This is the 48th in a series of 100 daily posts, a Countdown to College Football. (Sort of.)
We are nearly at the halfway point of almost being at the start of fall camp for the Ohio State football team. That’s not humidity in the air, that’s the wet thickness of anticipation.
In today’s edition, we take a look at an underrated sandwich salesman, a game between two schools in the middle of nowhere, year two of a familiar face, and a huge matchup between a running back and a linebacker.
If you missed yesterday’s edition of the countdown, 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
#53 Rob Murphy, 1995-1998
Along with cornerback Antoine Winfield, left guard Rob Murphy was one of two 2-time All-Americans in Ohio State’s 1995 recruiting class.
Murphy redshirted as a true freshman, but then spent the next three seasons as the starting left guard for the Buckeyes. He was named a First-Team All-American in 1997 and 1998.
One of those two years — and forgive me for being foggy on all of the details — I was in college at Ohio State, and after a hard night of studying alcohol 12 ounces at a time, we decided to head to Panini’s for a sandwich because the kitchen was open until 3 in the morning.
Serving sandwiches behind the very busy counter, for some reason, was Rob Murphy, All-American. Was he sober? I don’t know. I was in no condition to judge.
I don’t know exactly why he was back there, but it wasn’t really a surprise. I just remember it making complete sense knowing what we knew back then.
The only problem for the fine folks at Panini’s, however, was that Rob wasn’t charging for the sandwiches.
Anyway, it was the cheapest steak and cheese and fried egg and french fry sandwich I’ve ever had.
Later in his life, Murphy went on to spend time on several NFL rosters, as well as play in NFL Europe, the XFL, and the CFL. His first two years in the CFL — 2006, 2007 — he was named the CFL’s Most Oustanding Lineman. In 2010, he was named the nastiest player in the league.
Best Games This Fall
#53 Appalachian State at Penn State
Season openers are always interesting, and this one is no different. Appalachian State will trot out a new starting quarterback for the first time in four seasons, which will probably be a bit disconcerting for the Mountaineers.
Penn State, meanwhile, has no such concern. Quarterback Trace McSorley is a Heisman candidate, and the Nittany Lions are title contenders. There are some questions on defense, however, and that could give some life to Appalachian State’s offense.
But don’t get sucked into any false hope for drama here. Penn State is going to be ranked in the Top 10 and there’s no way they’re going to trip over themselves in a season opener against Appalachian State on the Big Ten Network.
Unless this is another one of those reboots that Hollywood loves.
What We Can’t Wait To See
#53 Texas and Tom Herman Year Two
The Texas Longhorns went 7-6 last year in Tom Herman’s first season in Austin. That’s not great, but it could have been much, much better.
Dealing with up-and-down quarterback play, four of Texas’ six losses came by one score or less. In their 51-41 loss to open the season against Maryland, the Longhorns were only down by three with eight minutes to go. In their 24-7 loss at TCU, Texas was down by 10 with five minutes to go.
In year two, Herman and his football team will need to win those close games. With an experienced quarterback this time around, some of those close losses should become close wins.
With seven starters back on defense, an improving Texas defense could once again surprise some people in a high-octane Big XII. Last season, the Longhorns held USC and Sam Darnold to 27 points in two overtimes, Oklahoma State to just 13 points in one overtime, Oklahoma to 29 points, and West Virginia to 14 points.
Texas again plays Maryland and USC in the first three games this year. The Longhorns will be looking for revenge, and a 3-0 start could build some necessary momentum.
Or maybe Texas was just too much for Tom Herman to bite off. I don’t think that’s the case, though.
Matchup To Watch
#53 L.J. Scott, MSU RB vs. Tuf Borland
Ohio State and Michigan State meet in East Lansing on November 10, so we’re looking at a Big Ten postcard in this one. Gray, cold, and postgame pizza in the press box. What more could you want?
There will also be a head-to-head (literally) matchup between Michigan State running back L.J. Scott and Buckeye middle linebacker Tuf Borland. Borland likely won’t return to practice until September, but he will have had more than enough time to get back up to speed for this game.
Scott is a very talented running back, but has yet to become the dominant player many thought he would become. He has rushed for 2,591 yards in his career, but has never hit the 1,000-yard mark. His 4.9 yard-per-carry average is pedestrian as well. He did have a great game against the Buckeyes in 2016, but was held in check last year with just 30 yards rushing.
Oh, and that game last year? Tuf Borland had 11 tackles, eight of which were solo.