The Ohio State football team is trying to avoid starting 0-2 at home for the first time since 1967.
On paper, it doesn’t look like that will be a problem.
The Kent State Golden Flashes roll into Columbus tagged with a 0-2 record, with those losses coming against Ohio University and the University of South Alabama, both at home.
While focused on his team, OSU coach Urban Meyer said Wednesday he knows what it is like to be in Kent State’s shoes.
“Those kids are going to be a hungry group coming in here because this is their chance to play in front of 110,000 people,” he said. “I have been in that locker room when we (Bowling Green) went down to Missouri and won that game. You are going to see a hungry group trying to get a win.”
The third-year OSU coach held the same position at Bowling Green from 2001-02.
Meyer added that although Kent State has yet to win a game, he expects the Golden Flashes to test the Buckeyes.
“I see a very good MAC school — I have been there before when I was at Bowling Green,” Meyer said. “I see a quarterback who can make plays, that is our biggest concern on defense. I see guys that run around and hit you on defense.”
The Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon has been the impact player for the Golden Flashes, averaging 244.5 total yards per game — a figure that leads the team.
The Golden Flashes will likely lean heavily on their passing game as they rank 120th out of 124 teams in rushing offense, averaging just 47.5 yards per game on the ground.
Despite the Golden Flashes’ lack of a run game, OSU senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett said his No. 1 goal remains stopping the Kent State rushing attack.
“We are going to make sure we shut down the run early,” Bennett said. “You got to shut down at least one aspect of their offense because they have so many different plays they can run.”
Another key for the Buckeye defense will be simply getting off the field, something it struggled to do last week, giving up nine of 17 third down conversions to the Virginia Tech offense.
“If you win first down, it makes second and third down a lot more tricky for the offensive coordinator,” Bennett said. “This week, you see stuff you can work on and you work on it. We get our pass rush better, we get our coverage better, and everyone comes together.”
Offensively, Meyer said the key to the Buckeyes’ success will be getting off to a faster start than they have to begin the season. OSU has trailed at the half in both of its first two games.
“We had a pretty good reputation for a while there of coming out of the gates real fast, real hard and we haven’t done that yet,” Meyer said. “I did some research on that, it was brought to my attention a while back and we haven’t. So we got to go take the lead and play Ohio State-style football. We’re not going to secret handshake or (give out) T-shirts. Finish the game. You got to do it, and we haven’t done it.”
OSU football under Meyer during his first two years in Columbus usually meant running the football effectively as the Buckeyes ranked fifth in the nation last year (308.6 yards per game) and 10th in 2012 (242.3 yards per game).
Two games into the 2014 season, the Buckeyes rank 81st in the country in total rushing yards, averaging just 151 yards per game.
Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliot said the lack of a running game is because of the unusual style of defense that Virginia Tech ran against the Buckeyes last week, but added that OSU has been preparing against a similar defense to the Hokies’ in practice.
“We have been practicing against that ‘bear no deep’ (defense) when you got eight guys in the box,” Elliot said. “We got a couple of answers for it.”
The Buckeyes, who have lost three of their last four games dating back to the 2013-14 season, have only lost to a MAC team once, boasting a 29-1 record, the only loss coming against Akron, 12-6, in 1894.
Redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas said that he, along with the rest of his teammates, are looking forward to redeeming the loss this week against Kent State.
“It seems like it has been the longest week ever,” Thomas said. “We are just waiting to get back in the ‘Shoe and make Buckeye Nation proud.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to kickoff Saturday at noon against Kent State at Ohio Stadium.