Anyone ready for college football? For the first time in what feels like forever Buckeye Nation can divert its attention away from text message screenshots and ten-hour board meetings to first downs and field goals. Head Coach Urban Meyer will not be in attendance, but nevertheless, the Ohio State Buckeyes will play host to the Oregon State Beavers to kick off the 2018 campaign. It’s OSU-OSU at the ‘Shoe.
Saturday marks the third matchup between the Beavers and Buckeyes. Ohio State played host in 1974, beating the Beavs, 51-10. Then in 1984 Columbus again watched on as Ohio State prevailed, 22-14. Oregon State is having a bit of a rough go of late. The school has not reached a bowl game since winning the 2013 Hawaii Bowl. In the last four seasons since the Orange and Black went 12-36 including last season’s disastrous 1-11 campaign. To underscore their ineptitude, the 2017 Beavers’ only win came against FCS Portland State. They finished on a ten-game skid including a disastrous 0-9 mark in conference. After Oregon State’s 38-10 loss at USC, head coach Gary Anderson stepped down. Cory Hall rode out the string, and the Beavers brass hired Jonathan Smith during the offseason.
Normally playing a Pac-12 school to open the season would be a bold play to catch pollsters’ attention in early September. Sadly, this matchup appears to be the exception. Between Oregon State’s full rebuild and the 38.5-point line favoring the Buckeyes, the matchup feels more like a MAC-level tune-up game than a clash of Midwest vs. Northwest titans. Oregon State will start redshirt senior Jake Luton at quarterback. Last season, Luton appeared in four games and threw for 853 yards while completing 83-of-135 passes with four touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Ohio State defense begins and ends with one man: Nick Bosa. A reigning first-team All-American and 2017 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, Bosa is no longer “Joey’s little brother.” Last season Nick recorded 34 total tackles and 8.5 sacks while splitting time with a loaded defensive end unit. Prognosticators are already calling him a potential No. 1 NFL Draft pick in 2019, assuming he leaves after this season. While an early departure does seem likely, Bosa will have plenty of opportunities to give opposing quarterbacks fits until then.
Redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins will now hold the keys to Ohio State’s offense. He appeared in eight games last season in relief, most critically going 6-of-7 for 94 yards against Michigan last November. Last season plenty of Buckeye fans felt dismayed watching J.T. Barrett under center and screamed for Haskins to get into the game. Now Barrett is a Saint, former backup Joe Burrow is starting for LSU, and Haskins is the man in Columbus. The Maryland native has big shoes to fill considering Barrett set the conference record for most passing touchdowns. Luckily, he will have the uber-reliable running back tandem of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber to help shoulder the load.
Dobbins, now a sophomore, set a program freshman record with 1,403 yards last season. He also scored seven touchdowns. Mike Weber will also see plenty of the field in 2018. Last year Weber gained 626 yards and scored ten touchdowns. The duo offers a two-headed attack that will make even the stoutest defensive linemen lose sleep. Expect their numbers to be called early and often all season, especially with a first-year starter at quarterback.
For the umpteenth time Ohio State coaches need to find more young men to fill in for those who were drafted and will now play on Sundays. Denzel Ward goes fourth overall to the Browns; enter junior cornerback Kendall Sheffield. Billy Price goes 21st to the Bengals; say hello to junior center Michael Jordan. And so on. The Bucks rarely struggle from depth, and they should benefit from having upperclassmen to slide in for their departed teammates.
Amidst all of the ugliness that has involved the Ohio State football program this offseason, I want to keep the focus on football because there are no winners in his saga and the whole situation leaves me queasy.
Fresh off a Big Ten Championship and Cotton Bowl triumph, the Ohio State Buckeyes have several questions to answer in the new season. Still, the talent level is again off the charts and the Bucks have good reason to consider themselves a threat to reach the College Football Playoff. Some juicy matchups will come in time, but for now the Scarlet and Gray can just be happy they are back where they belong: Ohio Stadium at high noon.
In case you need to catch up on the Buckeyes before Saturday afternoon, WFNY’s Josh Poloha did a bit of a season preview:
Need to get hyped for the game? We have you covered there too.