This is the 73nd in a series of 100 daily posts, a Countdown to College Football. (Sort of.)
Four weeks from today, the Big Ten will host the first day of its annual Media Days in Chicago.
Sportswriters from across the midwest will pile into a ballroom and ask questions of all of the league’s head coaches and a handful of players from each team.
All of those coaches and players will work extremely hard to avoid saying anything even remotely interesting. The only exception is Jim Harbaugh, who will walk in wearing an oversize novelty foam cowboy hat with a Block M on it and then talk about something something liver ‘n onions to get people to write about how he’s a weirdo and not about how he’s failed to come close to meeting expectations. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to that in just a minute)
While you wait poised on the edge of your seat for that, please enjoy today’s rundown of a stellar safety, a Hurricane Warning in the Glass City, the most overhyped coach in all of college football, and a 5-star showdown in a big game.
If you missed yesterday’s edition, you can find it right here.
Now please join us as we continue our countdown of the 100 greatest Buckeyes of The Ozone era (1996-present).
We will also preview one of the 100 most exciting games on this fall’s college football schedule, and one of the 100 things we’re most looking forward to this fall.
Plus, we’ll preview one of this season’s 100 biggest personnel matchups.
Greatest Buckeyes Of The Ozone Era
#28 Donte Whitner
One of the greatest players to come out of the Glenville pipeline, Donte Whitner was ranked as the No. 3 corner prospect in the 2003 recruiting class. It was an extremely high-profile recruitment. He chose the Buckeyes over the mid-dynasty Miami Hurricanes, Pete Carroll’s USC, and Michigan and Notre Dame at a time when that still meant something.
Whitner moved to safety after arriving in Columbus, and played three very solid seasons there.
His best year was 2005 when he was named all-conference after recording 73 tackles, nine for loss, four sacks, and four interceptions.
His play was so impressive that the Buffalo Bills made him the No. 8 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Whitner has played 11 seasons in the NFL, and is approaching 1,000 career tackles.
Best Games This Fall
#28 Miami (FL) at Toledo, September 15
This ranks pretty high on the list of “why did you schedule this game?” games this fall.
The Hurricanes harbor national title hopes, but nothing good can come from visiting the Rockets. UT has consistently been a top-level program in the MAC.
While they’re not as talented as the Canes, they still have an explosive enough offense to ruin Miami’s season.
The odds are pretty good that this turns into something of a shootout. With just seven minutes left in the first game of this home-and-home, Miami led just 38-30.
If the Rockets can pull this year’s edition out, it could vault them into a New Year’s Six bowl and downgrade the Hurricanes’ national championship chances to a slight breeze.
What We Can’t Wait To See
#28 Jim Harbaugh’s Put Up Or Shut Up Year
I’ll confess that this title is a little misleading. There’s not much chance that Jim Harbaugh will shut up, even if he flops back into third or fourth place in the Big Ten East again this fall.
But a conference – or even divisional – title doesn’t happen for Harbaugh this year, it might just not happen.
Harbaugh came to Ann Arbor billed as “the best football coach right now in college football.”
At a program that fancies itself a true blue-blood, that should have meant Big Ten championships, playoff berths, and perhaps a national title by now.
Three years in, he is 0-3 against arch-rival Ohio State, 1-2 against Michigan State, and has yet to finish higher than third in the division.
(That noise you now hear is Michigan fans saddling up a posse to defend their Very Special Boy.)
He came within a 4th-and-1 play of the Big Ten Championship Game in 2016, you know. He had a young team last fall, you know. He has a tough schedule this fall, you know.
But the best football coach right now in college football shouldn’t need things to line up perfectly in order to win one single, solitary divisional title.
Urban Meyer won a national title with a third-string quarterback. He got his team to the playoffs with the youngest roster in the nation. He has destroyed his rivals and has won at least a share of the divisional title in all six of his seasons in Columbus.
Through that, he occasionally had players suffer injuries. A handful of others may have graduated periodically. He even had to play road games once or twice in that span.
Jim Harbaugh got his transfer quarterback a special waiver to play this fall. He has Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich bookending his defensive line. He has four of his recruiting classes on campus.
Yes, he has to play at South Bend, East Lansing and Columbus this year. But at some point, if you want to be considered a relevant program or even a decent coach, you have to win a road game against a team with a pulse.
The last time the Wolverines won a true road game against an AP top 25 team was 12 years ago.
Lloyd Carr was still the coach. Brady Quinn was the opposing quarterback. Bo Schembechler was still alive. Appalachian State was just some school in North Carolina that no one from Ohio cared about.
Jim Harbaugh isn’t going to get fired if he loses to the Spartans and Buckeyes again this fall. But if he does, all the hype that surrounded his hiring is going to look even more ridiculous than it does already.
Matchup To Watch
#28 Miles Sanders, PSU RB vs. Baron Browning
Miles Sanders has the somewhat unenviable task of replaced one of the greatest players in Penn State history this fall. No pressure.
With Saquon Barkley now off to the NFL, Sanders is expected to take over as the Lions’ top running back.
Sanders was a 5-star recruit, ranked as the best running back in the 2016 class. Two years into his career, he has just 375 career rushing yards to his name. However, his 6.7 yards per carry average should give PSU fans some hope.
Baron Browning was also a 5-star recruit who played sparingly last fall. He had 14 tackles, but saw time as a backup for Tuf Borland at the MIKE position.
This year, Borland is rehabbing an Achilles injury and may not be fully healthy in time for the trip to State College.
If not, prepare yourself for some 10-star collisions in the middle of the line when Penn State has the ball.