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B1G 2018: Ohio State Preview

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Easing Into It

Goodyear Cotton Bowl - USC v Ohio State Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Now that we’ve talked through all the teams who didn’t bask in the glory of a B1G title last year...for the second in four years, it’s time to end our journey in the B1G’s Shining City on the Football Hill: Columbus O-H-I-O. Please forgive the horrifying politics and try to enjoy the craft beer selection (which like all of modern American craft brewing is otherwise average beer with three pounds of extra hops per pint).

Without further ado, let’s break down the team that none of you are looking forward to facing this year…

Offense

The Highs: After nearly a quarter-century as the signal caller, JT Barrett has yielded the helm to the next generation. The odds-on favorite at this point is Dwayne Haskins. Joe Burrow—who looked good in spring ball—now attends the Dacoacho Academy for B1G Retreads. That leaves everyone’s favorite former Terp and hero of the latest Michigan defeat to battle it out with Tate Martell. Nearly everyone expects that Haskins will be running the offense, which nearly as many view as a positive change. That’s not a knock on JT Barrett, but rather an acknowledgment that Haskins has an arm that can hopefully open up the taps on Kevin Wilson’s offensive abilities (since last year didn’t come together the way fans hoped).

The backfield retains the talents of Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins, which means OSU once again will have a better backfield duo than the rest of the B1G. Last year, they combined for over 2,000 yards despite Weber nursing a hamstring injury for much of the season. They achieved all that behind a line that sported the Best Center in the History of Centers (Probably), Billy Price, and standout talent at nearly every other position. The Selected Works of Jamarco Jones’ at left tackle are gone, but nonetheless OSU has a pleasing crop of bulldozers up front in Michael Jordan, Brandon Bowen (sidelined by injury last season), Demetrius Knox, and Isaiah Prince. Prince was a 3rd-team all B1G selection last year, which is pretty amazing when you consider that only a year prior he’d regularly get blown backward and beaten by anything from a good defensive end to a Kmart bag floating on a light breeze. A true metamorphosis!

The Questions: Normally retaining the entirety of your receiving corps would be seen as an amazing advantage. Your humble author is having a bit of trouble finding that sort of unbridled optimism about this group, though. It seems as though the last time Buckeye fans have had reason to feel great about their downfield threats was in 2014 when a young Barrett was slinging the rock to a band of frisbee-catching dogs who scored TDs and shushed Sparty fans. Two years ago, the entire receiving group got less separation in man coverage than a velcro underwear in a cocklebur patch. Last season showed improvement, but this year needs to be a leap forward if Wilson’s offensive prowess is to be a real thing and not just a pie-in-the-sky excuse for hiring a guy who seems like he’s probably sort of a prick.

The heart of Urban’s passing attack last year was of course the H-Back, as it has been since Tim Tebow was a viable football threat. K.J. Hill and Parris Campbell both return to compete for the annual Next Percy Harvin™ crown, after combining for 96 receptions and 1,133 yards last year. Contrast that with the 94 catches for 1,550 yards produced by the four wideouts, and you get a sense of how things shake out when the RPO wheel lands on P.

It’s important to note that underrated tight end hero Marcus Baugh is now on to to bigger things. In case you forgot, here he is breaking Penn State’s back with a touchdown from the Worst QB Ever According to Columbus Radio and That Guy You Always See at Church Coffee Hour...

Errata: What is a Demario McCall? Good question—and one that will hopefully be answered this season. His raw talent is undeniable, and it will be amazing to see where he ends up. On the plus side, it seems entirely likely that he could follow in the footsteps of Jalin Marshall and Curtis Samuel. Or not, which at this point may be equally likely. But more on him later.

Defense

The Highs: Well, we don’t have to play Iowa this year, which means the outstanding Buckeye defense won’t have to stare at ‘90s-era offensive Power-I variations like they just arrived from the damn moon. Instead, the defense will be tested by Gary Andersen’s fOSU squad (LOL), Gary Patterson’s TCU mutant (could be trouble) and Rutgers in the first three weeks. So, two tune-ups sandwiching a potential Oklahoma mess on the road. Speaking of which, the loss to Baker Mayfield’s squad last fall was heartbreaking for many and an excellent showcase of just how incredibly unlikable Mayfield is as a human being. That’s not important to mention other than I needed to point out how much Mayfield sucks and therefore deserves the Browns ever so deeply.

Getting back to the high points, the defensive line will again be stalwart and should live in most backfields all year. Nick Bosa will again be a terrifying presence, either making massive plays on his own or, like his older brother, soaking up so much damn attention that the backside end gets to dine on sacks and TFLs all season long. Three of the best rushmen in the country departed in Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes, and Tyquan Lewis. But the Buckeyes retain the aforementioned Bosa, Dre’Mont Jones, Chase Young, and Jonathon Cooper. Add to those the bumper crop of star youngsters like Taron Vincent and things look not only wide in terms of talent, but deep enough to withstand injury and fatigue. Good luck, offensive lines.

The Questions: Things behind the line are a bit murkier. Chris Worley and Jerome Baker are gone, and aptly name semi-veteran Tuf Borland got hurt in the spring and is suspect at best for the season. But there’s galaxy-level recruit Baron Browning waiting in the wings, so that’s nice. Some new faces to be mystified by a tight end release route.

Speaking of bad things downfield, Denzel Ward is off to the big leagues after sitting out the Cotton Bowl. But Damon Arnette is back. So is Jeff Okudah. And Kendall Sheffield. And Jordan Fuller. And a barrel of understudies whose collective star count would take Neil DeGrasse Tyson from six to midnight. Nonetheless, the safety position remains as much a question as the linebackers, which is a big deal since a strong safety is critical to good run-stopping.

Special Teams

Collective groan. OSU’s special teams were such an overhyped, high-powered, steel-plated disaster on wheels that Urban should’ve slapped Acela logos on all of the helmets and charged $300 for the privilege of watching them screw up. To refresh your memory, let’s review:

Kickoff Team: The Hot Mess Express.

Punt Return: 6 yards in a cloud of mediocrity.

This is where Demario McCall comes in. Hanging out behind Parris Campbell and KJ Hill can seem like a recipe for never seeing the green, green grass (sort of like playing your home games at Ross-Ade). It seems that Urban may have settled on McCall as the antidote to all that ails the punt return squad. Maybe he can make a tackle, too? That would be nice. Give it a shot, Urbz. Credit me in the programs.

Most important of all, naturally, is that punter Drue Chrisman is back. He is good, and should remain so on the few occasions his services will be required.

The Schedule

The Road to Victory

Date Opponent Team That Owns Wisconsin
Date Opponent Team That Owns Wisconsin
Sep. 1 Oregon State Ohio State
Sep. 8 Rutgers Ohio State
Sep. 15 TCU Ohio State
Sep. 22 Tulane Ohio State
Sep. 29 at Penn State Ohio State
Oct. 6 Indiana Ohio State
Oct. 13 Minnesota Ohio State
Oct. 20 at Purdue Ohio State
Oct. 27
Nov. 3 Nebraska Ohio State
Nov. 10 at MSU Ohio State
Nov. 17 at Maryland Ohio State
Nov. 24 Michigan Ohio State