Football

Tale of the Tape: Akron

Generally we don’t spend a whole lot of time talking about games that have six-touchdown-plus spreads and this upcoming game with Akron will be much of the game. Ohio State fans are more concerned with the fans wearing the home scarlet uniforms than the team coming into town with the kangaroo mascot.

That is not meant as any sort of disrespect to the visiting team, it is just the simple truth. Akron is getting a big pay day here, Ohio State was supposed to be getting a relatively simple game to test depth and gain experience before moving solely back into the Big Ten schedule for the remainder of the regular season.

And then 2021 happened.

The Buckeyes may be No. 10 in the AP poll, 2-1 in the record books but nothing has been easy this year as this Ohio State team has made the simple look difficult and the difficult look impossible.

There is no shame in losing to Oregon this year, even if Ohio State was the better team on paper and even more dominant with the loss of several key players for Oregon including Kayvon Thibodeaux and Justin Flowe, to name a few.

This game with Akron will not be some sort of referendum on the Ohio State season but if the Buckeyes come out flat or are extremely inefficient in this one, it will be time to foam the runways, hide the women and children and really start to worry about the remaining eight games on the schedule.

So Akron walks right into the crosshairs on this one, a game that Ohio State needs to come out and look sharp. Not good for a team that is just 2-19 over the last two-plus seasons and yielding almost 40 points per game.

We go to the Tale of the Tape of the Ohio State versus Akron game and try not to make this yet another report card on Ohio State’s troubles this season while not making this a hit piece on one of the nation’s most challenged teams in the Zips of Akron.

Ohio StateStatRankAkronStatRank
Rush Offense217.3 YPG25thRush Defense174.0 YPG96th
Pass Offense321.0 YPG16thPass Eff. Defense178.66 125th
Scoring Offense38.0 PPGT-36thScoring Defense39.7 PPG122nd

Ohio State QB/WR/TE vs. Akron Defensive Backs

Ohio State started off the season with a somewhat balanced game when it came to run/pass against Minnesota and followed that up with a pass-heavy game against Oregon and then a run-heavy game against Tulsa. Does this mean the chain will recycle and this will be a balanced game against Akron? We have seen the same first-quarter struggles for CJ Stroud that everyone else has seen so far this season. The first 15 minutes of games have seen a quarterback completing less than 60-percent of this throws (59.1-percent) and the ones that are completed have only gone for a total of 100 yards over three games, significantly off the pace of his other three quarters. Additionally, the first quarter is the only quarter that Stroud has not thrown either a touchdown or an interception. Is it a case of Ohio State playing it too safe with Stroud? Is it a case of Stroud playing it too safe with the offense? Not sure we have an answer to that one other than probably all of the above. Saturday’s game was a rare one for Chris Olave as the talented receiver logged zero catches and worse yet, had a bad drop along the way. You won’t see that kind of game out of Olave often. It is still largely a three-man passing game with Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba on the receiving end of 73-percent of Ohio State’s completions on the year. Granted, Ohio State has not really been able to get into “garbage” time at all this season and while seven other players have catches on the year, only Jeremy Ruckert has more than three as Ohio State has been unable to really separate from teams and work into its second wave of receivers with players like Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka both off the board with zero catches to this point.

Teams are completing 77.3-percent of their throws against the Akron defense and while the Zips have only given up six passing touchdowns on the year, that might be a result of an even more leaky run defense than anything. Neither of Akron’s two Division-I (FBS) foes this year (Auburn, Temple) rank in the top-75 nationally in the passing game and even the one Division-I (FCS) opponent (Bryant) ranks in the bottom 20 of the FCS standings for throwing the ball. Now, you could say that with so few games played, that is a result of Akron being good against the pass, but that would be a mistake, because Akron has not been good against the pass, and as stated earlier, if any of the three previous opponents made an effort to throw the ball, it was there at close to an 80-percent clip. Akron has a bigger corner in A.J. Watts, a 6-foot-1, 193-pounder out of Columbus (Ga.) but the results have not been there as of yet while he is flanked by Chris Singleton Jr. at the other corner position. Safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell comes out of a familiar school, Detroit Cass Tech and is flanked by another Florida product, Kato Nelson. It could be a long day if Ohio State decides to air it out under the lights of Ohio Stadium, but the Buckeyes shouldn’t run into a lot of resistance either via the run in what should (we emphasize should) be a high-scoring Ohio State affiar.

Ohio State Running Backs vs. Akron Linebackers

323 rushing yards as a team last week, 277 by TreVeyon Henderson, 41 rushing attempts, 7.9 yards per carry. That is not a bad thing, but it would have made people feel a lot better if the passing number associated with the 323 were higher than 185, meaning that 63.6-percent of the yards came on the ground and 62.1-percent of the offensive plays were runs. The Buckeyes needs to find better balance when it comes to run/pass plays in games. Ohio State narrowed down the running back rotation with just Henderson and Master Teague seeing carries, a surprise not seeing Miyan Williams for a single carry despite being dressed and looking game ready from a distance. The last time these two teams played, the Buckeyes rushed for 224 yards on 51 carries as Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith led the way to a 42-0 victory. In a year that was not known for a tremendous passing game, the Buckeyes threw for 293 yards in the game to boot, 163 yards and three scores coming from Joe Bauserman. Okay, we know that we are supposed to be talking about Ohio State’s running backs here, but we were shocked to see those numbers and is there really anything that you don’t know about the Ohio State’s backs going into a game like this?

I would have expected to see the number of rushing yards per game against for Akron to be north of 200, not just shy of 175, but it is what it is. Auburn gashed the Zips for 315 yards and five touchdowns on just 31 carries with a pair of 100-yard rushers and four different players crossing the goal line on the ground. Temple was not quite as proficient, only rushing for 177 yards on 34 carries and a pair of touchdowns as the Owls spread the ball around and did not have a single ball-carrier get into double-digit carries. I did not go as deep as breaking down the game against Bryant because I did not want to have to convince many of you that there actually is a football team named Bryant. Here is where I normally would point out a couple of different players to watch in the linebacker room, but I am not sure that it really matters in this one as Akron has really been a mess on the defensive side of the ball, and it leads me to say that this defense is exactly what Ohio State fans “feel” that the Buckeye defense is like, but a step away from things will really illustrate what a perceived flawed defense and an actual flawed defense look like and how different the two are.

Ohio State Offensive Line vs. Akron Defensive Line

Ohio State fans are concerned with how long Thayer Munford could be out of the lineup after getting knocked out of the game against Tulsa. Ryan Day said it was not a long-term injury but what does that mean for “this” game? Matt Jones looked good filling in at guard and it really should not matter this week but the schedule moves to Big Ten opponents next week and while people are quick to dismiss the likes of Maryland and Rutgers, it is a step up from Group of Five competition. It was a week ago that we were concerned about the run blocking and that got answered in a hurry as Henderson was able to run through gigantic holes and when the natural talent of the freshman running back showed, it took generally one move to turn a big gain into a touchdown. If the offensive line could bottle some of its success and share it with the Ohio State defensive line, things would be cooking at that point.

Akron has been credited with 2 unassisted sacks and 2 assists, no player has more than one of any category, meaning, there is not a single player to focus in on as there will not be that one “game changer” on the defense. Then again, that also means you don’t have just one player to load up on, but maybe that is just trying to give the Zips some extra benefit of the doubt. We doubt that the Zips will be able to do much at the line of scrimmage, either against the run or the pass. So let’s just move on and not waste time, we are not paid by the word around here.

Ohio StateStatRankAkronStatRank
Rush Defense181.7 YPG101stRush Offense128.7 YPG99th
Pass Eff. Defense129.3875thPass Offense226.0 YPG73rd
Scoring Defense28.7 PPG91stScoring Offense23.0 PPG99th

Ohio State Defensive Backs vs. Akron QB/WR/TE

Ohio State’s corners have been the brightest spot on the Ohio State defense with Denzel Burke showing that he has star potential in him while the Buckeyes did see Sevyn Banks return for about two-dozen snaps in the Tulsa game. Cameron Brown is rounding back into shape and there are a lot of young corners who are pushing for playing time. Safety still remains a bit of a concern but Cam Martinez made a big push late in the Tulsa game with his pick-six, not bad for a guy who probably felt his future was going to be on the offensive side of the ball at receiver. There still is not a lock to replace Josh Proctor at this point as Bryson Shaw is still seeing time with the 1’s but several guys are vying to step into that role and nobody really seems to have that position locked down for the remainder of the season. The back-end of the defense would be better if the front-end could get pressure on the quarterback and shorten the amount of time in coverage but until that becomes a reality, the secondary is going to be tested with little pass rush there to help speed things up. The good news is that Akron is not a great offensive team (or defensive, etc) so the chance of back shoulder throws and a precision aerial attack seem to be small, but teams just seem to play up when they face Ohio State in a down defensive year, so everyone best be on their best performances. Let’s not forget, Tulsa threw for 428 yards in this game on 31-54 passing and had it down to a one possession game in the 4th quarter, let’s not cramp up slapping ourselves on the back quite yet.

Without reading the name of the team involved, a look at quarterback DJ Irons’ stat line would be concerning as he threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns on 19-23 passing and then ran for 136 yards on 15 carries and a score. Then you see it was against Bryant (the school, not Anita) and reality comes back into focus. Against the two FBS foes on the schedule the passing yardage has averaged 119 yards, a touchdown a game and half a pick. The rushing numbers? Hardly on the screen. The point being, Irons looked great against overmatched FCS foes and much more below average against teams with 85 scholarships to give and a true FBS budget for football operations. Michael Mathison has emerged as the main weapon but is not the biggest player out there at just 5-foot-10, 180-pounds. Freshman Konata Mumpfield is a bigger target at 6-foot-1, 178 pounds but is a freshman and still learning the finer points of the game. Akron will spread the ball around and there is not really a defined top group for the Zips at the position as there would be for Ohio State with its top three, but Irons has to be able to make good decisions, something that he was able to do in going 13-13 spelling Kato Nelson in the Auburn game, but then was unable to replicate against Temple in a 12-22 outing.

Ohio State Linebackers vs. Akron Running Backs

What to say about the Ohio State linebackers? Well, Dallas Gant is gone after entering his name in the transfer portal, so that will cut the rotation down by one, even if Gant only had six snaps over the last eight quarters. There are a lot of questions about the lack of production out of the MLB position with Tommy Eichenberg largely absent from the stat sheet against Tulsa. Have the Buckeyes come any closer to figuring out what the secret sauce is at the position? Not when it comes down to yards allowed per game on the ground as Ohio State ranks 101st in the nation. Tulsa rushed for only 73 yards, helping the average but when a significant underdog comes into Ohio Stadium and throws for more than 425 yards, you kind of dance with the one that brought you. Until we see a clear plan from Ohio State at the linebacker position and with the run defense in general, what are we supposed to say here?

We have seen Akron run the ball well (vs. Bryant), run the ball pretty well (Temple) and not run the ball at all (Auburn). I don’t think anyone is seeing an Auburn-like defense out of the Buckeyes at this point of the season, so we should set the bar higher than the 21 yards allowed on 36 carries in that game. Akron ran the ball for 171 yards on 43 carries against Temple and if that happens this week, walls are going to bleed around Franklin County Ohio and surrounding areas. So that should be beyond the high end of what the Zips should be able to get. Anthony Williams rushed for 103 yards against Bryant and the week before was held to just 36 yards by Temple while Jonzell Norrils could be the other major ball carrier. As we said before, Irons was the guy on the ground last week against Bryant, but if Irons is the one to do most of the damage to the Ohio State defense, all hope may be lost for this season and it will become imperative for Ohio State to just come out and plain outscore everyone. Now, putting up more points than your opponent has always been the object of the game but under normal circumstances you feel that “30 points is enough” to win, but if Ohio State sees Akron break the 30 point mark, all bets are off moving forward and the hope better be scoring on just about every single offensive possession.

Ohio State Defensive Line vs. Akron Offensive Line

If Ohio State gets a pass rush, this game is over by the 2nd quarter. If Ohio State does not get a pass rush, this game is over by halftime. Again, this piece is not to serve as a punching bag of Akron, it is just steeped in the truth and what I believe is the truth. Ohio State was unable to get home against Tulsa with any consistency, a real problem when Big Ten offensive lines await. Tyleik Williams made one of the biggest plays of the game however and is now laying a claim that he needs to see more playing time. Ohio State went last week without Zach Harrison and we won’t know his status until the day of the game on Saturday. What is it going to take to get more out of the line? Sure, the Buckeyes could send more than the opponent can block but that is not without its own issues and it is not like the defense has been just a hair away from being “right” so you run some risks with that. But where is the Haskell Garrett that we have seen in years past? Where are the rushmen of previous seasons? Larry Johnson being the coach that he is, is shouldering the blame on his unit not performing “well enough” but this falls on the players who are out there making plays, Johnson can only determine who is going to be out there but players have to win their individual battles and thus far, they are not.

Akron better be ready for Ohio State’s best shot, the Buckeyes are tired of hearing about how they are not this, or that and this is going to be a pissed off Ohio State line. Auburn recorded six sacks, Temple had three, even Bryant had four. What does this mean? If Ohio State comes up with two or fewer, talk radio waves are going to burn.

CategoryOhio StateRankAkronRank
Net Punt42.50 YPP25th40.11 YPP60th
Punt Return2.60 YPR108th6.00 YPR80th
Kickoff Return22.00 YPP46th17.17 YPR93rd
FG Percentage3-3 (100%)N/A2-2 (100%)N/A

Each week I feel like there is not much to talk about in this segment, at least until we reach the halfway mark of the season and have some real numbers to look at. Both teams are perfect in placekicking, though neither have really made it a priority to kick field goals. The returns and even the punts can really be skewed by one really good episode or one really bad one. One thing that Ohio State fans should look ahead to, Emeka Egbuka is going to break a return if give more opportunities. Now, there generally are not a lot of times where the touchback is not the only thing allowed, but kick it short at your own peril.