with his throws. Assuming he has time to throw, you can expect more of the same from the fifth-year senior on Saturday.
At a Tuesday press conference, senior tackle J.B. Shugarts’ spoke highly of Bauserman’s athleticism and scrambling.
“(Bauserman) is a little more of a pocket passer,” Shugarts said, “but he’s a lot more athletic then people give him credit for when he gets out of the pocket.”
4. Will Akron beat OSU for the first time in 117 years?
In a word, no.
Akron’s lone win against the Buckeyes — or any current member of the Big Ten for that matter — occurred at the Ohio State Fair on Sept. 5, 1894. The Zips defeated OSU, 12-6, that day.
Don’t expect Akron to claim win No. 2 this Saturday.
The Zips posted a 1-11 record in 2010 and it’s safe to say that 2011 is a rebuilding year for the program. Additionally, Ohio Stadium is a tough place to lay the groundwork for a rebuilding season.
Thirteen returning starters on offense and defense should help Akron avoid an embarrassing result, but an upset win is unlikely.
5. Assuming the Buckeyes win, is there reason to be concerned if they don’t win big?
“Whether I’m playing against my brother or I’m playing against someone I don’t like, to me, it’s gotta be competitive,” Fickell said at an Aug. 20 press conference. “If I can beat them, I want to beat them as bad as I can.”
Based on that quote, you can bet that no one wants OSU to beat Akron in convincing fashion more than the team itself.
The Buckeyes are champing at the bit to take the field and play ball. You can’t quantify or measure the different emotions felt by the players in the OSU locker room during this off-season, but it isn’t hard to imagine that they’ll be looking to upend any obstacles in their path — that includes Akron.
I like the Buckeyes to win convincingly, but if Akron does make a game of it, keep the number of suspended players in mind, as well as the significance of those players. The suspensions that were announced Thursday are especially relevant as they could have possibly forced some last minute alterations to Saturday’s game plan.
Suspensions aside, the Buckeyes will take care of business on Saturday.
Game prediction — OSU 38 – 10 Akron