“At some point in an individual battle, the other guy says, ‘I don’t want to go anymore, I’ve had enough.’ The same thing with a team. At some point that team says, ‘No, wait a minute. That’s too much for us to handle.’ That’s called tapping out. We will never see this here. That’s a culture. That’s a mindset.” — Urban Meyer, 2012
Heading into his seventh season as Ohio State’s head coach, Urban Meyer has successfully implemented the desired culture and mindset in every aspect of the Ohio State football program. Competition throughout every position group reigns supreme, and the bluest of blue-chip recruits are always on the way in the form of reinforcements.
Throughout the spring and summer, I want to review the upcoming 2018 Ohio State football opponents, using the theme of competition as the baseline. While Ohio State has had more challenging schedules in the past, there are several games on the schedule that could potentially trip the Buckeyes up and end their goal of repeating as B1G champions.
These articles will examine the 2018 opponents, from least concerning to most concerning, based on various factors that I will list in the respective articles. As always, I encourage interaction, either through the comments section below, or directly @ChipMinnich. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I look forward to writing them.
9. Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-7 in 2017)
Minnesota will return to Ohio Stadium on October 13th for the first time since 2015’s 28-14 loss to Ohio State that was largely punctuated by the off-the-field transgressions of former Buckeye quarterback J.T. Barrett. Also making his first trip back to Ohio Stadium for the first time since 2015 is Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck, who formerly coached the Western Michigan Broncos in a 38-12 loss to the Buckeyes.
Fleck arrived into Minnesota fresh off a tremendous 2016 season that saw Western Michigan go 12-0 until a loss in The Cotton Bowl to Wisconsin ended their dream season. While the Golden Gophers began 2017 with a strong 3-0 start of their non-conference schedule, Minnesota sputtered down the stretch of their B1G schedule, going 2-7. What was most disconcerting to view from afar was how Minnesota finished up the season with back to back shutout losses (at Northwestern 39-0, Wisconsin 31-0).
Despite fading down the stretch, Fleck is undaunted in his enthusiasm and belief that Minnesota can once again rise up to the top of college football. Addressing a group of Minnesota fans in May 2018, Fleck stated, “Fifty years ago, we were the Alabama of football. We were that. Fifty years later, we are not that currently. That is what we are going to get back to.”
Why did I rank Minnesota as a game of low concern?
Even though Minnesota has played Ohio State tough the last two times they have met (Ohio State 31, Minnesota 24 in 2014; the aforementioned 28-14 win in 2015), the Golden Gophers ranked near the bottom offensively, only averaging about 309 yards of total offense a game. Minnesota will enter 2018 with inexperience at the quarterback position, losing backup quarterback Vic Viramontes to transfer.
Minnesota lost Ed Warinner as offensive line coach, and replaced him with Brian Callahan. Callahan was the offensive line coach for P.J. Fleck at Western Michigan and was named FootballScoop’s offensive line coach of the year in 2016. While Callahan is well-respected, here is the challenge confronting him with his offensive line — only five of the eighteen offensive linemen are upperclassmen. How well will this group fare against an Ohio State defensive line that is considered to be among the best in the nation?
In that same May 2018 meeting with Minnesota fans, even P.J. Fleck acknowledged the challenge confronting the Gophers, stating that 2018 and 2019 will be foundational seasons for the long-term sustained success of the program. In the words of P.J. Fleck, “short-term pain for long-term success.”
The likelihood of short-term pain seems almost a certainty for Minnesota when they visit Ohio State on October 13th.