COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — After an exhilarating, season-opening win over now-No. 8 Notre Dame, No. 3 Ohio State has a different challenge: get pumped up to play against an major underdog in Week 2, Arkansas State from the Sunbelt Conference.
The Buckeyes got a nailbiting 21-10 victory over the Irish before a television audience of 10.5 million last Saturday night.
But this week, Ohio State has to be careful not to slip into last season’s habit of looking past some teams, quarterback C.J. Stroud said.
“I feel like it was a problem to get rid of,” said Stroud, a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. “So we maybe played down our competition at times, and me personally that’s not something I never want to do. You always want to go out there and prove that you can dominate anybody when you step on to the field.”
The Red Wolves of Jonesboro, Arkansas, are feeling good about themselves after blowing out FCS squad Grambling State in last week’s opener, even if they’re a six-touchdown underdog according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Coach Butch Jones, the former Tennessee coach who’s been around big-time college football for years, knows what he’s walking into.
“Playing an opponent like Ohio State, your margin of error is very slim,” Jones said. “Every mistake you make is magnified. We may have been able to get away with some things against Grambling, where against Ohio State. it’ll be catastrophic.”
Jones wants to emerge from the game with his team’s health and morale intact. Arkansas STate will also take home a big check for traveling to Columbus to be a pre-Big Ten appetizer for the Buckeyes.
Red Wolves fifth-year defensive tackle TW Ayers said he just wants to see what all the fuss is about.
“It’s one of the few times every year you get a chance to kind of compare yourself and see where you are, just compared to all these guys that you see one on TV and you hear all the talk about — all these big-name guys who get all the media attention,” Ayers said. “So I think a lot of guys look forward to (nonconference games) every year to stack themselves up against them and have that opportunity to put their name on the map.”
Ohio State coach Ryan Day wouldn’t talk much this week about the health of star receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who left the Notre Dame game early with a leg injury and returned for a just a few plays after that.
Stroud said later that Smith-Njigba hurt one of his hamstrings, and not seriously. But it’s not clear if the receiver will be ready to play Saturday.
In other injury news, Day said injured receiver Julian Fleming may return for Saturday’s game, and though starting center Luke Wypler left last week’s game in a walking boot, he’s expected to be OK.
Champ Flemings’ first game as an Oregon State freshman receiver in 2018 was at Ohio Stadium — a 77-31 loss to the Buckeyes. The 5-foot-5, 142-pound Flemings is now in his fifth year after transferring to Arkansas State.
And as luck would have it, he’s coming back to Columbus. It’s no big deal to him.
“The football field is 120 yards long, no matter where you want to put it,” he said.
RUN IT UP
Quarterback James Blackman threw two touchdown passes and ran for two scores in Arkansas State’s 58-3 victory over Grambling. Blackman is in his sixth year of college football, transferring to Jonesboro after four seasons at Florida State.
Johnnie Lang, another sixth-year player who put in four years at Iowa State, rushed for 124 yards and a TD last week. Flemings had seven catches for 122 yards and a score.
HE SAID IT
“The game is done from the week before, no matter what happens, good, bad or indifferent, because we have to move on, because nothing we did last week matters,” Day said. “And that goes back to that term ‘competitive stamina.’ Can we bring it every single week?”