- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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What will 2011 hold for the embattled Ohio State Buckeyes? There will be high levels of interest for the team's opener, even if the first opponent is not a heavyweight. While everyone waits to see how the players respond to a controversy-filled offseason, let's take a look at what faces the Buckeyes on the field in their season debut.
Week 1 Opponent: Akron
Coach: Rob Ianello (second year, 1-11)
2010 record: 1-11 (1-7, Mid-American Conference)
Returning starters: 13 (five offense, eight defense)
About the Zips: Akron came about its crummy record honestly in its first year under former Notre Dame assistant Ianello. Only two teams in the country were worse at putting points on the board than the Zips, who averaged just 15.6 per game, and they allowed 35.1 points to their opponent. Their passing and rushing attacks ranked in the 100s nationally, and only a win against Buffalo in the finale helped them avoid a winless campaign. Patrick Nicely returns at quarterback, but the team's leading rusher and top receiver from last season are gone. Ianello hopes another year in the system helps both sides of the ball.
Random factoid: Current Ohio State coach Luke Fickell spent 2000-2001 as Akron's defensive coordinator. That's the only non-Buckeyes coaching position Fickell has had.
Series with Ohio State: The Buckeyes lead 6-1 and won the last meeting 20-2 in 2007.
Totally unscientific percentage chance Ohio State wins: 97.9 percent. No Terrelle Pryor. No Dan Herron, DeVier Posey or Mike Adams. A new head coach. Tons of offseason distractions. All of these things could add up to an opening-week struggle for Ohio State -- if the opponent were a bit tougher. Akron should be improved over last season, simply because there's really nowhere to go but up for the Zips. But the Buckeyes still have way too much for Akron to handle, especially at home. If not, it could really be a bad year in Columbus.
Previously in the series
What will 2011 hold for the embattled Ohio State Buckeyes? There will be high levels of interest for the team's opener, even if the first opponent is not a heavyweight.