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5 Downs: What To Watch For When The Buckeyes Face Eastern Michigan

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1. Special Teams Coverage. Eventually, I hope this list no longer includes anything relating to special teams, but until the Bucks take care of business in all facets of special teams play, it will be on here. Last week’s punt block was a combination of an overload punt blitz by the Bobcats, miscommunication by the blockers who allowed a man to come through free, and poor punt delivery by Ben Buchanon. This week, the opponent is so inept in all phases of the game that responsibility will be entirely on the Buckeyes if something should go wrong.

2. Andrew Sweat. The young starting strongside linebacker missed last week with a minor injury sustained against Miami, but appears to be healthy enough to play against Eastern Michigan on Saturday. Sweat’s continued development is important to the rest of the season, as the Buckeyes will begin playing offenses that use more heavy personnel groupings, and are dedicated to the running game. This will require Ohio State to stick with their base personnel on defense, which will necessitate a strong presence from Andrew Sweat. EMU is a good opponent for Sweat to gain valuable reps at game speed against; if he screws up, the margin for error is much higher than it will be in later games.

3. Turnover Margin. Ohio State is currently ranked number one in the nation in turnover margin, with margin of +10, and an average of +3.33 per game. While turnovers can be unpredictable and volatile, there should be no excuse for Ohio State to fall behind in the margin this week. Eastern Michigan is 112th in the country in turnover margin this season, and while that’s a small sample size, it is fitting with EMU’s recent history, as they were 77th in the country last season. EMU’s defense is not talented enough to force mistakes on Ohio State’s part, so it’s a similar situation to the special teams coverage- if the Buckeyes turn the ball over this weekend, it’s entirely their fault.

4. Big Play Day. The Eastern Michigan defense is 94th in the country in total defense and 117th in rushing defense. And they haven’t played a team with the overall talent of Ohio State. Look for the Buckeye offense to have a big day on Saturday, with the running game putting up the big numbers that the fanbase has been clamoring for. Ohio State’s offensive line significantly outweighs the Eagle defensive line, so the Bucks should be able to control the tempo of the game on the ground, as well.

5. Brutus’s Status. A week after a brutal and unprovoked attack by Rufus Bobcat, Brutus makes his return this weekend. Jim Tressel had him has probable in his weekly press conference, but will he be able to perform like he did pre-mugging? Psychologically, the damage is likely permanent, and it’s doubtful that we’ll ever truly see the real Brutus again. And beware, Brutus, another opponent awaits- and this one can fly!

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.