This is the 61st in a series of 100 daily posts, a Countdown to College Football. (Sort of.)
Another work week is almost done, and you’re almost halfway through June.
If you’re the self-employed type, that may mean mailing a quarterly estimated tax check.
If you’re not, it just means you’re halfway through the month. Once you hit July, you’re almost there. The first week is always a write-off as half the country heads out on vacation.
Then you’ve got just another two weeks of sparse attendance in the office before college football media days are here.
You’re now halfway through the month before the month of the unofficial start of college football season. Sounds like a cause for celebration to me. Maybe you should knock off early today.
In today’s edition, we will take a look back at one of Ohio State’s greatest one-year wonders, a Labor Day weekend game that could decide a New Year’s Six bowl berth, replacing a Heisman winner, and an honest-to-goodness offensive weapon on Michigan.
If you missed yesterday’s edition, you’ll want to remedy that by reading it 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
#40 Maurice Clarett, 2002
For a guy who only appeared in 11 games as a Buckeye, Maurice Clarett had quite a career.
It started with an absolute explosion in the season-opener against Texas Tech, when Clarett ran for 175 yards and three touchdowns on just 21 carries.
He had 230 yards and two more scores in the third game of the season against eventual Pac-10 co-champion Washington State.
However, a nagging shoulder injury kept him out of three games entirely, and limited him severely in several others.
The true testament to Clarett’s impact came when he wasn’t on the field.
Think back to some of those dreadful, low-scoring slogs that the 2002 team went through.
Barely surviving at Cincinnati? Clarett didn’t play.
The Chris Gamble-led defense dragging the offense to a win over Penn State? Clarett carried it just four times.
The narrow escape via “Holy Buckeye” at Purdue? He was limited to just 14 carries.
Needing overtime to escape a lousy Illinois team? No Clarett at all that day.
In the regular season finale against Michigan, Clarett exited with another stinger.
He was able to talk his way back into the game, and scored the Buckeyes’ first touchdown.
Then, with OSU trailing 9-7 in the fourth quarter, he took a wheel route down the sideline to set up the winning score.
In the national championship game against Miami, he had just 47 yards on 23 carries, but scored two touchdowns. He also made one of the most incredible plays in OSU history, chasing down Miami safety Sean Taylor after an interception and stripping the ball away from him.
It was impossible to imagine, but when 19-year-old Clarett dove into the end zone in double-overtime that night to score what proved to be the winning touchdown, it would be his last play as a Buckeye.
Clarett’s off-field issues at Ohio State have been well-litigated at this point, but his on-field impact was undeniable.
His story ends with the two saddest words in sports: what if?
Best Games This Fall
#40 Boise State at Troy, September 1
This is pretty close to a college football version of “Bracketbuster Saturday.”
In basketball, that’s a weekend when mid-major schools play an out-of-conference game against a similar team to try to weed out the weaker teams and bolster the postseason resumes of the stronger ones.
This matchup of Broncos and Trojans pits two of the ten teams most likely to secure the Group of Five conference bid to one of the New Year’s Six bowl games.
Troy will battle with Arkansas State and Appalachian State for the top spot in the Sun Belt, and Boise State is perennially favored to win the Mountain West.
The team that wins this game will put themselves at the front of the pack of non-Power 5 teams to grab that top-tier bowl.
What We Can’t Wait To See
#40 Louisville Post-Lamar Jackson
It’s never easy replacing a Heisman Trophy winner, especially at a place like Louisville that doesn’t come across that type of talent often.
However, this year Bobby Petrino is going to try.
The guy taking the reigns for the Cardinals is the aptly-named Jawon Pass. He had a nice year in spot duty in 2017, completing 69.7 percent of his throws for 238 yards and a couple touchdowns.
Pass came to Louisville as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the 2016 class, just one spot below Jalen Hurts.
However, it’s not necessarily going to be fun. The Cards open with a neutral-site game against Hurts and Alabama, which isn’t exactly the best way to ease into a new job.
They host Florida State on September 29, and then travel to Clemson on November 3. Outside of that, the schedule is pretty manageable.
Jackson was always an otherworldly talent on a rather ordinary team. Now it’s up to Pass, and more importantly the rest of the Cardinals, to pick up the slack in a post-Lamar world.
Matchup To Watch
#40 Tarik Black, MICH WR vs. Kendall Sheffield
Michigan’s offense was a comedy of errors throughout 2017, but it only really started to look like that after Tarik Black went down with a broken bone in his foot.
He had 11 catches for 149 yards in less than three games before suffering that injury. For a true freshman wide receiver, those are remarkable numbers.
Black was already back on the field for spring practice, so his health won’t be a worry this fall.
That means stopping him will be a big concern for the Buckeyes.
Kendall Sheffield was impressive during spring ball in Columbus, and figures to draw the opponent’s top outside receiver this season. He’ll likely spend a lot of time with Black on the day after Black Friday.
Control him, and you take one of Shea Patterson’s biggest weapons away. If Sheffield can do that, he could move the Buckeyes one big step closer to yet another win over their arch-rivals.