This is the 89th in a series of 100 daily posts, a Countdown to College Football. (Sort of.)
Today is the last day of the next-to-last work week before Big Ten Football Media Days and the unofficial start of the 2018 season. How great is that?
You made it through the bleak winter months with nothing more than recruiting news and a little basketball to get your Buckeye fix.
Spring came, you got to spent one glorious day in Ohio Stadium, and then you entered the darkest part of the college football calendar.
May and June often seem like they’ll last forever. But eventually, they pass as well, and suddenly it’s the 4th of July, and then it’s mid-July, and then college football things are right around the corner.
You’re almost there, gang.
Today, one of the most famous goal-line stands in OSU football history, a great game this fall that could have been even greater, a dynamic duo with an unusual history, and a possible return of #PickSixUniversity.
As long as you don’t suffer from triskaidekaphobia, you can find 13 Days To Ohio State Football 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
#12 Ryan Shazier, 2011-2013
Ryan Shazier came to Ohio State as one of the best players in the nation and left OSU the same way.
A 4-star recruit in the 2011 class, Shazier enrolled in January of that year and entered a program that was about to hit some very rocky waters.
Jim Tressel resigned four months later. The Buckeyes suffered through a 6-7 season that fall, but Shazier was solid.
He had 58 tackles, including five for loss that fall as a true freshman. When he was on the field, Shazier was constantly around the ball, recording 15 tackles against Penn State.
Shazier grabbed a starting job his sophomore season in 2012, and immediately became one of new coach Urban Meyer’s favorite players.
He had 117 tackles as a sophomore, and then a ridiculous 144 with 23.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks as a junior in 2013.
One of his greatest moments came against the Nittany Lions as a sophomore. With the game tied at 7 after halftime, Shazier intercepted a Matt McGloin pass and returned it for a touchdown. That moment of moxie-reversal gave the Buckeyes a lead they never relinquished.
But his most famous play was a goal line stand on 4th-and-1 in the final minutes of a 14-7 game at Wisconsin in 2012.
Wisconsin running back Monte Ball launched himself toward the end zone, but Shazier met him in midair to stop Ball, and force a fumble.
You can watch it below – divert your eyes for the first second of the video.
As Matt Millen said, “What a phenomenal play. Great read, throws himself in recklessly as he has been all night long.”
That was how Shazier always played.
A first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Shazier was a star for four seasons before suffering a severe spinal injury last fall.
He continues to recover, and is now able to walk again.
Best Games This Fall
#12 Ohio State vs. TCU (in Arlington, TX)
This game was originally scheduled to be played at Amon G. Carter Stadium on TCU’s campus, with a return date in Columbus in 2019.
But that all changed when the Dallas Cowboys approached TCU and asked them to play it as one neutral-site game in Arlington instead.
TCU quickly agreed, citing the fact that they would make more money and also that a lopsided loss could hurt their chances of making the College Football Playoff.
“Our scheduling philosophy is to put ourselves in the best position possible to win a Big 12 championship and have the best non-conference schedule that gives us an opportunity to be in the CFP,” said then-TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte.
TL;DR – Frogs scared.
So instead of a true road game in a fun and unique atmosphere, prepare yourself for another game in an NFL dome.
It’s a testament to what an intriguing matchup this is that it still ranks this high.
TCU’s defense should be quite solid again this year, as it almost always is.
The bigger question comes on offense, where the Frogs are replacing a majority of their 2017 production.
The biggest question is at quarterback, where sophomore Shawn Robinson will take over. He was unimpressive in limited action as a freshman.
This game could come down to which first-year starter is better: Robinson or Dwayne Haskins.
Don’t be surprised if the Buckeyes keep things simple for Haskins and lean heavily on the run game.
This could end up a lot like their last visit to Arlington, a somewhat low-scoring, conservative win over USC in the Cotton Bowl last December.
What We Can’t Wait To See
#12 West Virginia’s Point-splosion
West Virginia is not going to be a national title contender this year, but they are going to be a heck of a lot of fun to watch.
Quarterback Will Grier and wide receiver David Sills connected on 18 touchdowns last year. That’s as many touchdown receptions as Marcus Baugh, Parris Campbell, K.J. Hill, Austin Mack, Rashod Berry, J.K. Dobbins, C.J. Saunders, and Demario McCall had combined.
Sills is a fascinating story, even without the insane production. He committed to USC to play quarterback when he was 13 years old. The fact that Lane Kiffin was the coach who offered a seventh-grader a scholarship should not surprise you.
Sills never panned out as a top-level quarterback prospect. He committed to West Virginia out of high school, played a little receiver as a freshman, and transferred to a JUCO to take one last shot at being a QB.
Instead, he went back to the Mountaineers to play receiver again a year later.
Grier has a similarly curious backstory. He briefly looked like one of the rarest things in college football: a competent Florida quarterback. But six games into his freshman season with the Gators, he tested positive for PEDs.
Grier transferred to WVU for a fresh start, and then threw for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns last fall.
Big 12 defensive coordinators aren’t going to want to watch them this season, but you definitely should.
Matchup To Watch
#12 Trace McSorley, PSU QB vs. Isaiah Pryor
The last time Ohio State played in Happy Valley, a scrappy little sophomore quarterback completed less than 35 percent of his passes, but somehow managed to win anyway.
Trace McSorley will probably have to do better than 8-for-23 to win this fall.
He was much more impressive in Columbus in 2017, completing 59 percent of his passes for 192 yards and a couple touchdowns, but ended up losing that game.
McSorley and the Penn State offense have leaned heavily on jump balls in the past, although without offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead and star WR DaeSean Hamilton, their attack could look different this year.
But whenever McSorley takes to the air, Isaiah Pryor will play a big role in how the game ends up.
Pryor will fill the boundary safety position, one that basically serves as a centerfielder for the Buckeye defense.
Malik Hooker is the most famous recent example. He spent the 2016 season roaming from sideline to sideline, terrifying opposing passers.
This year, when McSorley heaves up jump balls, Pryor will be the person who tries to get over to help the cornerback and possibly also pick them off.
Nothing would help keep the Buckeyes escape State College with a win quite like the return of #PickSixUniversity.