Even in a pandemic, Ohio State is focused on two things: 'Beating the brakes off' Michigan and winning a national championship
Ohio State has never taken its eyes off the prize. Distractions have engulfed the entire college football landscape over the last five months, but somehow it seems as though there’s a bubble surrounding the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus, sequestering the Buckeyes from the continued turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Certainly, Ohio State has not been ignorant to the public health crisis that continues to rip across the country. But the Buckeyes haven’t allowed the pandemic to alter their focus about the 2020 season, and it was quite clear on Tuesday afternoon when the newly-introduced team captains — Justin Fields, Shaun Wade, Tuf Borland, Josh Myers, Wyatt Davis, Justin Hilliard and Jonathan Cooper — met with reporters.
Despite all the uncertainty and unknowns surrounding the 2020 college football season, there are still two goals Ohio State wants to accomplish this fall:
- Beat rival Michigan for a ninth straight season
- Win a national championship
None of the seven captains were bashful about addressing those two topics. And it didn’t take long for things to get chippy in Columbus.
Questions about Ohio State’s annual matchup with Michigan weren’t even addressing the contest itself on Tuesday. Instead, the captains were asked how they felt about the possibility of playing the Wolverines before the final weekend of the season.
“The Game” has been played on the final weekend of the season every year since 1942. Ohio State wasn’t aware of the change at the time, but Wednesday morning, the B1G opted to move “The Game” from the last weekend of the season to Saturday, Oct. 24.
“I just want to play them and, my answer is simple, really. Just beat the brakes off them, for real,” Fields answered, according to Eleven Warriors. “That’s all I have to say.”
“If it’s the first game of the season, so be it,” Davis said. “We’re going to beat the brakes off them.”
Those are the kind of responses you might expect out of Ohio State’s team captains. After all, the Buckeyes have won eight straight meetings over the Wolverines. Nobody wants to be a member of the squad that allows that streak to be snapped.
Beating Michigan was just the starting point.
After Fields downplayed the idea of opting out of the 2020 season at Ohio State to pursue a career in the NFL, saying “I haven’t really thought of it,” the Heisman Trophy front-runner talked about bringing a second College Football Playoff trophy back to Columbus at the end of the year.
“I want to show everybody that I’m the best quarterback in the nation,” Fields said. “Of course I want to win the Heisman, but the team comes first, so if none of that happens, I’ll be fine with a national championship trophy sitting in front of the Woody.”
Fields yawning at the thought of sitting out this season shows just how serious he is in this championship endeavor at Ohio State. The junior quarterback is essentially a lock as a top five selection. Already, three potential first-round draft picks in a similar situation have decided to opt out for the upcoming season — Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley, Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman and Penn State LB Micah Parsons.
Wade, like Fields, is another potential first-round draft selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. But he’s also not spent much time deliberating whether or not he should play this upcoming season.
“I had no second thoughts [about returning to school],” Wade said. “No thoughts about opting out.”
Rather than begin looking ahead to an NFL career, Wade said his goal for this season is to “lead this team to the natty.”
Championship talk was a key focus for Ohio State’s captains on Tuesday. At some points, it actually felt like your typical, run-of-the-mill preseason presser, a nice break from the previous five months of reality.
Of course, the questions about COVID-19 and comfort level playing through a pandemic were inevitable. Ohio State’s seven captains didn’t seem to have too much concern or worry about suiting up this fall, though. There was actually an overwhelming amount of optimism about having a season in 2020.
“Ohio State has done a great job of monitoring our guys and creating a safe working environment,” Davis said. “So you just gotta hope that every other school is doing the same, and if they are, then I’m very optimistic that this season will happen.”
“My level of comfort in our safety is really high,” Myers said. “I think there’s nothing more that our coaches and trainers and our staff can do to keep us safe. I can’t say enough about what they’re doing. And I would say that my level of concern for safety is small.”
After that brief break from the turmoil, a cloud of uncertainty continues to loom over college football. It’s especially prominent in the B1G, which has continued to drag its feet with producing a revised, conference-only schedule for the fall.
Commissioner Kevin Warren has been apprehensive in releasing the new schedule with six schools within the conference — including Ohio State — pausing workouts at some point in the summer months. Two football programs, Michigan State and Rutgers, quarantined their entire teams due to a spike in positive COVID-19 cases.
Those situations have been the instigators behind the B1G dragging its feet in moving forward with a season. And head coach Ryan Day says that it’s the uncertainties that have presented the biggest challenge for his team.
“The hardest part for this team has been the unknowns,” Day said. “I promise you our leadership has kept this team hungry and we’re training at a championship level.”
As chaos continues to consume college football, Ohio State has continued to keep its focus on the two biggest goals for the 2020 season. Nothing has changed in Columbus.
Even in a pandemic.