COLUMBUS, Ohio >> Hawaii coach Norm Chow isn’t having his team make a 9,020-mile round trip just to be a pushover for Ohio State on Saturday in the Buckeyes’ first game in Ohio Stadium since winning the national championship.
“It’s just another game. It’s one game. That’s what we told our players,” Chow said.
Even so, it’s a rare occurrence when Hawaii gets a chance to face the defending champion, one that defeated Virginia Tech 42-24 on Monday in Ohio State’s opener to avenge its lone loss during the 2014 season.
The only previous matchup for the Rainbow Warriors against the titleholder was a 63-17 home loss to Southern Cal to start the 2005 season.
“Obviously, we know what’s at stake,” Chow said. “We know who were playing. We understand all that. We’re honored to play them, but it’s just another game and our guys will play hard and we’ll see what happens.”
The Buckeyes are heavy favorites as they will be in most games but if there’s any advantage for Hawaii it’s that it defeated Colorado 28-20 on Sept. 3. Ohio State will have the unusual task of playing for the second time in five days.
“It’s awful,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said of the quick turnaround.
He noted Thursday was spent practicing special teams compared to a normal week when the work is done on Tuesdays.
Still, Chow isn’t sure the added time afforded Hawaii will be enough to stop the Ohio State juggernaut.
“We probably could have taken two months, but I don’t know if we would ever be prepared for those guys,” Chow said.
The Buckeyes promise they won’t experience a letdown after the mega-hyped and much anticipated prime-time rematch at Virginia Tech.
“Whoever comes out of the tunnel, we’re going to treat them the same,” OSU sophomore linebacker Raekwon McMillan said.
Some things to watch for in Saturday’s game:
STILL THE ONE?
Even though junior quarterback Cardale Jones started against Virginia Tech, sophomore J.T. Barrett is by no means out of the picture. Meyer had planned to stick with a No. 1 quarterback. But the competition is so close that Barrett is expected to see a lot of action, certainly more than the one series he had vs. the Hokies. In that limited stint, he ran for 40 yards and completed a 26-yard touchdown pass. Jones was 9 of 18 for 186 yards, two TDs and an interception and rushed for 99 yards on 13 carries.
Hawaii junior running back Paul Harris is from the Columbus suburb of Reynoldsburg and took a circuitous route to become a Rainbow Warrior. He started at a community college in Michigan, but the football program folded before he got a chance to play. He went to Toledo and transferred to Ventura College in California before landing in Hawaii this season. Harris came off the bench against Colorado and had a team-high 17 carries for 68 yards. He is expected to start against the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes handled Virginia Tech even without four suspended players, all of whom will return vs. Hawaii – receivers sophomore Jalin Marshall, senior Corey Smith and junior Dontre Wilson plus All-American junior defensive end Joey Bosa. Ohio State already showed it’s stacked offensively with former quarterback senior Braxton Miller (one touchdown catch, one TD run) and one-time running back sophomore Curtis Samuel (a TD reception) shining as the hybrid or H backs. “We’ve got a lot of guys on this team who are playmakers,” Samuel said.
BRING IT ON
Ohio State led the nation in attendance last season with an average of 106,296. A similar crowd is expected Saturday, but sophomore cornerback Nick Nelson said the Rainbow Warriors won’t be intimidated. “I feel our team is good enough to play with anybody. It doesn’t matter how big the stadium, how small the stadium, we’re going to out there and play to win,” he said.
Even though Jones has started only four games, he reached OSU legendary status after replacing the injured Barrett and guiding the Buckeyes to wins over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, Alabama in the national semifinal and Oregon in the College Football Playoff championship game. Then the Buckeyes beat Virginia Tech to open the season. He has yet to start a game in Ohio Stadium, although that should change Saturday. “That’s real odd,” Meyer said.