This is the 83rd in a series of 100 daily posts, a Countdown to College Football. (Sort of.)
This countdown is hitting the home stretch. Pretty soon fall camp will be underway and before you know it, your entire community will be ridiculing you for wearing white after Labor Day.
You won’t care, though.
“I make these pants look nice,” you’ll say, as you audibly scuff the bottom of your cowboy boots against the pavement for emphasis.
You pull a toothpick from your lucky Tic-Tacs case after shaking it for good measure. You pop it in your mouth and calmly add, “And stop telling me to put on a damn shirt. It’s Saturday, and you know what that means.”
Yes, everyone knew what Saturday means, but that’s a story for another day.
Fortunately, we still have a ways to go until September and that very Labor Day weekend, but we only have 18 days to go until college football anticipation officially starts.
Thus the purpose for our countdown, which is now 83 days old.
In today’s daily fix, we talk about OSU’s greatest one-hit wonder, the Boise States of the Sunshine State, some young guns, and a Happy Valley matchup on the edge.
If you missed the countdown when it was a mere 82 days old, 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
#18 Malik Hooker, 2014-2016
If you’re going to be a one-hit wonder, make that hit count. And as far as Malik Hooker’s one season as a starter went, it was basically the ‘White Christmas’ of college football.
Hooker redshirted in 2014 and provided backup support in 2015.
As a redshirt sophomore in 2016, Hooker finally got his shot. All spring long, we heard about the plays he was making, and all season long, we saw that those reports were 1,000% accurate.
In 13 games in 2016, Hooker finished with 74 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and seven interceptions. He returned three of those interceptions for touchdowns. Hooker had a fourth called back against Indiana due to a needless block in the back.
Hooker was a unanimous All-American and shared Team MVP honors with center Pat Elflein. He owns the Ohio State record for pick sixes in a career (3).
Hooker was drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft (15th) by the Indianapolis Colts.
Best Games This Fall
#18 Florida Atlantic at UCF
The Boise States of the Sunshine State get together for a Friday night tilt in Orlando in week four this year. This will be the first time the two schools have ever faced each other when both were FBS. They met in 2003 when FAU was an FCS school. UCF won 33-29.
The Knights are 8-11 against in-state opponents since 2005, but went 2-0 last season against FIU (61-17) and No. 22 USF (49-42).
While UCF was winning a national championship last year, Florida Atlantic was quietly winning 11 games and a Conference USA title.
Running back Devin Singletary rushed for 1,920 yards and 32 touchdowns last season for the Owls, and with them breaking in a new quarterback this year, another big season on the ground will be necessary.
FAU head coach Lane Kiffin likes to mark his territory, and a win at UCF would certainly accomplish that.
What We Can’t Wait To See
#18 Freshman Quarterbacks Around the Nation
New players make college football fun, and one of the more entertaining aspects of the sport is watching a true freshman quarterback have his ups and downs.
Rookies win starting jobs every year in college football, and this year once again could feature true freshmen at the helm of big-time programs that we’ve come to know and love.
Most people expect Trevor Lawrence to eventually unseat Kelly Bryant at Clemson. Could Emory Jones be the perfect fit for Florida and new head coach Dan Mullen? J.T. Daniels graduated high school a year early and people still think he’ll be the guy to take over for Sam Darnold at USC.
The Big Ten has their own rookie QBs to watch as well. Artur Sitkowski had offers from plenty of big-time programs, and now he is a strong possibility to be Rutgers’ starting quarterback. Adrian Martinez may have more potential than any other Nebraska quarterback on the roster, but how well he picks up Scott Frost’s offense this season will determine how much he plays in 2018.
Matchup To Watch
#18 Ryan Bates, PSU OT vs. Jonathon Cooper
Junior Ryan Bates should be Penn State’s starting left tackle next season. He has 22 career starts to his credit, with 12 of those coming at left tackle.
Matching up against Bates at some point this season will be Ohio State junior defensive end Jonathon Cooper. Cooper will be part of the Buckeyes’ “starting” defensive end rotation along with Nick Bosa, Chase Young, Jashon Cornell, and possibly others. After two years of playing here and there, Cooper is finally ready to be on the field as much as the guys he was backing up the last two years.
Penn State was middle-of-the-pack in the Big Ten last season where sacks allowed were concerned. The Buckeyes only managed to get to quarterback Trace McSorley twice last year, however.
With Penn State planning a White Out in Happy Valley this season, Cooper is going to need to win some of his battles in order to alter those plans just a bit.
And who knows, if everything comes together for him, perhaps he’ll have a walk-off sack like Joey Bosa back in 2014.