One of the interesting moments of Tressel's press conference on Tuesday was when one of the reporters asked him if would rather not play Eastern Michigan. As was sighted, they are on a 15 game losing streak and 112th in the country this season against the run. So the question was this - is this a hard sell? Tressel responded with this...
"It's not really a hard sell because we don't assess the schedule from the standpoint of, oh, I wish it was this or I wish it were that. You know me, I wish there were 11 games, but there are 12, and for good reason, to fill an inventory of 12 games and to fill an inventory of 36 sports, it's just the reality we're in. We didn't know when we were scheduling this game that it was going to be these numbers, but, you know, in some ways it's a good challenge. If you're going to be affected by that in game four, then how might you be affected by something else much further down the line?
"So in some ways, the mental exercise of seeing if you can really convince yourself that you really believe that what we do is what's most important and us getting better is what's most important and the opponent doesn't really matter, which is what was being said against Miami, you know, this isn't the '02 game, this isn't about them, this is about us, which is the truth, that's the way everything should be. So to me it will be a good mental -- and I'll have a lot better feel as to how we'll handle it about 5:15 tonight, so I don't spend much time wishing things weren't so. I've given you I wish I were six-three before, I'm not."
As expected, Tressel gave the typical head coach lingo. Any good head coach is going to point out that it's important to compete against yourself, challenge yourself, and see where you are mentally in game like this. But as bloggers and fans we can ask the real question - is there anything good that come from playing a cupcake like Eastern Michigan? Well, let's take a look...
1) Gaining confidence - Blowing out a team like EMU 50-0 definitely gives the troops a moral boast, especially with guys who were struggling a bit. For example, having some success on special teams on Saturday could go a long way in helping that unit gain some much needed mojo. Also, as previously mentioned, this team is 112th in the country in rushing defense. That could be exactly what the doctor ordered for guys like Brandon Saine and Boom Herron who want to silence the critics.
2) Getting the young guys some reps - You always like getting some of the youngsters some playing time to see what they are made of. It's one thing to see them on the practice field; it's another thing to see them in front of 105,000 fans.
1) Injuries - Anytime a powerhouse team like Ohio State plays a cupcake, you worry about injuries. You hate losing key players in a game that won't be a contest in the end (see Beanie Wells in the '08 Youngstown State game). This Saturday, everytime Pryor takes a hit, one of the linemen is slow to get up, or a defensive back makes a hard hit, Buckeye Nation will be holding its breath. After all the injuries the Buckeyes had last week against Ohio, let's hope we get lucky this time around.
2) Sloppy play - As we witnessed last week when the Buckeyes took a huge lead, it's easy for the play to get sloppy when the game is out of hand. It's hard to blame the players either. When your team has a 30 plus point lead, it is pretty easy to lose your aggression and edge.
3) Not a true test - There is no way for the staff or players to get a good gauge on their performance while playing such an inferior opponent. Like it or not, the Buckeyes really are just padding their stats on Saturday. EMU will not be a real example of the speed, reaction time, play calling, or anything else that the Buckeyes will see the rest of the season. For example, the offensive line will likely open holes that a truck could drive through, but how does that help this team for the future?
All in all, I wish the Buckeyes didn't have to play a team like EMU in a championship run year. I see very little advantage to playing such a weak and anemic opponent. So, what do you think - would you like to pass on playing this game Saturday?