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Nebraska Football

Ohio State Brings Nihilism to Big Ten Football

July 15, 2018
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If you don't want to read about Ohio State, it's understandable given recent history. The Buckeyes have not been kind. But Nebraska visits Ohio State on Nov. 3 and if you'd like to know what the Huskers will be getting into, this post is for you. If not, here's an update on Logan Smothers.


OHIO STATE BUCKEYES

2017 Record: 12-2 | Returning offensive starters: 8 | Returning defensive starters: 4

The “it might be Michigan’s year” talk is cute; it ultimately doesn’t matter. Penn State has the best quarterback in the country? Yeah, that doesn’t matter either. Michigan State figured out its junk after that weird 2016? Doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. That’s not nihilism, that’s acknowledging Ohio State still has something no one else has: Urban Meyer, and so far that’s been good for 10 wins a year.

Since Meyer navigated his way from Florida to Ohio State, the Buckeyes have [big inhale] gone undefeated, made the Big Ten title game and the Orange Bowl, won the Big Ten title and the College Football Playoff, won the Fiesta Bowl, gone back to the College Football Playoff and won another Big Ten title and the Cotton Bowl. [big exhale]

Meyer has recruited the fifth-, second-, third-, seventh- (slacker), fourth-, second- and second-ranked classes so far. Oh, sorry, should have clarified. Those aren’t Big Ten rankings, those are national rankings. I don’t even want to use the space necessary to list the NFL draftees. The only joke people can make at Meyer’s expense is one that evokes that lonely pizza-eating image. The dude won a national championship with his third-string quarterback.

It doesn’t matter that the Buckeyes are replacing an all-time quarterback and a Rimington Trophy-winning center. J.K. Dobbins is still putting on an Ohio State jersey and Mike Weber is still putting on an Ohio State jersey and when both those guys put on Ohio State jerseys last year, defenses cried. Dobbins rumbled for 1,403 yards at an absurd 7.2 yards-per-carry average. Weber scored 10 touchdowns on 101 carries. They were so good running the ball efficiently they didn’t even need to be explosive. (They still were; 28th in the country in explosive-play percentage, not that it mattered. They were moving down the field anyway.) 

It doesn’t matter that J.T. Barrett — the guy who led an offense that posted the ninth-best rushing yards-per-play average (6.24), the 15th-best passing YPP average (7.68), the 17th-best yards-per-point average and the 25th-best explosive play percentage — is gone. Meyer now gets to throw this guy into the backfield full-time.

I mean, it might matter a little Barrett is gone. The Buckeyes probably aren’t going to lead the conference in passing YPP this season, but even that doesn’t matter. An average passing game doesn’t bump this offense from elite status thanks to the run game. Ohio State had the best rushing success rate in the country (53.6 percent), the third-best opportunity rate in the country (46.1 percent) and the third-best stuff rate in the country (12.2) and there’s nothing to suggest the running game won’t be elite again in 2018. 

Both of the aforementioned runners are back, as well as an offensive line that includes an All-Big Ten guard, a third-team All-Big Ten tackle, two other upperclassmen with a season’s worth of starts and blue-chip youngsters. Did I mention second-team All-Big Ten running back J.K. Dobbins and honorable mention All-Big Ten running back Mike Weber are back? I did? Good. Important not to forget about them. 

It doesn’t matter that redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins — the presumed starter at this point, after beating out Tate Martell and prompting Joe Burrow to transfer — isn’t the athlete or vet presence that Barrett was. He’s a former blue-chip recruit that’s had the privilege of learning under Barrett for the past two years. He’s also got in-game experience under his belt. 

 

It doesn’t matter if the offense comes out of the gates slow. It can afford speed bumps because the defense provides the ultimate safety net. The other side of the ball has been a top-10 unit by S&P+ each of the last three seasons.

A guy some consider to be the best player in the country is just now moving into a starting role on the Buckeye defense. That guy is Nick Bosa. People think he’s better than his brother, Joey Bosa, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Nick, along with sophomore Chase Young and Jonathan Cooper will try to replicate the production lost from the departed Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes. When Young was involved in the play last season, opposing offenses had a success rate of 0 percent. How’s that even possible?

It doesn’t matter that the defense has to replace seven starters and guys at every level; 11 defensive linemen, 10 linebackers, and nine defensive backs made at least 7.5 tackles last season; of those 30, 20 are back. Nine of the 18 guys who averaged at least a tackle a game return. The guys that don’t have playing experience have lots and lots and lots of stars on their recruiting profiles. The guys that don’t have lots and lots and lots of stars, are working with a staff that turned 3-star Pat Elflein into a Rimington Trophy winner and NFL starter and 3-star Malik Hooker into a first-round NFL safety. 

It doesn’t matter that Ohio State has to play TCU in Arlington, Texas, just three weeks into the season, or that games against Penn State and Michigan State are on the road. Ohio State is still the betting favorite of the conference until some opponent can consistently prove otherwise. The Buckeyes have won five of the last seven in State College and nine of the last 10 in East Lansing. 

The Buckeyes have been beatable since Meyer took over. They got ripped apart by Iowa last season, smacked by Clemson two seasons ago, upset at home three seasons ago and beaten by a 7-6 Virginia Tech team four seasons ago. So, if you want to go against the grain and say all that change does matter, go for it. There’s stuff there to back you up. At the end of the day, there is a lot of production that needs replacing in Columbus. 

But, the games haven’t started yet. This is, after all, a preview. So it relies on paper more than film. And the paper says Ohio State and Urban Meyer will once again be one of the best teams in the country next season. 

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