"The big one the Buckeyes haven't scratched off the list yet is a pass from [Braxton] Miller."
- Austin Ward, ESPN.com
To anyone who's watched Ohio State this season, it should come as no surprise to hear that Urban Meyer plans to continue adding new wrinkles to the offense, in order to get Braxton Miller the ball. The two-time Big Ten Player of the Year has been the Buckeyes' most explosive weapon so far this season, but there's a big part of his skill set that has so far gone unused: his arm. You may have heard that Miller used to play a little quarterback, and Urban Meyer has been hinting at the possibility that the man with the most infamous spin move in college football is planning to do more than just catch and run.
ESPN's Austin Ward thinks we might see a pass or two from Miller by the end of Saturday's tilt against Northern Illinois. That wouldn't be the most surprising thing in the world -- the Ohio State offense looked downright stagnant last week despite the team eventually posting 38 points, and they could certainly benefit from using their most versatile player at his most comfortable position for a few plays. Don't hold your breath, though: Ward thinks another good possibility is that Meyer keeps that particular option in his back pocket until it comes time to face the Big Ten's other playoff contender, the Michigan State Spartans.
So far in 2015, Miller has 18 touches, scoring touchdowns on two of those and recording 213 yards of total offense. Per Ward, Meyer says he hopes to get Miller's touches into the steady double digits each game, a prospect that's sure to terrify opposing defenses.
"The Buckeyes, unlike past years, aren't in the top 10 of the schools with the most NFL players."
- Doug Lesmerises, Northeast Ohio Media Group
Eddie George. Cris Carter. Orlando Pace. Andy Katzenmoyer. (Okay, not really.) Ohio State has produced some of the biggest names to play in the NFL in recent memory. But is that tradition on a short hiatus? Per Cleveland.com, Ohio State has fallen out of the top 10 list for rostered NFL players in 2015. With Terrelle Pryor's release from the Cleveland Browns, the number of Buckeyes in the NFL dropped down to 25. LSU, the league leader in that category, has a full 40 former players in the league. Miami and USC round out the top three, with 37 and 35, respectively.
That's not to say that the former Ohio State players who've cracked NFL rosters aren't making a difference. This nascent season is one game into Week 2, and already some of the biggest moments have come at the hands of Buckeyes. Carlos Hyde plugged in his GameGenie against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night, rushing for a league-best 168 yards and two touchdowns, including a devastating spin move stolen right from Braxton Miller's catalog. On Thursday night, shutdown corner Bradley Roby stole a win for the Denver Broncos with a scoop-and-score in the final minute against the Kansas City Chiefs.
There's certainly a lot to look forward to in the Buckeyes-in-the-NFL department, too. The offense alone could see a half-dozen players drafted or picked up as UDFAs in 2016, not to mention the defense's potential first-overall pick, Joey Bosa. A few other Ohio State defenders will likely hear their names called, too. The future is bright, and we can look forward to seeing this statistic look hilariously outdated a year from now.
"The crowd...was made up almost entirely of people who never saw a football contest before, and the great majority did not know which team was which."
- An 1894 edition of The Columbus Dispatch, via David Briggs, The Blade
If you're the kind of person who actively looks for reasons to get nervous about games that should be well in-hand by halftime, you could do worse than studying history. This weekend, Ohio State faces off against Northern Illinois, perennial title contenders in the MAC. A loss for the Buckeyes would be the first defeat against a current MAC team since 1894, a year we all remember well for the first sales of bottled Coca-Cola, the birth of Arizona Senator Ernest McFarland, and the founding of the National Society of Pershing Rifles.
That Buckeye loss came at the hands of John Heisman's Buchtel College Zippers before a crowd of "hundreds." That team, of course, is now known as the Akron Zips, recipients of the first and cruelest May Fool's Day prank in history. The Zippers reeled off a whopping dozen points to stifle Ohio State, 12-6. It was an era that helped mold our current Golden Age of internet takes, given that players still died semi-regularly on the field and no concussion was so severe that it couldn't be cured with a swig of brandy. REAL men out there, in other words.
Another MAC loss for the Buckeyes might have to wait a few more years. Northern Illinois enters this game as 34.5-point underdogs, and while the Huskies have looked impressive in recent years (including taking a trip to the Orange Bowl during the Jordan Lynch era), there's probably too much offense in Columbus for any amount of MACtion to handle.
"It helps us a lot that we've been in those kinds of situations before, playing in bigger stadiums against bigger schools."
- NIU quarterback Drew Hare, via Jack McCarthy, the Chicago Tribune
Despite the weight of all that history, Northern Illinois' current players have made it clear that they're not scared to play the Buckeyes on Saturday. The program has been battle-tested against Big Ten schools in recent years, winning its last three contests against programs from the conference that boasts both the reigning national champs and The Birthplace of College Football™. Granted, those wins were against 2014 Northwestern, 2013 Iowa, and 2013 Purdue, but the point stands: they've been on the big stage before.
That doesn't mean that NIU is unaware of just how many challenges they'll face on Saturday. Jack McCarthy of the Chicago Tribune quotes Huskies coach Rod Carey, who said of the Buckeyes, "They're big, they're physical, they're strong, they're well-coached, they don't beat themselves, and they're expecting to win." Urban Meyer's team certainly checks all those boxes. They looked sloppy against Hawaii last week, and that might provide Carey part of a blueprint to keep this game closer than expected, even if the Huskies lose.
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