The final game for the 2017 Ohio State Buckeyes takes place tonight and it is going to bring some broad and wide-ranging thoughts from everyone watching the game.
In terms of what you will be saying, however, I think I have a pretty good grasp on it. Granted, I did have to clean up much of the cussing, and since it’s a night game, I had to run it through a slurred speech translator, and after eliminating all of the, “I love yous” to random strangers, here is what most every one of you will be saying after Ohio State and USC meet in the 82nd Cotton Bowl Classic tonight at 8:30 pm on ESPN.
1. “I can’t believe we get two more years of J.K. Dobbins.”
To be honest, you should have been saying this every day since the season opener. The thing that should get you most excited about J.K. Dobbins is that he is only going to get better. That means stronger, faster, bigger — maybe not taller, but I have yet to see how that’s holding him back from doing anything so far. Dobbins is just getting started, and he will work in the offseason to make sure that his finish is just as impressive as his beginning. Which again, is still two years away.
2. “I’m gonna miss J.T., but I’m ready for what’s next.”
J.T. Barrett is 4-0 against Michigan as a starting quarterback and owns every meaningful individual record in Ohio State history. This is his final game wearing the Scarlet and Gray…or the Black and Gray…or the Scarlet and Black…and he will leave as the greatest Buckeye quarterback of all time. But that doesn’t mean after four years you aren’t ready to see what is next, especially after getting a glimpse at Dwayne Haskins, who can do some things that Barrett simple can’t. That doesn’t mean things are going to get better — it would almost be impossible for that to happen, but sometimes different can be just as good. And if Ohio State’s next quarterback is “just as good” as Barrett, then consider yourself very, very lucky.
3. “Zach Smith was right about the six-man rotation at receiver.”
Parris Campbell (39) and K.J. Hill (55) are the only Buckeye receivers with 30 catches on the season, and as the team’s two H-backs, they are usually the focal point of the Buckeye passing game. Other than that, however, there is no real focus as to where the ball goes, which makes for a difficult day (or night) for an opposing defense. With six guys rotating in and out, with six different skill sets, that is a lot for a defense to deal with. Sometimes OSU’s outside receivers can go weeks without a catch, and then out of the blue you’ll have Johnnie Dixon score twice or Terry McLaurin open a game with a huge play down the field. Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor are physically impressive, and both have had big catches this season. It is a versatile group that competes with each other for snaps every single day. You weren’t sold on the rotation early in the season, but after looking back at the entire body of work, you will have to agree that Zach Smith knows what he’s doing.
4. “Where does Denzel Ward rank among Ohio State’s greatest corners?”
Granted, you’ve probably already started discussing this, but a player finishing up his final game before turning pro makes the topic even more timely. The simple fact that Denzel Ward was able to send Gareon Conley or Marshon Lattimore to the bench in a rotation a year ago was your first clue that he was special. His play this season, however, has now put him in a pantheon that most schools do not possess. To be mentioned as one of the best cornerbacks in Ohio State history is about as high a compliment as you can pay to a college football player. And Ward has a claim to be somewhere in the top five. I don’t know where he belongs, but that sounds like a good discussion for another day.
5. “And we get one more year of Nick Bosa.”
Unless he decides to take the NFL to court, you are going to get one more year out of Nick Bosa. And to get you even more excited about it, he can’t wait for 2018. He is still focused on the here and now, but he is very eager to get more snaps next year, and you are probably just as eager for that as well. You can be excited for now, but when he plays his final game next season, there will likely be a sadness that overtakes you as there are no more Bosas in the pipeline. And now I have just made you sad.