It is time to wrap up this 10-part present with a nice little Scarlet and Gray bow.
Let’s eschew any small talk and just get straight to the B1G talk, okay?
10. The Game.
I mean, what else is there to look forward to more than this? This list could be one item long, and as long as it’s this item, I’m going to be looking forward to the college football season. Ohio State goes to Michigan with the Wolverines and Jim Harbaugh absolutely needing this win. If they don’t get it, Harbaugh will begin his Michigan coaching career with an 0-3 record against the Buckeyes, which would match Rich Rodriguez’s career mark. Crazy.
9. The deep ball in general being back again.
I was at Ohio State when the Buckeyes had Joey Galloway, Chris Sanders, Terry Glenn, David Boston, and Dee Miller, so the deep ball was just part of life. Before each snap, I would look at the yard marker and think to myself, “This could be a xx-yard touchdown pass coming.” There was no fear about going deep back then, and we saw that same thing in 2014. The plan is for something similar this season as well. The Buckeyes spent all spring getting better at the deep ball and gaining confidence in throwing it. That confidence needed to build for Barrett to be able to trust his receivers, and the spring was the receivers’ opportunity to show Barrett that he has nothing to worry about.
8. The right guard being the right guard.
There are seven guys fighting for the starting right guard spot for the Buckeyes. You have to think that at a place like Ohio State, if you’ve got seven candidates for a job, you’re going to find somebody who can play the position well. Billy Price said last week that he has a pretty good idea of who will ultimately win the job. Unrelatedly, he also said that if Matt Burrell wins the job, “I just know if I play next to him, we’re going to be okay.”
7. J.K. Dobbins getting 8-10 touches per game.
Looking back, I think it’s fair to say that freshmen running backs have been underutilized by Urban Meyer in his time at Ohio State. Curtis Samuel touched the ball almost five times per game in 2014. Ezekiel Elliott was less than three touches per game in 2013, and Demario McCall was right at four touches per game last season. For the most part, all three of those guys got the ball when games weren’t really in doubt. If Dobbins is going to get 8-10 touches, then he’s going to need to be involved in every game from the outset. If he is the team’s backup running back, then he should be much more involved than past freshmen running backs before him.
6. Erick Smith getting his shot.
Back in 2014, Erick Smith looked like a future All-American. Chris Ash loved his knack for finding the football, even if he didn’t always get to it like he was supposed to. Smith has spent the bulk of his first three seasons frequently injured and behind talented starters. Healthy now, he has a better understanding of the boundary (strong) safety position than he has ever had before. This is his first real chance at winning a starting job. Saturday is the Buckeyes’ first scrimmage, and that is when the depth chart will begin to take shape.
5. Jordan Fuller growing into his spot.
Battling Erick Smith for that strong safety spot is sophomore Jordan Fuller. Fuller was Damon Webb’s backup at free safety last season and played 71 snaps of defense, which equates to about one full game. He had another 151 snaps on special teams, so he is now accustomed to the feeling of being on the football field. Landing in the two deep as a true freshman is a good indicator of future results, but Fuller will be competing against a senior who is starving for an opportunity. Greg Schiano doesn’t have an answer here yet, but the solution will begin to emerge this weekend.
4. Seeing the second offensive line get some run in the first half for once.
Dare to dream? Eleven years ago, Jim Tressel sent his second-unit offensive line out on the field in Austin, Texas, and Troy Smith drove the Buckeyes down the field with the backups at the forefront and scored a touchdown. If Ohio State can find a fourth tackle in camp, there’s no reason they can’t put an entire unit out there at times this season. It would be a complete departure from what we have seen in the past, but there’s always hope, right?
3. Keeping L.J. Scott in check.
L.J. Scott almost beat the Buckeyes himself last season. Ohio State won at Michigan State 17-16 last season, but Scott rushed for 160 yards on 19 carries and caught two passes for 76 yards, scoring both of the Spartans’ touchdowns. If he gets off against the Buckeyes like this again in 2017, Michigan State could be in a much better position to take advantage of his domination.
2. Jim Harbaugh’s postgame press conference.
Win or lose, there is no telling what could happen here. If J.T. Barrett easily picks up another fourth-down play late in the game like he did last season, will Jim Harbaugh be able to keep his composure? Or if Michigan wins, what kind of reaction will we see from him? Will he tap dance in front of the cameras? Rip his shirt off and twirl it with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind? Shower the media with milk? Granted, you’re probably not looking forward to finding this out, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be interesting. Regardless of the outcome, something is going to happen here that probably won’t be normal.
1. The unknown.
The unknown is what makes college football the best thing going today. We can sit here and look forward to 99 different things, but it’s the 100th thing that will make the season unforgettable. We can try to imagine what that will be, but our imaginations can never live up to the real thing.