Ohio State and Akron have met seven times previously, with the Buckeyes holding a 6-1 advantage. The lone loss for the Buckeyes took place in 1894, as then-Buchtel College defeated Ohio State 12-6 at the Ohio State Fair. John Heisman was Buchtel's quarterback and head coach at the time.
The loss remains the only defeat suffered by the Buckeyes at the hands of a current MAC team.
Akron is 1-21 all-time against ranked opponents. Their only win came in 2002 against #25 Marshall, which was the game where quarterback Byron Leftwich had to be carried by his linemen from snap to snap.
The Zips enter this contest having lost 14 consecutive games on the road.
Ohio State has not lost a home opener in 33 years.
The Buckeyes will begin a new head coaching era, as Luke Fickell makes his debut as the man in charge. The last 20 Ohio State coaches were 19-0-1 in their Buckeye debuts.
Ohio State is 108-8-4 all-time in home openers.
When Akron Has The Ball
Things won't be pretty for the Zips' offense. Last year, Akron averaged all of 15.6 points per game. They figure to be better in year two of Rob Ianello's tenure, but that increase might be negligible against the Buckeyes.
The offense will be led by junior college transfer Clayton Moore, who has beaten out last year's starter Patrick Nicely.
Moore will be facing a secondary that suffered a recent hit with the one-game suspension of cornerback Travis Howard. Sophomore Dominic Clark will step in for Howard and team with redshirt freshman Bradley Roby at cornerback.
The Zips would prefer to be balanced on offense, but they know that running the ball is essentially going to be impossible. They'll give the first look to sophomore Broderick Alexander, who missed all of last season with an injury. He is a big boy (6-1 221), which will help him against Ohio State's front seven.
The Buckeyes will be led up front by defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and defensive end John Simon. Hankins will collapse Akron's offensive line, and Simon will be there to clean up the scraps.
When a Zip running back does manage to get past the defensive line, the Ohio State linebackers will be there to make sure things don't get out of hand.
Weakside linebacker Andrew Sweat was banged up a bit this past week, so don't be surprised if true freshman Ryan Shazier gets quite a bit of playing time on Saturday.
Co-defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said the Buckeyes would likely be in nickel packages 75% of the time this season, which means star Tyler Moeller and his backup Christian Bryant will be out on the field plenty on Saturday.
Not knowing exactly how Akron plans to play this game on offense, having a nickel defense as the Buckeyes' base defense seems to be the safest play.
The Zips won't just bring in a questionable offense on Saturday, they'll also bring a very suspect special teams to Columbus. They will be breaking in a new placekicker, and punter Zack Campbell averaged just 37.8 yards per punt last year.
The return game is even less impressive, which may or may not mean anything against Ohio State's coverage units.
When Ohio State Has The Ball
The Buckeyes had planned to run a very basic offense early in the season because they are breaking in two inexperienced quarterbacks.
With Thursday's news that starting running back Jordan Hall had been suspended for the game, it knocked Ohio State down to two scholarship running backs for Saturday.
Likely joining Boom Herron and Hall on the "unable to participate" list will be sophomore Jaamal Berry, who has battled a hamstring injury the last week or so.
With the lone running backs on the depth chart being sophomore Carlos Hyde and redshirt freshman Rod Smith, expect them both to get a significant number of carries.
Akron replaces a couple of starters from last season's defensive line, which gave up 4.3 yards per carry. Obviously they don't match up with Ohio State's size, so the interior of the Buckeye offensive line should be able to open some sizable holes for their tailbacks.
The main player to watch on the Zips' defense is middle linebacker Brian Wagner. Just a junior, he has started all 24 games in his career and led Akron in tackles as a freshman and sophomore.
Quarterbacks Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller will be handing the ball off plenty, but with Jordan Hall out, perhaps they may try a few more short passing plays in the place of running plays.
Receivers Philly Brown and Verlon Reed will be the wide recipients of the passing game, but the busiest receiver will likely be tight end Jake Stoneburner. The quarterbacks will look to find somebody they can rely on on any down, and that will tend to be Stoneburner against a linebacker.
The rotation at quarterback will definitely be a must-watch situation. Bauserman will likely get the first two or three series before Miller makes his debut.
Quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano said that they want the quarterbacks to be able to get into a flow, which would indicate that each guy will be allowed to make mistakes and correct them on the field. But don't expect too many mistakes to be tolerated, especially when it comes to the freshman Miller.
The Buckeye special teams took a significant hit this week with the Jordan Hall suspension. He was the team's top punt and kick returner. Philly Brown will likely move to the top punt returner. With Jaamal Berry's injury, the kick returners will probably be receiver Chris Fields paired with one of the freshmen receivers, either Evan Spencer or Devin Smith. Smith is an explosive straight-line runner, so don't be shocked if he is involved in the longest special teams play of the afternoon.
How It Will End Up
In order to keep their only two running backs healthy, there will be more short passing implemented, which will then allow Brown and Reed to make plays and do the things that people don't know they can do yet.
But it will still be run first for the Buckeyes. Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith will both punish Akron's defense, as the nation will get to see what prototypical Ohio State running backs look like.
Together they will rush for 200 yards, though Hyde will do most of the heavy lifting.
On the other side of the ball, Akron will give up on running the ball pretty early on, which means the front four will tee off on Clayton Moore, and the linebackers will pick off at least two passes.
All in all, the Buckeyes will get away with not having the late-notice suspendees on the field, but only because they happened at deep positions.
Ohio State 34 - Akron 7
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