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Ohio State’s Luke Fickell preps for playoff, future at Cincinnati

Despite being focused on the Buckeyes playoff run, Fickell has other challenges ahead.

NCAA Football: National Championship-Media Day Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

“If you call anyone who ever played for him, they’ll start by telling you he’s a good human being, he’s a father figure guy. His impact on our program, I don’t know if you can articulate it.”

- Gene Smith via Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated

Though Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell has plenty of tasks ahead of him at Cincinnati after accepting a head coaching position there, the veteran Buckeye is focused on helping Urban Meyer and the rest of the coaching staff with his current team. Ohio State is preparing to face off against Clemson in the College Football Playoff at the Fiesta Bowl, and should they win, the Buckeyes would advance to the national championship for the second time in three years. Fickell and Greg Schiano have helped elevate the level of play on the defensive side of the ball, especially when it comes to the secondary. They’ll have their work cut out for them going against the Tigers’ quarterback Deshaun Watson and his bevy of talented wide receivers.

But still, it’s an exciting time for Fickell no matter the outcome. He finally gets a shot at being a head coach (not counting his brief stint as interim head coach for Ohio State in 2011), which is something he’s wanted for a long time but hadn’t pulled the trigger. At a program like Cincinnati, Fickell gets to stay in the state of Ohio and keep most of his connections which should help him transition fairly easily, especially on the recruiting trail. And whether he helps bring a title to Columbus or not, Buckeye fans will always appreciate the job Fickell has done for Ohio State and will likely be rooting for him at Cincinnati.

“I really wanted to play. I know I could’ve played, but when Pops says, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ then you have to follow that.”

- J.T. Barrett via Dan Murphy, ESPN

Amazingly, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett is playing in his first semifinal game. In 2012, as a senior in high school, Barrett’s team at Rider High School looked prepared to make a run to the state championship. In 2011 as a junior he helped Rider reach the quarterfinals before losing but 2012 seemed to be the year they would take it all the way. Instead, things took a turn for the worse as Barrett suffered an ACL tear just a few weeks into the season. The team rallied behind Barrett’s leadership on the sideline all the way to the state semifinal game but without their star quarterback, fell in a close game. If you were to ask Barrett, he says he could have played and carried the team to a championship but with a career at Ohio State awaiting, his family didn’t want him to take the risk.

Now two seasons removed of another injury and missing out on Ohio State’s College Football Playoff run, Barrett is finally under center and healthy for the Buckeyes showdown against Clemson in the national semifinal game at the Fiesta Bowl. Win there and Barrett will have a chance to shine in the national championship game. Still just a junior at Ohio State, Barrett is already statistically one of the best quarterbacks to come through Columbus and adding a championship to his legacy would help further his legend altogether.

“There are still commentators there, so you never know if it’s real TV or not because even when you’re not on real TV you still feel like you are. You’ll see 50 million cameras in there, so it feels like the same thing.”

- JaQuan Lyle via Adam Jardy, The Columbus Dispatch

A notable amount of Ohio State basketball fans may have been surprised when the Buckeyes weren’t on TV for three previous games this season. Now Thad Matta’s team won’t be on television (if you don’t have a smart TV with an internet connection) for the fourth time Tuesday when they host Youngstown State, ranked 227th according to KenPom.com. Though the players themselves don’t seem to mind or even notice that they aren’t playing in front of a TV audience, it’s still frustrating in some aspects for a program that is generally respected across the country. It certainly can’t help the cause in recruiting for Matta, though the amount of impact it has can be hard to judge.

Mark Rudner, the Big Ten senior associate commissioner of television administration, says that there are plenty of nonconference games that are played against opponents that have lower RPI, and that’s a game that ESPN or BTN will put on its digital platform as opposed to being actually broadcasted on television. What Rudner says does make sense, however, as the Buckeyes aren’t ranked and are playing a team that is quite low on the basketball totem pole.

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