Could Offseason Misfortunes be Silver Lining for Buckeyes?

Possible back-to-back national championships. Multiple Heisman Trophy contenders. First-ever unanimous No. 1 preseason ranking. Best quarterback situation in the history of college football. Won the title a year before expected. So many NFL draft picks on one team. Potential to be most explosive offense ever.

The offseason buzz surrounding the Ohio State football team has been deafening. Through no fault of its own, the Buckeyes have had an immense amount of hype surrounding it throughout the entire offseason and heading into the season-opening game against Virginia Tech on September 7. That’s what happens when an underdog team of talented albeit young players steamrolls through three top-15 opponents en route to becoming the first-ever undisputed national champion of the College Football Playoff era, and then returns 15 of 22 starters for an encore performance.

No matter how far Assistant AD for Football Sports Performance Mickey Marotti drilled the team into the ground with tough workouts, or how much emphasis the coaching staff has placed on eliminating the word “defend” from the team’s collective vocabulary – in terms of defending the national title – there’s a risk that all the pre-season hype was still too much to overcome.

Could the setbacks the Buckeyes have endured late in the offseason – both injuries and suspensions – actually be a silver lining for the team’s overall success this season?

First of all, hear me out – in no way can Noah Brown’s season-ending leg injury be viewed positively. He’s a collegiate student-athlete who had worked his tail off to be in a position to contribute to the team’s success, and it’s a shame that he won’t be able to join his teammates on the field this Fall. Similarly, the injury of Mike Weber, an emerging young talent, and the suspensions of Joey Bosa, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith and Dontre Wilson in the opener cannot be interpreted as particularly helpful as the Scarlet and Gray look to open the season with a win in the hostile confines of Lane Stadium.

But, given all the hype that has been heaped upon the Buckeyes heading into season, it can be argued that these setbacks will ground the team – improve their focus, dial back inflated expectations, and erase any possible remnants of complacency that might have snuck into the players’ heads. Make no mistake, this Ohio State team is filled to the brim with talented players capable of beating Virginia Tech – and just about every team in the country – without all of their missing players, but the vibe has changed amongst Buckeye fans.

The key takeaway is that, for a team that thrived in the underdog role last season and has since been thrust into ‘favorite’ status, these setbacks have created doubt. Concern. Some anxiety. Despite the fact that OSU has a bevy of gifted four-star or five-star athletes to replace the players who won’t dress in Blacksburg, Virginia, their lack of actual experience or stats has some fans biting their nails. People are suddenly nervous that the remainder of our wide receiving corps that runs sub-4.5-second 40-year dashes won’t be able to haul in bombs from Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett. Suddenly, Ohio State might not have a big body that is also quick enough to effectively rush the passer. Will Braxton Miller, the most electrifying athlete in college football – with the confidence to match it, not be able to make plays as an H-back against the vaunted Virginia Tech secondary?

And if Buckeye fans are feeling a bit of insecurity heading into the Virginia Tech game, it’s likely the players and coaches are too, even if they won’t admit it publically. And if a hint of insecurity reinforces the “Next Man Up” philosophy and sharpens the team’s preparation and attention to detail heading into the season, it can be said that there is a silver lining to the team’s offseason misfortunes.

Trackbacks

  1. […] touched on all the crazy expectations of the Ohio State football program in a previous article, and needless to say, it has proven difficult for the team to live up to all of them. For a team […]

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