Ohio State football: 5 things we have to see from Buckeyes in Week 1
The Ohio State players are probably pretty relieved that an actual game is coming this week. After such a controversial offseason, and with head coach Urban Meyer suspended for the first three games, the young men wearing Scarlet and Gray hit the field at Ohio Stadium against Oregon State (Saturday at noon ET; TV: ABC) looking to open with a victory for the 19th consecutive season.
The Buckeyes are, of course, heavy favorites against the Beavers in the season opener for both teams. But Buckeye Nation will want to see certain things from Ohio State in this game aside from a lopsided victory. So, here are 5 things we need to see from Ohio State on Saturday:
1. A strong rushing attack
Oregon State was 121st in the nation among 130 FBS teams in both total defense and rushing defense in 2017. Unless the Beavers have improved drastically, they won’t have the horses to keep up with the Buckeyes on the ground. Ohio State running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, who combined for 2,029 rushing yards last season, should have a big day to start the season. But they cannot do it alone, which lead us to …
2. A cohesive offensive line
Every year, coaches lose a certain number of players to graduation and have to figure out who can do what among both returning players and incoming freshmen. Ohio State’s situation on the offensive line is no different in the wake of Billy Price’s departure to the NFL. Isaiah Prince, above, and Michael Jordan return as mainstays but the other starters must start to gel quickly on Saturday so they will be ready for an always-tough TCU defense in Week 3.
3. A reliable tight end target
OSU has some dependable receivers returning, including K.J. Hill and Parris Campbell. But Marcus Baugh was a senior last year and he leaves a bit of a hole in terms of tight end production. Baugh caught 28 passes for 304 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2017, ranking fourth on the team in all three categories. New quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ job would be easier if he can have a new tight end not only block well, but be useful as an outlet in the passing game.
4. A balanced pass rush
Nick Bosa is already a star in Columbus and is considered a possible No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft if he skips his final season of eligibility. For now, the junior defensive end will still be terrorizing opposing college quarterbacks. But many of his defensive teammates are unproven — no other returning player had more than 3.5 sacks for the Buckeyes in 2017. It’s a safe bet that Bosa will draw plenty of double teams so another member of the Buckeyes’ front seven will have to break through.
5. A steady hand from Ryan Day
The interim coach, who steps in while Meyer is suspended, will be under quite a bit of scrutiny. Day, just 39, is the co-offensive coordinator but will have to carry the big clipboard for the first three games, and Saturday represents his first game as a head coach at any level. OSU fans will not be lenient if their team doesn’t look good enough against such weak opposition, and they might start to wonder why two staff members with previous college head coaching experience (Day’s fellow OCC, Kevin Wilson, and defensive co-coordinator Greg Schiano, above) were bypassed for this temporary role.