For the past two decades, Ohio State has basically had only two coaches.
In the 2000s, you had Jim Tressel, who possessed the hipness of a prep school hall monitor and coached like the game was still stuck in 1962, where the ideal final score was 14-10. Once Tressel resigned in scandal and after OSU was stuck in an interim year, Urban Meyer took over. The games were more exciting, the recruiting got better, and it culminated in a national title in 2014 after a wildly entertaining run featuring Cardale Jones. But like Meyer’s successful late 2000s run at Florida, there was lots of drama behind the scenes. And after a tepid three-game suspension from the OSU trustees last fall as a result of the Zach Smith scandal, Meyer finally resigned at the end of last season, and now ironically teaches an ethics class at OSU.
Expect Meyer to reappear on the USC sidelines next year.
Instead, we now have Ryan Day as permanent head coach in Columbus. Day was the interim coach for the three games of Meyer’s suspension last fall, and the team looked very pulled together in its victories under him. Granted, those wins came against arguably the two worst P5 schools (Oregon State and rutger) as well as a TCU team not up to its normal standards. But regardless, Day seems more than capable of taking over the reins, as OSU went the Oklahoma route of hiring a hotshot young offensive assistant for the job. It’s worked amazingly with Lincoln Riley in Norman, and I have a feeling OSU’s going to be just fine under Day, who also got rid of Greg Schiano on the defensive side of the ball.
What to Expect from the Buckeyes
Well, they’re Ohio State. They’ve won the past two Big Ten titles, and are deep at every position. Last year the linebackers had questionable moments, but the defensive lapses didn’t always matter when Dwayne Haskins was efficiently slinging the ball around. Haskins went on to become a top-15 draft pick, but of course since this is OSU, they’re still loaded and have a five-star transfer from Georgia waiting in the wings to replace him. New defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who was brought over from Michigan along with new linebackers coach Al Washington, has his work cut out for him to get that unit into shape. But if the offense continues its productivity, then it will be hard for most teams to catch up.
I’ll be curious to see if Day continues the Urban Meyer-patented trend of managing to win every close game, while getting absolutely blown out in the rare losses.
Three Names To Watch
Justin Fields, QB — the UGA transfer is not the same type of QB as Haskins, since he’s much more of dual-threat guy. Expect a different type of offense in Columbus this year. If Fields continues to develop his pocket passing skills, however, he could be unstoppable.
J.K. Dobbins, RB — the Buckeyes have had a long history of talented backs and Dobbins will be the main guy out of the backfield this year. He ran for over 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns last year. Expect similar output this season.
Jeffrey Okudah, CB — if you’re looking for a breakout player on OSU’s defense, look for Okudah, who had a great game in the Rose Bowl and is already getting comparisons to Denzel Ward.
How IU Can Win
For 4 of the past 5 years, the Indiana-OSU game has had the same script:
- OSU starts with an early score or two and threatens to get the game out of hand real quick.
- IU makes a comeback, wakes up on defense, and tightens the score by halftime.
- The Hoosiers get within a touchdown midway through the third quarter.
- Ohio State pulls away, scoring the last 20 points of the game to register a comfortable victory.
- Buckeye fans take to the internet to complain about how they could have won by even more had the refs not been incredibly biased against them.
- Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
The only exception to this pattern was 2015, when the Hoosiers had first-and-goal down by 7 late in the game against the Buckeyes, only to be held off at the very end, losing 34-27 to the #1-ranked defending champs.
That game, of course, was in Bloomington, and started at 3:30 for a national audience on ABC. The other most recent game of this series at IU was a season-opening Thursday nighter for which Gameday came to town.
This year, however, the game starts at noon. Now, I understand that noon starts aren’t totally avoidable, and they’re fine against a MAC team or an Illinois or something. But a noon game for Ohio State, your marquee home game of the year (apologies to Michigan fans)? In mid-September when it’s still pretty hot in Bloomington? No thanks. This game should probably have been under the lights or at least a 3:30 kick, and it’s a mistake to have this one at high noon, when students have less time to get ready and out-of-town fans have less time to get to Bloomington, especially in light of all the traffic issues getting to home games the past two years.
I don’t see this ending well for Indiana, as OSU continues its early march towards what should be another (yawn) double-digit win season. Ohio State 44, Indiana 24