The Other Guys

In just a few short hours, the Buckeyes and the Oregon State Beavers will each kick off their 2018 campaign for a spot in the college football playoff and a national championship. Oregon State won exactly one game last season; so I’m not going to pretend like this game will be some kind of dogfight. Honestly, if it ends up being close, something will have gone terribly wrong for Ohio State. However, I’d like to avoid sounding completely arrogant. So here are two legitimate reasons Oregon State might actually be better than we’re giving them credit for.

Johnathan Smith

In the fall of 2000, walk-on quarterback Johnathan Smith led OSU to an 11-1 record. Eighteen years later, he’s their new Head Coach. He’s young. He’s energetic. He believes firmly that old-fashioned hard work will lead to the eventual success of his football team. I believe firmly that teams, whether it be in the business world, in the home or in college football, will take on the personality of their leader. A prime example of this can be seen in the difference of performance between the 2011 and 2012 Buckeyes after the Meyer regime took over. Smith’s Beavers are no different. Make no mistake, they are not flying all the way to Columbus with intentions of rolling over for Ohio State.

Experience

The only metric where Oregon State could actually be “better” than Buckeyes is it’s extremely experienced roster. The Beavers are returning thirteen of their twenty-two starters from last season. Such an experienced first string will give Oregon State the best opportunity to limit mistakes and avoid beating themselves. It will also give them a better opportunity to make the most of any mistakes that Ohio State’s talented but inexperienced lineup will make along the way. They are a veteran football team who is ticked off after the way last season turned out. There is no doubt in my mind that the Beavers will give Ohio State their absolute best. However, time will show how their best compares to that of The Ohio State University.

Week one of the 2018 season is finally here and it’s packed with an amazing lineup of marquee matchups. Certainly Auburn and Washington’s battle in Atlanta will be the main course. Watching Notre Dame open their season with a win over Michigan will be so very sweet; like dessert, if you will. Which means Ohio State’s warm-up game against the other OSU will be your perfect low-stress appetizer to jumpstart a great weekend of college football. Enjoy.

 

Ready, Set, Go! Buckeye Starters Announced, Primed, and Ready To Rock

With a handful of days left in the pit of misery, it is officially game week and with that, the starters for positional units have been announced during the presser–and boy the future looks bright.  With the drama behind us (hopefully it stays that way!), we can all begin looking forward to how our Ohio State Buckeyes respond to the backlash and the three-game suspension of Head Coach Urban Meyer.

Quarterback:  Dwayne Haskins.

Haskins as the heir apparent to J.T. Barrett was one of the worst-kept secrets at Ohio State.  He beat out a shifty dual-threat quarterback in Tate Martell, but even he did enough to earn a few reps when called upon.

Haskins has the arm and the talent to make this offense explode.  He also has the weapons to make that happen as well.  With a collection of talented receivers and tight ends at his disposal, he almost cannot mess this up, but we will have to see once he steps onto the field if he can live up to the hype surrounding him.

Tate Martell might have lost the battle, but he will act as a change-of-pace quarterback when he subs in for certain situations inside of the red zone.  It will be an exciting combination and it would also act as his audition for next seasons quarterback battle if Haskins has one hell of a year and leaves for the NFL.

Running Back:  J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber.

This is probably the most obvious out of every position announced.  The dynamic duo will re-assume their roles on the offense this year.

With Dobbins, he will use his success from his freshman season as he shares the snaps with Weber in what should be his final season.  With one final season, Weber will search for holes to better his draft stock and reach his personal goals, while simultaneously helping his team achieve their own season goals.

This is another talented group with two talented freshmen in Master Teague, Brian Snead, and Jaelin Gill in the mix for snaps as well.

Wide Receiver:  Johnnie Dixon, Austin Mack, and Parris Campbell.

This is another deep group of players, and the three players above are just the more seasoned players of the group.  They still have weapons in the wings in McLaurin, Victor, Hill, and Saunders.

This is a talented group of receivers from a season ago that all came back to play with Haskins before they realize their NFL dreams.  This is a potent group of playmakers that could light teams up the entire season.

People say speed kills and this group has all the speed!  It will be crazy to see, but I am excited to see big plays consistently and often.  Like the Troy Smith years–I cannot wait!  With McLaurin, Dixon, and Campbell captaining, it will be an exciting time for sure.

Offensive LineThayer Munford OR Joshua Alabi, Malcolm Pridgeon, Michael Jordan, Demetrius Knox, and Isaiah Prince.

The offensive line has been set and you gush with excitement due to the potential.  The one move that shocked many was the decision to move another offensive guard to center, this year it is Jordan’s time to lead from the inside.

There is still an on-going battle going on between Munford and Alabi at left tackle, but everything else has been nailed down with Pridgeon at left guard, the aforementioned Jordan at center, Knox at right guard, and Prince at right tackle.  With a combination of Jordan at center and one of the seven team captains in Prince on the offensive line, they will lead the newer starters into battle for what could be their last year at Ohio State.

The feel I get from this lineup is salivating.  I feel like they could be road graders in the run game and that they will bring that nastiness that has been missing for a little bit, both within and outside of the trenches.  While Bowen still recovers, the depth is a little green, but they have a talented group that earned their spot on the two-deep.

Linebacker:  Malik Harrison, Baron Browning, and Pete Werner.

Linebacker is one of the deeper position groups and the roster and the starters that were announced are all athletes–quick ones too.  The sheer speed and athleticism with this group, not even factoring their backups is crazy, but it is too early to buy into the hype for now.

Run stuffers and gap fillers are their specialties, but Harrison and Browning and can be effective in coverage while Werner acts as the missile to blow up players in the backfield.  The previous to can do the same, but after seeing Werner blow people up on special teams, it is not out of the question.

The will get beat sometimes because of their youth and inexperience, but they could also be scary good behind one of the best defensive line collections out there in the nation.  With captain Tuf Borland still recovering from an Achilles injury, he will mold these younger players into machines.

Defensive Line:  Chase Young, Dre’Mont Jones, Robert Landers, and captain Nick Bosa.

Scary doesn’t do this unit and their backups justice.  They will be one of the most active units that will consistently try to harass the opposing quarterbacks and disrupt their offensive attack.  They will make then earn every single yard and this offense could be a frustrating bunch to beat and overcome in the trenches.

Jones and Landers have proven that they could blow up plays with their coordinated efforts and it usually frees up Young and Bosa.  Behind then are a talented group of underclassmen and a few true freshmen.  Togiai and company have made a lot of noise this offseason and they are expected to contribute this season.

Watch out!  This could be the best collection of disruptive playmakers in the trenches that we have had in a while.  I cannot wait to see what becomes of this unit.

Defensive Backs:  Damon Arnette, Kendall Sheffield or Jeffrey Okudah, Jordan Fuller, and Isaiah Pryor.

Captain Fuller will lead his unit to live up to the Ohio State standard.  Everyone who was expected to start secured their respective spot on the depth chart and the only question is who will be the starting corner opposite of Arnette.

The battle between Okudah and Sheffield has been tight so far, but either or will do and they are interchangeable players that can play the sideline or the slot.  Also, with Shaun Wade getting healthier and the true freshmen stepping up, if someone gets banged up they will be perfectly fine because of their depth at every position.

A fiery leader, Fuller will command everyone and coordinate the attack for his defense with other captains at every level.

Specialist/Special Teams:  Sean Nuernberger and  Drue Cristman.

I am giving the special team unit some love and it is well deserved.  During the spring game, they showed their worth in what was the weakest units a season ago.

They weren’t terrible, but they weren’t great either with a mixture of issues from missed FG’s to pointless penalties that killed the momentum or swung it in the other teams favor.  It was also the lack of containment on special teams that opposing teams often exposed the Buckeyes–especially when Barkley took it to the house on the opening kickoff last year.

Improvements must be made, especially with the new rules regarding this specific unit, where the ball can be fair caught and placed at the 25-yard line.  There are some hungry young studs (think Pete Werner) that will look to make an impact.  I think it’ll be Mitchell and Gant that will fly around this season and they will bring the boom!

Jeremiah, Tony, and Shannon, I apologize for the lengthy piece, but I am so excited to turn the page from the media storm that occurred a month ago.  I am truly excited for Buckeye season and so are Trevor and Mark.

What If Urban Was Not Our Head Coach?

Since that turbulent season 2011, we have been spoiled as Ohio State fans.  Point blank.  Period.  Once Urban Meyer showed up for the head coaching gig, we have experienced a ton of success both on and off the field, we have seen it in rivalry games (5-0 against TTUN), and in the recruiting game–and he is still working to improve in many other areas annually.

He took a Luke Fickell led a team who finished 2011 with a 6-7 record and 3-5 in the BIG 10 and flipped it around.  A culture change occurred and he even kept Coach Fickell on his staff for a couple of years for continuity purposes–and it worked out.  After Ohio State fired Coach Tressel and declared star QB Terrelle Pryor ineligible, it did not look good for the Buckeyes.  During the search for their new head coach, there was a lot of uncertainty, but Coach Meyer was a just what the Buckeyes needed to become successful again.

For fans, I cannot agree or stand the fact that they question Coach Meyer’s motives–especially when they questioned him for leaving J.T. Barrett as the starter during 2016 and 2017, with the perceived “better QB” waiting in the wings (Cardale Jones, 2016 and Dwayne Haskins, 2017).  You people need to just shut up and let the head coach do what he is paid to do or you’ll just be like the Volunteer fans who ran off Coach Schiano with the mob mentality that you all spew all over the social media waves.

Is an overall record of 73-8 and a conference record of 47-3 not good enough for you?  How about a bowl record of 4-2 and a College Football Playoff Championship accompanied by 2 BIG 10 titles to boot?  Still not satisfied because you are bent out of shape over a QB.  Let me say that we should be excited about whatever he chooses to do, and that is also with who he deems ready to start at QB.

This year Haskins is going to take the reins and he better be ready this year, or he’ll face the same criticism as Barrett did with Tate Martell waiting in the wings.  Most people forget that J.T.’s backup was Joe Burrow, and up until he got injured, I saw nothing with Haskins to be impressed with.  Intangibles, learning and taking mental reps, and more importantly–leadership skills.  None of those traits were present and yet, he could mentally throttle any team with a decent defense.

Since we are so spoiled as fans, let me take the time to say that Urban Meyer WILL retire at Ohio State and that I am proud that he is my head coach.  Since we want to take social media pot shots as well, let me play devils advocate and let us say Coach Meyer did not get or want the job and we had to settle for someone else.  Here is a short list of candidates that came up.

Bo Pelini, Nebraska

Bo Pelini finished 2011 with a 9-4 record and was 5-3 within the conference–so he probably was never a real threat for the Ohio State head coaching gig anyway.  Pelini, a former Ohio State Free Safety was a prime candidate for the job.  He was an aggressive defensive minded coach that leaned heavily on his Offensive Coordinators to put up points on the other side of the ball.

He started off really good, but he never got over the hump with his team before being fired after compiling a 67-27 record with the Cornhuskers.

What could he bring to Ohio State?  I think he could transform them into a winner, but like Nebraska, that hump would prove to be too much for him to stay as the head coach at Ohio State.  Expectations would run him out of town in the same manner, but since we are spoiled anyway 9-win seasons will earn him the angst and the axe at Ohio State.

Chris Petersen, Boise State

Chris Petersen was one of my favorites after compiling a wildly successful career at Boise State.  Petersen went 92-12 overall and he dominated the Mountain West Conference finishing 56-7.

He is also famously known for the Statue of Liberty play that defeated the Oklahoma Sooners and he has also beaten a few Power 5 Conference teams in Arizona State, Utah, and Washington–so he would have been a proven winner and a take at Ohio State.

He fits schematically and he would have been fun to watch at Ohio State, where he has an endless supply and a great mix of facilities, education, and the recruiting tactics would be the only question mark.  He has yet to sign a top-notch team at Washinton, but his games would be fun to watch because he isn’t afraid to run a trick play or two.

Jon Gruden, NFL Commentator

Jon Gruden was enjoying life as a Broadcaster with ESPN for NFL games.  A lot of people were thinking or holding out hope for Chucky to become the next head coach of Ohio State–and it would have taken a lot to get him to go down a level after winning a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He coaches the defense and he was a pretty good play caller, but I am not quite sure with the offensive side of the ball.  He normally leaned on the Running Backs and luckily at Ohio State they had a bruiser named Carlos Hyde and Boom Herron.  They also had a pretty good defense with Bradley Roby and Ryan Shazier, which would have anyone excited over coaching this team.

Sadly, like Petersen, I don’t have a clue if he knew or was willing to do the recruiting necessary to be successful because that is the lifeblood of any program.  He would win a fair share of game, but would it translate to winning recruiting battles and winning the big rivalry games?  I don’t think so, but it is sure fun to speculate.

Greg Schiano, Rutgers

Greg Schiano was another rising candidate for the job after leading the Rutgers programs to newer heights.  He was available and he was ready for the challenge of becoming a head coach at the next level, for the Tampa Bay Buccanneers.  He was ill-equipped for it after laster a single season in the NFL.

If he chose to remain in the CFB ranks and if he has a shot at the Ohio State job, he would have had access to many resources to rebuild the Buckeyes into a threat once again.  He is known for his work with Defensive Backs and since he’s been at Ohio State, he has been helping in the development of these young men.

Offensively would be the biggest question because he has always been dependent on his defenses while the offenses put up points to maintain the lead.  The type of athletes that Ohio State attracts would easily put these questions to rest and with the right hire as the offensive shot caller, it could be a great match.  Would he sustain the success?  We won’t know, but it is fun to have him on our current staff.

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Bob Stoops would be the best candidate to sign.  He is originally from Ohio and he has a proven track record at Oklahoma and in the Big 12.

This would have been a difficult pull, but if it did happen, the BIG 10 would have burned down because he would keep his foot on the pedal until the clock hit zeroes.  Sure, it would run a lot of the head coaches the wrong way, but it isn’t like Coach Meyer doesn’t do that occasionally too.

Coach Stoops would have inherited Braxton Miller and a lethal collection of weapons on offense.  The defense was also good, with Shazier and Roby roaming around, so there is virtually no real concern for him.  Another huge plus is that he can recruit his tail off.  This would have been a near perfect hire if Coach Meyer wasn’t ready to lead another team on Saturdays.

 

So, in conclusion, we should always be thankful for what we have right now because good things don’t last forever.  You can be a fan and have your opinion, but it gets tiresome when just because you perceive something to be something it is not, you throw fits and complain–you argue tooth and nail until your opinion is heard or mutually agreed on.

We have a great coach who knows what is best for his team and moving forward, just be a fan.  I know that we all cannot be happy, but I am happy with double-digit wins each season and a good bowl game.  I am happy that he can recruit his tail off and that he has the capability to recruit the best personnel or assistant coaches that make his life and his job easier.  You cannot beat Top-10 or Top-5 ranked reasons and recruiting classes because there are other teams that would kill for that type of success.  Coach Meyer took less than half the time after taking over and assembled an impressive recruiting haul with less than half the time.

It is rare that a coach that can do all these things while still focusing on the future of these kids with the real-life Wednesdays–you can’t beat it.  The most important thing is the kids and if a coach can connect on more of a personal level and he can reach their untapped potential at the same time, he’s a keeper for sure.

We should be proud as a fanbase, but it’s not always gonna be perfect for everyone.  I am proud of what Coach Meyer has done and I will continue to be that way and loyal no matter what.  The fakes will be exposed and as much as I would like to kick them out, I will just let things play out and enjoy the success.  We could always have it worse, but some people cannot see past the negatives.  GO BUCKS!!!

 

Season Preview: Rutgers @ Ohio State

In week 2, the Buckeyes will square off against a team led by a former coach in Chris Ash.  It has been two seasons since he left and he has gone up against his former team twice and they have yet to get on the scoreboard.  The past two years have been miserable for the Scarlet Knight as they were blown out both times, by a very wide margin and in embarrassing fashion.

Teams would often tip their hat to the other team, but being on the opposite end of a 56-0, 58-0 beatdown in consecutive years?  Things need to change and they need to try to put some points on the board.

So what will this years edition be like?  Will it be the same old stagnant offense getting dismantled by another dangerous defense?  Or will they make it a little more competitive and interesting?

No one really knows and since it is college football, anything can happen, but unless drastic changes are made, it is not looking too good at this point, if I am being honest and objective.  Since Coach Ash took over, he has gone 0-2 against his former team which is respectable despite being throttled both times, but that is the least of his worries because he has yet to post a winning season and he is 6-18.  He needs to win a few more games or he will feel the pressure.

The biggest question remains with the offense who finished 128th in total offense, 86th in rushing offense, and 124th in passing offense.  Last year, the Buckeyes were 9th in the nation in total defense,  6th in rushing defense, and 30th in passing defense, which gave offenses fits.  This years defense will undoubtedly be just as dangerous and relentless as last years, but they do have new starters at a few positions.  The unfortunate thing is they still have no idea who will lead the offense at Quarterback, which goes in Ohio State’s favor.

Rutgers will have their leading receiving threat at Tight End in Jerome Washington.  They also return a pair of defenders, Trevor Morris (leading tackler) and Jawuan Harris (interception leader), which is helpful.  They have a star in the making in Jonathan Hilliman, who is projected to be the starting Running Back after Gus Edwards left.  A committee is also another option at the position because they have a ton of talent there.

The O-Line is also solid, with a pair of new Guards that are wedged in between experienced players with experience and a few starts.  Will it help against another Bosa brother led defensive front?  We will see what happens.  I feel like this game will be another massacre and it’ll get ugly quick.  The defense will keep them in check as the offense puts on a show with their shiny new toy at Quarterback.

Prediction:

Like I said a little bit ago, it’ll be a massacre.  The Rutgers are the away team after all, and they go into the Shoe with a purpose that quickly disappears after a few turnovers–and poof!  Thier will is gone.  The D-Line will prove to be too much for whoever is the starting QB and the defense scores at least once and collects a minimum of 4 sacks.

Haskins lights up the scoreboard as well.  He will tear it up with 4 passing TD’s while his Running Backs pound the will out of the defense for a combined total of 145 yards and a TD.  This game will be put out of reach quick and the starters will use this as a tune-up for the neutral site game at AT&T Stadium.  Rest or go pedal-to-the-metal, it’ll be helpful if the offense runs efficiently.

Final:  Ohio State defeats Rutgers 55-6

 

 

 

Season Preview: Oregon State @ Ohio State

With 43 days left until the Ohio State season opener, there is a lot of hype with the 2018-2019 team.  Since we are ready for the season to begin, I will take my shot at previewing the games on deck for this season.  If I get worked up, let it happen–this offseason has dragged on way too long, but its nearly over with!

The first game of the season will be an out-of-conference game against another Power-5 team in Oregon State.  The Beavers have a new head coach in Jonathan Smith and he looks to improve from a 1-11 overall record, going winless in the Pac 12.  He will attempt to resurrect his teams spread offense with a brand new starter at Quarterback and a pair of offensive player that look to build on last seasons numbers in JR Artavis Pierce and RS JR Noah Togiai.  Pierce had a decent season with 323 yards on 68 carries with just a single touchdown and he also added 128 yards on 15 catches.  Togiai, on the other hand, had 34 catches for 461 yards and 2 scores.

On the other side of the ball, they return 4 of their top 5 defenders from last season, which would help the newer players in the long run.  Safeties Jalen Moore and David Morris return after recording 75 tackle seasons and a pick a piece and a forced fumble.  Jonathan Willis also returns with the entire linebacking core that tallied 155 total tackles between them, 5.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble.  It is quite the collection of defenders within this multi-scheme based defense.  Isaiah Dunn is the lone returnee at Corner and they will need to be aggressive with the Ohio State receivers to be competitive in this game.

On Ohio State’s end, their offense will have a new starter in Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell.  Haskins has the advantage, but Martell seems to be making it interesting as we inch closer toward fall camp.  I think Haskins will edge out in the end, with Martell getting a package of plays to keep the defenses on their heels.  Ohio State also returns a ton of weapons from a season ago, with a battle at Tight End coming with the recent addition of Jeremy Ruckert, the upperclassmen better be ready for a dogfight with the true freshman.  Most of the receivers have returned for a season with Haskins and both Running Backs are back as well.  It is a potent accumulation of talent that could explode in this game–that could set the table for the rest of the season.

The defense is also returning many starters and they should pick up where they left off with potential NFL draft implications at stake.  Nick Bosa, Dre’mont Jones, Damon Arnette, Kendall Sheffield, Jordan Fuller are the more notable members of the defense that are eligible for the 2019 NFL Draft, and I am sure they wouldn’t mind bolstering their stock during this season.  A ton of underclassmen will also look to improve with Chase Young and Robert Landers looking to be a disruptive force and a near brand-new group of Linebackers behind them.

Prediction:

The defense will be too much for the Oregon State offense, especially the Offensive Line.  With Bosa becoming a full-time starter and Young lining up opposite, and Landers and Jones on the interior, it’ll be great to see them demolish the other team and throw them out of rhythm.

The Linebackers will close the running lanes as the DB’s lock up the Beaver #1 receiving threat Togiai.  The Linebackers will be without Borland, who suffered an injury, but his replacement Browning or Mitchell will show their skills.

With all things considered, I think the back seven will suffocate the offensive attack and they’ll come up with a few turnovers–especially with a young, unproven signal-caller, it’ll be ugly.  I predict a two-pick game and a fumble type of game.

The Ohio State offense will make a statement after shaking off the rust, the offense will put up points in a hurry afterward.  I think 3 receiving scores and 4 on the ground.  Campbell, Dixon, and Mack score through the air and Dobbins, Weber, Martell, and Teague rumble it in, with Martell and Teague scoring when the starters get pulled.

Ohio State defeats Oregon State: 49-10

What to Expect: Secondary

The Ohio State Buckeyes will have some real experience at the cornerback position. Kendall Sheffield will look to on a good season last year, but not the season most expected the former 5-star, Alabama transfer to have.  Sheffield is looking to be the next first-round pick out of Ohio State at the cornerback position.  I expect him to have the breakout season he wants to achieve. I am going to the guess the Junior will have at least 3 interceptions this year.

On the other side of the field will most likely be Damon Arnette.  Arnette started last year, so this is a no surprise he will be the starter this year.  Splitting carries is Jeffrey Okudauh.  Okudah got the starting job for the Cotton Bowl last year after Denzel Ward chose not to play in the risk of injury before the 2018 NFL Draft.  The coaching staff is high on Okudah and I’m expecting him to have a  huge season.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Okudah didn’t get the starting job at some point in the season, but I’m giving the job to Sheffield and Arnette do to their experience already.  The next in line player is Shaun Wade.  Another 5-star player.  Wade will be a big key for the Buckeyes, especially if one of our other cornerbacks go down with an injury.  Ohio State shouldn’t miss a beat though.  Wade has been committed to being a Buckeye since 2015, and is ready to show Buckeye Nation what he can do.

Jordan Fuller should return as one of the starting safeties. Fuller had a good year last year, and I’m expecting him to have another good year this year.  The big question mark for the Buckeye Secondary is the other safety.  I’m expecting it to be Isiah Pryor who had playing time last year, but not in any real meaningful time.  The safety position is the only real place where the Buckeyes don’t have real depth.  Josh Proctor is coming in this year, but he will be a true freshman.  They also have Brendon White who has only played in 1 game against Rutgers, where the Buckeyes won 56-0.  Shaun Wade may move to the safety position if need be this year since the Buckeyes have 3 reliable corners, but hopefully Fuller and Proctor can stay healthy throughout the year.

The Buckeyes will also miss hype-man Kerry Combs, who left the program to become the secondary coach for the Tennessee Titans.  the Buckeyes are bringing back Taver Johnson who coached the Buckeyes in 2007-2011 with Jim Tressel.  Johnson has coached talent before including Malcolm Jenkins and Kurt Coleman.  I expect the Buckeyes secondary to be the same secondary that has been sending cornerbacks and safeties to the NFL year after year.

 

Expectations VS Reality

With the 2018-2019 quickly approaching, the excitement steadily builds within the fanbase as we inch closer to opening day.  As the excitement builds, the expectations become unrealistic and it could potentially depart from reality quicker than someone could conjure it up in their head.

Dreams of an undefeated season en-route to another championship is surely attainable, but it will not be an easy road.  Then there is the possibility of securing the top ranking in the recruiting game.  It is surely doable, but it would also be difficult to achieve.  Then there is the worst kept secret with our coaching staff, namely with Coach Schiano returning after being forced out by the Tennessee fanbase.

These are all juicy subjects but let us look at the potential for the Buckeyes to go undefeated this season.

Are We Going Undefeated?

With the season coming up, we all would LOVE to see our Buckeyes go undefeated throughout the season and win the entire CFB Playoff, but as I previously stated, it will not be that easy.  When going over this seasons schedule, the Buckeyes will be tested early and often right from the get-go.

First, in week 3, Ohio State will travel to Arlington, Texas to face a nasty TCU defense that will bless have a new quarterback leading the offense that will give the Silver Bullets an early test.  TCU has recently come on as of late, and I am willing to bet that they are still angry at the fact that they were left out of the first CFB Playoff.  This will be a measuring stick game for the Buckeyes (Haskins and offense) and for TCU as they attempt to get their signature win over a CFB Blueblood program.  All eyes will be looking at this early season matchup between Top 10 teams, will the Buckeyes sink or swim out the gates?

During week 5, the Buckeyes will travel to Happy Valley for another hostile “whiteout” situation where the last time they arrived in these conditions, they fell to the home team via blocked FG that resulted in a TD.  It will be another dogfight minus, Barkley and Gesicki, but Trace McSorley is a magician and he will give the defense fits with his ability to pass and run.  Add the fact that this is an East Division and a rivalry game and that former Buckeye target Micah Parsons is there?!  It’ll be tough sledding for sure, but hopefully, the Buckeyes can do enough to silence the crowd.

Then you have a couple of trap games lined up in consecutive weeks that could lead to trouble for the Buckeyes playoff hopes.  In week 10, a home game against a Nebraska team that is now led by the former head coach of the undefeated UCF “National Championship” team.

The Buckeyes have demolished the previous two Cornhusker teams, but this year might bring a different kind of energy and focus to the game.  With a seemingly rejuvenated team, with a bright young mind leading the charge, this game might be harder this year.  And if some of you forgot, there was also the Tate Martell versus Tyjon Lindsey beef that might resurface.

In week 11, the Buckeyes will travel to East Lansing to face Sparty and this has the potential for another air guitar letdown for the Buckeyes.  It still haunts me and hurts my soul, but it’ll be a slugfest between two Eastern Division rivals vying for a berth in the Conference Championship Game.  This game will be intense.

Brian Lewerke returns as the starter, but you cannot discount the potential impact of the Spartan back-ups because they have had some success against the Buckeyes.  They used DeWeaver as a runner, and I could see the same issue this year.

Then there is something called The Game, that will pit Ohio State against Michigan.  I do not have to put effort into how important this game is, especially for the Buckeyes.  There have been many times when either team was undefeated up until this game, then poof–dream is gone.  If the Buckeyes take care of business up until this game, this game will have a lot at stake.

If they remain undefeated during the regular season and they secure the East Division berth in the Conference Championship Game, there is another obstacle in the way, the West Division representative.  It will be either Wisconsin or Iowa, two teams that always remain in the way of Ohio State related goals.  Last year it was Iowa’s demolishing of the Buckeyes at home that ousted the Buckeyes playoff hopes and Wisconsin always finds a way to do the same in the postseason.

So, to be clear, I am not assuming that they will remain undefeated and that they will breeze by opponents because what’s not to say that another Iowa game happens.  It won’t be an easy season, but I have enough faith in the team that they will not disappoint.

 

What to Expect: Linebackers

The Ohio State linebackers had some up and down moments during last season.  The highlight of last season was the Michigan State game.  The low point, sadly, was the game before against the Iowa Hawkeyes who absolutely torched us, and cost us a spot in the College Football Playoffs. A topic I could go on and on about because a certain team played Mercer last year, but I digress.

The 2018 season will feature players that had quite the roll in last season as backups, but played more and more as the season went along.  Tuf Borland will most likely be the starting middle linebacker, as he is the best player for the job. However, he is coming off an Achilles injury where he missed all of spring ball.  Hopefully, he comes back the same player, or even better than last year because this kid has talent.  In the MSU game, he had 11 total tackles with 8 of them being solo and 1 sack.

If Borland can’t go or just loses the starting job, look for Baron Browning to be the next guy up. Browning was the No. 1 linebacker in the 2017 class, and was on the field during special teams last season. I expect Borland and Browning to play a lot this season back and forth, and having two guys with same level of skills is never a bad thing. Browning can also play outside linebacker, so if Borland does come back healthy, expect Browning to be on the field at both middle and outside linebackers.

Justin Hilliard, who lost his starting position to Borland last year, is the older player, but he has dealt with lingering injuries.  If Borland or Browning can’t go Hilliard is looking to improve from last season, and the Buckeyes will need him to be his former 5-star self.

Malik Harrison is expected to be the starting Strongside Linebacker.  Harrison got in games last year in garbage time, and to give the other guys some rest for a play or two, but he did show what he can do, especially in the MSU game.  Dante Booker will most likely be the backup even though he chose to comeback, and forego the NFL Draft.  Booker didn’t have the best of season last year, and that wasn’t entirely his fault.  He has been injured almost his whole career at Ohio State.  He wants to come back and show everyone, including the scouts, what he really can do.

Weakside Linebacker is the big question mark for the Buckeyes.  Replacing 3rd round draft pick Jerome Baker is no easy task.  But expect Keandre Jones to be the starting linebacker with Pete Werner to back up. Both players have seen plenty of time on special teams, but not much action at the linebacker position.  Jones is the the older player which is why I’m giving him the starting job, but Werner and Browning will be coming for the spot.

After the Iowa game, Urban and Greg Schiano made some linebacker changes for the Michigan State, and they payed off big time.  Putting in the young guys really helped the Buckeyes defense come alive.  I expect this season to be much better at the linebacker position, and they will help get the Buckeyes off the field on the 3rd down plays.  The Buckeyes have a history of great linebackers, and this season should be no exception.  With 4 and 5 star players all over the field the Buckeyes should have plenty of depth and talents to keep the NFL linebacker talent alive.

What to Expect: Defensive Line

Ohio State is expected to remain one of the top defensive lines in the country.  Even with three seniors leaving, Jayln Holmes, Tracey Sprinkle and Tyquan Lewis, and one early departure, Sam Hubbard, Ohio State has raw talent. The group is young and looking to make a name for themselves with hard footsteps to follow.

Headlined by Nick Bosa at defensive end.  Bosa is looking to improve his 8.5 sacks and 19 solo sacks a year ago. He is already dropping jaws at his stellar performances and wants to continue his and his family legacy at Ohio State.  In my opinion, Bosa will do just that.  As he had to share snaps last year with second-round draft pick, Tyquan Lewis, Bosa will get plenty of playing time this season, and earn his top 5 draft pick.

On the other side from Bosa is another familiar name, Chase Young.  Young saw playing time last year, but really only in garbage time.  With so many older, more experienced players in front of him, it was hard to get him in.  However, going into his sophomore year Young will get a chance to really show off his talents.  Young has all the makings of being a top ten draft pick, and this year is the start of it. Splitting the snaps with Young and Bosa will be Johnathon Cooper, a redshirt freshman, and Jashon Cornell, a redshirt sophomore. Cooper is the third defensive end and will get the bulk of the playing time alongside Bosa and Young.  Cornell can earn significant playing time if he shows up in camp and on the field.

The middle guys are the big question here.  Dre’mont Jones and Robert Landers saw playing time last year and most likely will be the two starters at the defensive tackle positions.  However, Antwuan Jackson is a transfer from Auburn.  Jackson was going to commit to Ohio State or Auburn back in 2015 but chose Auburn at the time.  Now in 2018, Jackson is where he belongs and will have a huge part on our defensive line.  Haskell Garrett and Davon Hamilton are also “backups.” The coaching staff is loving the depth at the defensive line position and all these players could earn significant time this year.  The coaching staff also loved Tommy Togiai the true freshman who had a great spring and is hoping to get in the rotation.

What I am expecting this year is the defensive line to continue dominating like in years past. The only real problem Ohio State has right now is creating enough game time to get all these players in.  Ohio State has recruited well at the defensive end position ever since Urban got into Columbus, and with Larry Johnson at the helm the only thing stopping these players from making a name for themselves is themselves. Even with all the talent that has left in the last few years, the Buckeyes just keep on reloading.

What To Expect: Offensive Line

The Offensive Line is one of the deeper units for Ohio State with three returning players who will be leading the charge.  Even after the departures of Rimington winner, Billy Price and bookend Left Tackle in Jamarco Jones to the NFL, this specific unit will bring another wave of talent to the table.

Obviously, this unit did not come unscathed and due to the crowded room, Ohio State lost a handful of potential two-deep players in Matthew Burrell, Kevin Feder, and Evan Lisle, but even without them, I wish them the best of luck with their new teams.  There is no ill will on my end and the rest of Buckeye Nation should do the same, but that rarely happens.  Either way, the room still has a plethora of former five and high four stars, that will get their shot this season.

The fall camp would bring some more intense competition for starting spots along the Offensive Line, but the surefire starters will be Prince at Left Tackle and Michael Jordan at Left Guard.  Beyond that, Brady Taylor looks to be the favorite in the Center battle, it is a toss-up between former starter that is returning from a season-ending leg injury in Brandon Bowen and Demetrius Knox for the Right Guard spot and Bowen could also be a factor at Right Tackle with Thayer Munford.

If I were to call it right now, I think from the left side to the right, it will be Prince, Jordan, Taylor, Knox, and Munford as the starters.  Following that, the two-deep would look like Alabi, Davis, Myers, Bowen, and true freshman Petit-Frere.  Other true freshmen, Max Wray and Matthew Jones could also make some noise in the fall so stay tuned.

All in all the unit is not as deep, but they are deep enough to nearly have a three deep in place in case of emergency.  This year’s line will be important to maintain the balance between the run and the pass.  They need road graders and maulers to do so and I think this line will be special.  Call it a gut feeling, but I think it’ll be a fun year.