Ohio State might have two victories that ended with the second- or third-string quarterback running out the clock with a decisive lead, but members of the team have not been pleased with its performance so far.
“We know in the back of our minds that as an entire team we have not played our best,” redshirt sophomore linebacker Darron Lee said. “But we don’t panic, we don’t worry necessarily, it’s just like ‘Hey, we have some work we’ve got to do to get where we’ve got to get.’”
The below-expectation performance has dealt OSU a small hit in the Associated Press poll with OSU (2-0) losing its unanimous No. 1 spot. The Buckeyes were the first team ever to receive all 61 first-place votes in the preseason poll, but they lost two of those votes to Big Ten rival Michigan State this week. The Spartans, after defeating then-No. 7 Oregon on Saturday, sit in fourth place.
The Buckeyes, meanwhile, struggled offensively in their home opener against Hawaii. They scored four rushing touchdowns, but a failure to get much of a game going through the air was bailed out by a strong defensive performance in their 38-0 win.
“We didn’t play very well, but on defense we played outstanding … So what do you do? We work at it,” OSU coach Urban Meyer said.
Now, the Buckeyes are ready to welcome the Northern Illinois Huskies on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.
Northern Illinois (2-0), which won the Mid-American Conference championship in three of the past four years, is the first of two consecutive MAC schools on OSU’s schedule, with Western Michigan set to come to Columbus the week after.
OSU’s non-conference schedule — Virginia Tech, Hawaii, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan — has drawn some criticism for its lack of firepower, most notably from former Wisconsin and current Arkansas coach Bret Bielema.
“Ohio State’s ranked No. 1 and they have one game remaining on their schedule that has anybody ranked right now — Michigan State,” Bielema said during last week’s SEC coaches teleconference. “We’re going to play eight straight opponents that are ranked.”
Meyer, in return, took a jab at Bielema on Monday.
“I don’t know where people have time to do all that,” Meyer said. “I don’t know anyone else’s schedule. I don’t care.”
Bielema’s Arkansas, as it turned out, lost to MAC school Toledo three days after his comments.
Previously for the Huskies
NIU grabbed wins in each of its first two games, 38-0 over UNLV and 57-26 against Murray State. Each game was marked by a great deal of offense and a poor showing of defense.
The Huskies are seventh in the nation in yards per game with 594. They compiled 545 yards against UNLV, including 360 passing yards from redshirt junior Drew Hare, before exploding for 643 yards last week.
Hare has thrown for 718 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions through two games, with 357 of those yards going to junior receiver Kenny Golladay. Golladay, who also has two touchdown receptions, is second in the nation in yards receiving.
“That is a very special quarterback,” defensive line coach Larry Johnson said of Hare. “Drew is very special … He can run the ball also, but he’s pretty accurate. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He runs the offense.”
However, NIU has allowed 433 yards per game, 95th out of 127 schools.
Meyer praised redshirt senior cornerback Paris Logan on defense, however, whom he referred to as “electric.” Logan, who had three interceptions last season, should be matched up with OSU’s No. 1 receiver, redshirt junior Michael Thomas.
The Buckeyes last faced the Huskies in 2006, a 35-12 OSU victory. The Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 for that game, as well.
As OSU has already proved this season, depth charts released the days leading up to the game don’t always mean a whole lot. Still, the depth chart for the Week 3 matchup warrants a closer examination.
The No. 1 receiver, as he should continue to be if he stays healthy, is Thomas. Behind him, however, is where it gets interesting.
Redshirt freshman Parris Campbell is written in as the No. 2 receiver. Campbell, a product of Akron, does not have a catch through two games. In OSU’s opener at Virginia Tech, he had two opportunities for his first collegiate reception but came away with two drops.
Still, the lack of early results did not stop Meyer from praising the receiver on Monday.
He described Campbell as a “guy who’s coming on like wildfire,” and said the redshirt freshman is someone who “just does things right.”
After Campbell, the depth chart lists a third starting receiver spot, held by redshirt sophomore Jalin Marshall, despite Marshall being listed on the roster as an H-back. He is not the only H-back set to line up wide either, as junior Dontre Wilson is listed behind Campbell.
At the actual H-back spot, redshirt senior Braxton Miller appears set to make his third straight start, while sophomore Curtis Samuel stands behind him.
Musical returner chairs
In the game against Virginia Tech, junior Ezekiel Elliott made a surprise appearance returning punts. The outcome was not stellar, as Elliott muffed one punt late in the first half for a turnover and made only two returns for 13 yards.
The following game against Hawaii, OSU opted to have two men deep, for the most part — a group consisting of Marshall, Wilson and Miller. It was Marshall getting the ball as he returned three punts for 45 yards, including a 32-yard return.
Even with the opening up of more options — Marshall and Wilson were suspended for the opener — Meyer has Elliott back on the depth chart, listed next to Marshall as the punt return options.
As for kick returns, Meyer seems to be going with a completely different group of return men, as Samuel and redshirt junior running back Warren Ball are listed to be standing deep.
After the game against Northern Illinois, the Buckeyes are set to wrap up its non-conference schedule by hosting Western Michigan on Sept. 26. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.