The Eastern Michigan Eagles face the unenviable task of trying to secure their first win of the season against the No. 2 team in the country -- the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Eastern Michigan is 0-3 on the young season, having lost to Army in the opener and Miami-Ohio the following week -- by a combined 11 points. Then came last week's Mid-American Conference West Division clash with the Central Michigan Chippewas, a game the Eagles let get away from them as they lost at home in a 52-14 final. At 0-2 in conference and with very few breaks ahead, EMU is likely going to endure a long, arduous season.
The Eagles return to MAC play next week when they host the Ohio University Bobcats before hitting the road for three straight games.
At the other end of the success spectrum, the Buckeyes are a perfect 3-0, having disposed of Marshall, Miami-Florida and Ohio University in succession. Only the game against the Hurricanes could be considered [relatively] tough, but even that one ended in a double-digit victory.
OSU has won 55 straight regular-season, non-conference games against unranked opponents, with the last loss to such a foe coming against Pittsburgh (42-17) back in 1988. The Buckeyes have won 56 in a row at home against unranked, non- conference foes, with the last loss coming against Florida State (34-17) in 1982.
This game marks Ohio State's final non-conference affair of the regular season, and it will open Big Ten play next week at Illinois. The Buckeyes will face formidable opposition in conference, with road games at Wisconsin and Iowa, and home tilts against Penn State and Michigan.
The Eagles and Buckeyes are meeting on the gridiron for the first time.
While Alex Gillett has started the first three games for the Eagles at QB, he has shared time with Devontae Payne and neither has really established himself as "the guy". Gillett has completed 57.6 percent of his throws for 350 yards (116.7 ypg) with four TDs and three INTs, while Payne is a 51.9 percent passer who averages 74 ypg and has yet to toss a scoring strike. Ben Thayer is the team's leading receiver, but he has just 10 catches for 109 yards and a TD. The ground game is led by Dwayne Priest, but his 66.3 ypg aren't going to scare many opponents. He is averaging a TD per game, however.
Both signal-callers saw action in last week's loss to Central Michigan, combining to go 25-of-44 for 282 yards and a TD. Priest averaged just 3.1 ypc on his way to 49 yards and a TD, and the Eagles finished with 358 total yards, compared to 523 for the Chippewas.
As it was last week, the EMU defense has been smacked around this season, yielding 37 ppg behind 414 ypg of total offense. The Eagles have had an especially tough time trying to stop the run, as foes are averaging 253 ypg on the ground and have scored 11 rushing TDs in three games. CMU churned out 269 yards via the run and another 254 through the air, averaging 7.6 yards per offensive play and scoring points on 5-of-6 trips to the red zone.
Neal Howey is the team's top tackler with 34 stops, while Tim Fort is hot on his heels with 29. Javon Reese has 3.5 of EMU's five sacks to this point, and the Eagles average just one forced turnover per game.
As expected, the Buckeyes hammered visiting Ohio University last weekend, winning 43-7 in front of the hometown faithful. QB Terrelle Pryor set a new school record by completing 16 consecutive passes on his way to a 20-of-29, 235-yard, two-TD performance. A total of 10 different Buckeyes caught a pass against the Bobcats, with Devier Posey leading the way with five grabs for 62 yards. Posey has now caught a pass in 17 straight games.
OU head coach Frank Solich knows his Bobcats played a team capable of accomplishing great things this year, "Ohio State has a championship caliber football team. I felt that coming in and I feel that coming out. We had to play perfect football, execute well, play penalty free and win the turnover battle, none of which got done today. The defense hung in there pretty well. Ohio State has a good running game, throwing game and a good scramble game. That's tough to defend against."
For the season, Pryor has completed 63 percent of his passes for an average of 238.3 ypg, with six TDs against only two INTs, and Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher have combined for 24 receptions, 416 yards and three scores. As for the OSU run game, Pryor is the main man there as well, having rushed for 165 yards and two TDs, while Brandon Saine and Dan Herron have combined for 295 yards and five scores.
The OSU defense held OU to 158 total yards and just seven first downs. Ross Homan led the stand with seven tackles and an INT in what was truly a dominant defensive performance by the heavily-favored Buckeyes. Ohio State leads the nation in turnover margin (+3.33).
Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel was proud of the effort put forth by his team in the win over Ohio University, "We seized control of the game early and the biggest challenge you have is keeping execution at a high pitch. We played hard and got a lot of guys in the game."
EMU has little chance of keeping this game competitive let alone pulling off the unthinkable. Expect the Buckeyes to control all aspects of the game and to empty the bench in the second half as they prepare for the rigors of Big Ten play.