Four Days To Ohio State Football *

This is the 97th in a series of 100 daily posts, a Countdown to College Football. (Sort of.)

When we decided to start this series back in April, it seemed like a great way to provide some fun and unique content during the slowest portion of the college football calendar.

For the most part, it has been. We divided up the list, each taking 50 days to write. At the time, neither of us likely thought about the fact that each day’s edition would end up around 1,000 words.

So we’ve both logged about 50,000 words on these alone over the last three months. That’s the equivalent of a 200-page novel for each of us.

But instead of producing “Grapes Of Wrath 2: Wrath Harder” I’ve been writing about Idaho’s football stadium and one-point safeties.

I regret nothing.

Today, we’ll talk about the greatest tackler in OSU history, a monster game on opening weekend, a team that might not humiliate itself this fall, and a big challenge for the Buckeye pass rush.

If you would like to check out yesterday’s edition, you can find 5 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

#4 Antoine Winfield, 1995-1998

Antoine Winfield was listed at 5-foot-9, which might have been a little generous. But if opposing coaching staffs saw the undersized corner as a potential weakness, it didn’t take most of them long to figure out Winfield could play a little.

He spent his sophomore year of 1996 backing up another top-10 player on this list, Shawn Springs. That team was pretty good, by the way.

Once Winfield got a chance to play more, he was an immediate impact player. He won the team MVP award and earned all-American honors as a junior in 1997.

He was even better as a senior, winning the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back, in addition to being named first-team all-American. His 15 pass breakups that year still rank as the third-best season ever at Ohio State.

As we discussed during a recent episode of Accost The Field, Winfield was an absolutely textbook tackler. He was eighth on the team in tackles as a true freshman with 56, despite not starting a game.

As a junior, he led the team in tackles with 100, including a ridiculous 82 solo stops. That is the sixth-most solo tackles in a season ever for a Buckeye defender.

All five guys ahead of him on that list play linebacker – a position where you’re supposed to run up big tackle numbers. Winfield did it the hard way.

He was a first-round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, and (of course) recorded more than 1,000 tackles in a 14-year pro career.

Best Games This Fall

#4 Washington vs. Auburn (in Atlanta)

Both of these teams enter the year at least on the periphery of the College Football Playoff conversation.

Auburn would have made it last year if they won the SEC Championship Game, and Washington made it a year earlier.

Now, one of them will have a loss before Labor Day.

This is a classic SEC neutral site game. Auburn’s campus is located 108 miles from Atlanta. Washington’s is 2,635 miles away.

Proportionately, it’s the equivalent of Auburn playing a neutral site game against the Buckeyes in Circleville.

Jake Browning and the Huskies’ offense gets all the headlines, but they’ve quietly had one of the best defenses in the nation for the last few years as well.

Washington is a 3-point underdog at the moment, but if the Huskies can pull out a win, they’ll be favored in every other game they play.

A loss won’t be fatal to their Playoff chances, but a win will put them in prime position for one of those top 4 spots in December.

What We Can’t Wait To See

#4 Rutgers With A Pulse

Chris Ash enters his third year as Rutgers head coach looking to take another step forward.

His first season, 2016, was an absolute abomination. It included consecutive losses of 58-0 and 78-0 to Ohio State and Michigan. The Scarlet Knights were outscored 224-0 by the Big Ten East’s “Big Four” of OSU, Penn State, UM, and Michigan State.

Last fall was a little better. They jumped from 2 wins to 4, and even looked vaguely like a football team at times against stronger competition. Those same four division rivals all beat them, but only by a combined score of 166-27. Progress!

The Scarlet Knights were only shut out twice last fall, and one was only because they doinked a field goal off the upright at the end of the game against Ohio State. Go ahead and treat yourself to that clanging noise and the reaction of the crowd. It’s fine. I’ll wait.

Now in his third year, Ash has a chance to field a fairly respectable team.

They’re going to struggle on offense with true freshman quarterback Arthur Sitkowski, whose second career game will be at Ohio State. Let’s not sugarcoat this: that’s not going to go well.

But Rutgers has improved significantly on defense under Ash, and should be even better on that side of the ball this year.

With winnable games early against Texas State, at Kansas, Buffalo, Indiana, Illinois, and at Maryland, there’s a chance the Knights could be bowl eligible by mid-October. It’s not likely, but it’s possible.

Unfortunately, just as Sitkowski will presumably be settling into the starting job, the schedule gets much tougher.

They finish with Northwestern, at Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State, and at Michigan State.

The Scarlet Knights might not make a bowl this year, but they probably won’t completely humiliate themselves either.

For Rutgers, that counts as significant progress.

Matchup To Watch

#4 Shawn Robinson, TCU QB vs. Nick Bosa

In Joey Bosa’s final season as a Buckeye, he saw his sack total plummet from 13.5 to 5. What was wrong with Bosa? Nothing, other than the fact that opposing offenses were throwing two or even three blockers in his way on a lot of snaps.

This fall, his younger brother may see similar treatment.

Nick Bosa had 8.5 sacks as a sophomore, despite playing only 35 to 40 snaps per game due to a deep rotation at defensive end. This fall, he’ll be on the field more, and opposing offensive coordinators will have to find a way to keep him off their quarterbacks while also accounting for the Buckeyes’ other talented defensive linemen.

The first true test for Bosa and the Buckeyes will come in Texas when they face TCU.

The Horned Frogs’ quarterback, Shawn Robinson, is a sophomore getting his first full-time shot at the starting job. He played in six games as a freshman, starting one.

In that game against Texas Tech, he went just 6-for-17 passing for 85 yards and a touchdown, but also rushed for 84 yards on 10 carries.

His passing stats will undoubtedly improve inside a dome as compared to windy west Texas, and his legs will remain a serious threat.

Bosa will be looking to put up a big game in the national prime time spotlight.

But he will have to be careful to keep contain on his way back into the pocket to prevent Robinson from breaking off any big plays on the ground.

2 Responses

  1. 572 tackles. STILL an Ohio State record. No disrespect to Winfield but “greatest tackler in OSU history” is short-sighted history. That would be Marcus Marek who is admittedly outside of “the O-Zone era” which this series is premised upon, but no. Marek is the greatest tackling machine at a position of great tackling machines for the Buckeyes.

    1. Way back when there was a guy who pioneered what would become known as linebackers for Woody Hayes football needed new hero’s. That guy was Ike Kelley and he was pure insanity on the football field. Marcus Marek patterned his ferocious style on the merits of Kelley and Gradishar.

      Marcus simply did not give a crap, if there was a play to be made, limb and life didn’t matter, he was going to make it. He attacked it the same way he did his academics. It’s one thing to be a tackler, and quite another being a runningback or receiver finisher. LOL.Marcus had a lot of brain power to add to his lethal on field attack, but he was also a menace to himself with a few beers in him. Wonder if he’s still on the coast lobster fishing and swam diving off of his boats rather than dorm windows?

      That was a great catch Andrew. Marcus is the best tackler in the history of the Program… to the guy who ushered it in IMO. Ike Kelley was nasty. Not to take away from Antoine though. He was a great player.

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