Ohio State psychologically cleared a hurdle by virtue of their 21-10 win over Notre Dame in the season opener. An entire offseason focused upon substantially-needed defensive improvement, as well as overall physical toughness, was demonstrated to a nationally televised audience that saw the Buckeyes slowly but surely wear down the Fighting Irish over the last two quarters of the game.
As tempting as it may be to rest upon the laurels of game one, Ohio State needs to focus all of their energy and attention on their next opponent, the Arkansas State Red Wolves. This game will mark the first time that Ohio State and Arkansas State have ever played.
Arkansas State is also 1-0, coming off a dominant 58-3 win over FCS Grambling. Considering how Arkansas State went 2-10 in 2021, any news that is positive for the Red Wolves is probably welcomed enthusiastically in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Ohio State is an overwhelming favorite (-44.5) and is expected to win handily. Even with the odds in Ohio State’s favor, below are Three Things To Watch From Arkansas State as this game kicks off on The Big Ten Network at 12 p.m. ET.
1. The Ohio State Running Game Vs. The Arkansas State Defense
On our latest Silver Bullets Podcast that previewed this game, Michael Citro AKA “The Grumpy Old Buckeye” and I speculated on what Ohio State’s offensive attack may look like versus the Red Wolves, especially with the likelihood that WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba will probably be withheld from the game as a precautionary measure. It was gratifying to me that Ohio State focused on running the ball effectively in the second half of the Notre Dame game, and I believe that is where the Buckeyes will try to build upon what worked so well for them in game one.
Arkansas State held Grambling to only 50 yards on the ground, but it is highly unlikely that they will be able to replicate that same success versus an Ohio State offensive line that is trying to reestablish a reputation for physical dominance. TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams may both carry the ball a lot, and I am curious if we will see the debut of true freshman Dallan Hayden at some point in this contest.
2. The Ohio State Linebackers Vs. The Arkansas State Run Offense
A familiar name will be carrying the ball for Arkansas State in former Buckeye RB Brian Snead. Snead carried the ball 12 times for 57 yards and 1 touchdown in the season opener, spelling teammate Johnnie Lang (13 carries for 124 yards, 1 touchdown). Arkansas State had little trouble from Grambling, as the Red Wolves ran for 339 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
The Ohio State defense, especially the linebackers, played well against a formidable Notre Dame offensive line and running game. As I wrote up above about Ohio State looking to build upon what they did in game one, here is a chance for the linebackers, led by Tommy Eichenberg, to show their fans and the rest of college football that the game one performance was not a fluke, and that the Silver Bullets have truly returned as one of college football’s premier defensive units.
3. Which Ohio State Freshmen/Backups Will Play Versus Arkansas State?
True freshman DE Caden Curry was the only freshman credited with game activity versus Notre Dame, and it came all exclusively on special teams units. Ohio State is a substantial favorite, and this is the kind of game that backup units on both sides of the ball may have opportunities to get some well-needed game experience.
If Ohio State has a sizable lead after the first half, quarterbacks Kyle McCord and Devin Brown may see some action. As any Ohio State fan will recall from the 2014 national championship season, the Buckeyes needed three quarterbacks during the course of that season, so getting McCord and/or Brown snaps in a game seems prudent. The aforementioned Dallan Hayden may be able to get some carries as the 3rd-string tailback, while other players such as C.J. Hicks or Sonny Styles may also get some action in the game versus the Red Wolves.
Even with a nearly 45 point spread, I have a difficult time seeing Ohio State beating Arkansas State by that much, especially if the Buckeyes focus on running the ball a great deal during the game. I have it Ohio State 42, Arkansas State 7.