COLUMBUS — Ohio State’s season-opener against Notre Dame was a rousing success by nearly every account as the Buckeyes fed off a raucous and star-studded atmosphere inside Ohio Stadium en route to a 21-10 win over a top-five opponent.
The scene inside the Horseshoe figures to be vastly different on Saturday when Ohio State welcomes Arkansas State of the Sun Belt Conference to Columbus for the second of three non-conference games on the schedule. The Red Wolves were just 2-10 a season ago, and while they opened their season with a 58-3 win over Grambling State last week, Ohio State is listed as a massive, 43.5-point favorite.
Add in the noon kickoff time and Saturday’s game has all the ingredients necessary for a slow, uninspired start by Ohio State. While doing so wouldn’t likely mean much for the outcome of the game given the disparity in talent and depth between the two teams, it would not bode well for what head coach Ryan Day is trying to instill in his team, something he alluded to during his press conference on Tuesday.
“You guys have probably heard me use that term ‘competitive stamina,’ and I thought that showed up in the game on Saturday night and the way that we played in the second half and, certainly, in the fourth quarter,” Day said. “We knew we were going to be in those styles of games when you’re playing against really good opponents. We were in some of those games last year, and we did OK, but in other games, we didn’t respond like that. We did it on Saturday night, and that was a job well done.
“But that doesn’t mean anything this week. We say it all the time that after a Sunday practice, once we walk through the doors and practice is over, we head up to victory meal and that game is done from the week before, no matter what happens, good, bad, or indifferent. We have to move on because nothing we did last week matters, and it goes back to competitive stamina. Can we bring it every week? Coaches say it all the time but we create our own standard. What is our standard? It’s been about us, it’s always been about us, and we’ll continue to use that message this week.”
Of course, as a Football Bowl Subdivision program, Arkansas State won’t be devoid of talent when they take the field on Saturday. In their offensive backfield, the Red Wolves will be led by two former high-profile recruits including one face that should be very familiar to Buckeye fans in running back Brian Snead.
Snead was a top-100 recruit in 2018 before committing to Ohio State, but lasted just two games in Columbus before being dismissed from the team. After transferring to Austin Peay for two seasons, Snead landed at Arkansas State this summer and ran for 57 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win.
He will be joined by former Florida State starting quarterback James Blackman, who returns after starting five games for the Red Wolves last season before being injured. Prior to transferring to Arkansas State, Blackman started more than 20 games across two seasons for the Seminoles.
Blackman threw four touchdown passes last week, and his quarterback counterpart this weekend knows he and the Red Wolves can present problems for Ohio State if they’re not ready to play.
“We don’t take anybody lightly,” C.J. Stroud said on Tuesday. “Arkansas State is a good team, they’re 1-0 just like us, so we’re going to come into that game and swing as hard as we can.”
Like his head coach, Stroud said this week’s preparation in the absence of all the hype and fanfare that came with the matchup with Notre Dame is important for a team that displayed bad tendencies in those types of situations last year.
“I feel like it was a problem (last year), to keep it real,” Stroud said. “We maybe played down to our competition at times. Me, personally, that’s not something I ever want to do. You always want to go out there and prove that you can dominate anybody you step on the field with, so I feel like every week, we need to have the same approach … We’re going to make sure everything is done the right way in week two so it can be done right in week 10, 11, or 12.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.