This is the 54th in a series of 100 daily posts, a Countdown to College Football. (Sort of.)
After that, we’ll take a look at one game you absolutely have to see in person before you die, a former Buckeye on the verge of a breakthrough, and the key to OSU being able to run all overa Big Ten opponent this fall.
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
#47 Vonn Bell, 2013-2015
Yesterday, we profiled an elite defensive back recruit in the 2013 recruiting class who earned a starting job on the national championship team a year later.
Today, it’s pretty much the same thing.
Much like Eli Apple, Vonn Bell came to OSU in the spring of 2013 as one of the most highly-touted recruits in the nation. A 5-star prospect from Georgia, Bell sat (somewhat inexplicably) behind Corey ‘Pitt’ Brown during his true freshman season before seizing a starting job the following year.
He had 91 tackles and intercepted six passes as a sophomore, saving several of those for the year’s biggest games. He had picks against Penn State, Michigan, and in the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin.
Then in the Sugar Bowl, with the Buckeyes clinging to a 34-28 lead in the fourth quarter, Bell stepped in front of an Alabama receiver at the goal line to pick off a Blake Sims pass to keep OSU in front.
The play was huge, but it was made even better about a week later when a fan posted a video to YouTube showing Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin signaling ‘Touchdown’ just before the pick.
Missed it by (holds fingers almost touching) that much.
Bell’s stats fell off a little as a junior in 2015, but he was still a 2nd-round selection in the following spring’s NFL Draft.
He has been a starter in both of his pro seasons with the New Orleans Saints, recording a total of 115 tackles.
Best Games This Fall
#47 Army vs. Navy, December 8 in Philadelphia
This game should be on every college football fan’s bucket list.
It doesn’t matter whether the teams are good or bad, this is a truly unique spectacle in college football.
It starts with military flyovers, skydivers, Cadets and Midshipmen marching onto the field in formation.
After kickoff, two historic rivals, both running a very unique offensive system, go head-to-head and then stand side-by-side to sing both schools’ alma maters.
The series has somewhat mirrored the Ohio State – Michigan rivalry over the past quarter century.
Just as Michigan dominated the 1990s and then completely imploded at the turn of the 21st century, Army went 10-3 from 1986-1998.
Then Paul Johnson arrived in Annapolis. Navy went 16-1 over the next 17 years.
Now, the series has seemingly shifted again. The Black Knights have won each of the last two meetings, including a snowy classic last December.
Both programs should make bowl games again this year, which means this on-field action should almost catch up to the off-field pageantry.
What We Can’t Wait To See
#47 Year Two For Luke Fickell
The former Ohio State head coach has not walked into great situations in either of his first two seasons as the man in charge.
You probably remember 2011 and that whole… thing.
But the 2017 Cincinnati Bearcats program might have been an even bigger mess.
Former head coach Tommy Tuberville wasn’t a particularly enthusiastic recruiter during his time at UC.
The Bearcats finished with classes in the 60s and 70s in the national rankings in all four of his seasons.
Fickell couldn’t salvage much during his transitional class in 2017, but reeled in the nation’s No. 47 class this spring, including former Michigan commit Leonard Taylor, a 4-star TE.
Fickell went through the usual first-year transitional struggles on the field as well. The Bearcats finished 4-8 in a year that was even less impressive than it sounded. They beat only three FBS teams, and did it by a combined total of 6 points.
But with a solid recruiting class on campus and another year of experience under the coaching staff, there’s now reason for hope in Cincinnati.
Fickell doesn’t have the Bearcats anywhere near where he wants to, but he could take a big step closer to getting there this fall.
Matchup To Watch
#47 Thomas Barber, MINN LB vs. Mike Weber
You’re undoubtedly already familiar with Mike Weber’s work. He put up a 1,000 yard season as a redshirt freshman in 2016. He added another 600 yards as a sophomore despite suffering a couple serious injuries and splitting time with J.K. Dobbins.
Thomas Barber’s stats are just as impressive. The Gophers’ middle linebacker had 115 tackles including 10.5 for loss as a sophomore in 2017.
He recorded 10 or more tackles in seven of Minnesota’s nine conference games last fall. The two where he didn’t were two of the worst defensive performances of the year for the Gophers.
Against Michigan, he had only seven tackles as the Wolverines rushed for 371 yards on an even 10.0 yards per carry.
He was also limited to seven stops in the regular season finale against Wisconsin. The Badgers gained 7.4 yards per carry in that 31-0 win.
The bottom line: If you can neutralize Barber, you have a pretty good chance of running all over the Gophers.