Preview: #2 Ohio State vs. Youngstown State

By Jason Priestas on August 29, 2008 at 7:00a
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Meet Jermale Hines
Ohio State Buckeyes #2 Ohio State 0-0, 0-0 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 12:00 PM ET - BTN —— Ohio Stadium Columbus, OH Youngstown State Penguins Youngstown State 0-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley Roster | Schedule

First, the obligatory plea to banish all future games against FCS opponents. USC doesn't do it. Even Michigan State has never played an FCS team. They are no-win games for the team and they don't do the Buckeyes any favors in polls or national perception. If Vegas isn't even handing out a line for a game, you know it probably won't benefit your SoS.

I realize it's Heacock's brother and Tressel is helping out the school that gave him his chance early in his career, but hopefully this game will be the last we see of an FCS opponent (future schedules seem to confirm the administration agrees with this line of thinking).

Now that we have that out of the way, it's hard to put into words how pumped we are for this game. After hearing all about the multitude of weapons, the formations, Beanie, the no huddle and LeBron in Freakin' Cleats it's like peeking two months early to see you had Voltron coming for Christmas and that day has finally arrived.

Add to this the late announcement that Time Warner had finally come to terms with the Big Ten Network and this game, whether you'll be at the stadium or watching with friends, should have a little more juice to it than your run-of-the-mill opener against FCS competition.

Opponent

Last season the Penguins of Youngstown State made their first-ever visit to Ohio Stadium and were rightfully roughed-up by a reloading, but talented Buckeye team. On a Saturday overshadowed by Appalachian State, they were held to two field goals and under 100 yards both rushing and receiving. And that was with four-year starter Tom Zetts, owner of just about every school passing record, leading the charge.

This season the Penguins must break in a new quarterback, most likely junior Todd Rowan (#15), owner of one career completion. Fellow junior Brandon Summers (#6), a transfer from Toledo, could also see snaps as could all-conference wide receiver Ferlando Williams (#1) in a direct-snap manner. Williams was held in check by Ohio State last season, but clearly looks to be YSU's most potent offensive weapon.

That great talent neutralizer, the spread, will be more prominently featured than last season when Youngstown State operated out of the set at various times in the Horseshoe. The Penguins will also be looking for better rushing production this season, but won't see that happen until next weekend at the earliest.

The 38-6 final didn't really reflect how well Youngstown State's defense played last year. Entering the fourth quarter, they had managed to hold the Buckeyes to 24 points, and on the afternoon limited the Buckeye rushing attack to 147 yards on 41 attempts -- good enough for a meager 3.6 yards per carry.

Jon Heacock's defense will be lead by two-time all-conference and preseason first-team All-American Mychal Savage (#96) at tackle. He's good and an argument could be made that he is one of the few Penguins good enough to play for the Buckeyes (especially given his position), but he's only one guy and the other 10 will be overmatched.

The Penguins will be game for a while and they'll come out fired-up to play in the largest stadium in the state that many of them grew up in, but in reality, this team would have problems staying with the 2004 Buckeyes, let alone this unit.

NOTES: The Penguins are ranked #12 in preseason FCS polls... YSU is 7-0 in games played in August and 11-1 in their last 12 openers... Youngstown native and former 49er owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. will donate $750k to YSU for construction of a new indoor practice facility -- at the Watson and Tressel Training Site.

BUCKEYE BREAKDOWN

The one thing you always want to avoid in a game like this is a key injury. Last season, the Buckeyes weren't so fortunate, losing Lawrence Wilson for the season in the 2nd quarter. The really sad part is that he was off to such a hot start with two TFLs and a sack before he went down. Wilson is a little dinged-up heading into the opener this season, but if there's one Buckeye looking forward to this matchup, he has to be the guy.

Unless that guy is Beanie Wells. Wells was held to a disappointing 46 yards on 16 carries, by far his lowest average of the season at 2.9 yards per carry. He did see the endzone on the day, but you have to imagine he's chomping at the bit to pile up chunks of yardage. He'll have to get his numbers in a hurry because if things go as planned, he may not see too much of the field in the second half. Still, there's a good chance that at least one Penguin defender will be driven about three feet deep into the turf by way of stiff-arm before Boom hits the field.

Boeckman used the YSU game last season to solidify a grip on the starting quarterback position and had a good day, finishing 17 of 23 for 225 yards and two touchdowns. His go-to guy on the afternoon was Robiskie, who finished with 9 receptions for 153 yards -- much of that before the half.

The third receiver battle has received a lot of play heading into the season and we should get a glimpse of who will begin to emerge there (Dane Sanzenbacher as of now, by all accounts), though a game like this may not present enough opportunities for one player or another to put real distance between himself and others.

Finally

Perhaps the biggest question heading into the game is when Pryor will see the field. Tressel has said that Todd will come out for the third or fourth series and right now it's anybody's guess as to whether it's Bauserman or Pryor that will come on in relief. Bauserman was the firm number two just a few days ago, but Thursday the Vest seemed to indicate that the two were sharing that second spot. I can only imagine the reaction in the 'Shoe if it's Pryor that comes in on that third series.

The defense, for not having many question marks just a few weeks ago, enters the game without the services of Kurt Coleman and backup defensive back Andre Amos. Sophomore Jermale Hines, a former Glenville quarterback and linebacker, will assume the starting strong safety duties in light of Coleman's injury and Jamario O'Neal's suspension. The secondary will have some new faces, but it will also be an excellent opportunity to get some of the younger guys minutes against a spread-type offense.

Despite the strong showing last year, the Buckeyes should look to improve upon their two sacks and zero interceptions. Did I mention that getting through the afternoon injury-free would be a nice bonus as well?

NOTES: Last season three freshman scored touchdowns against the Penguins: Dane Sanzenbacher, Taurian Washington and Brandon Saine... The Buckeyes will be gunning for victory #799... Ohio State hasn't lost to an in-state opponent since 1921 (Oberlin -- shout-out to the wife)... The Buckeyes have won 29-straight home openers since losing to Penn State to start the 1978 season.


PREDICTION: OSU 42, Youngstown State 3

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