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After struggling last year, Ohio State’s wide receivers are having fun again

Zone 6 has had plenty of touchdowns to celebrate so far this season.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

“That’s something we take pride in. When we go out, we want everybody to know that we’re there. If that’s energy or putting in work being quiet, we’re doing what we’re supposed to do. We’re just a bunch of hard-working dudes. That’s all we are. We do what we can, we do what we’re supposed to do and we do what we’re asked.”

Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith via Austin Ward, Land of 10

After Ohio State dealt with inconsistency from their wide receivers last year, it’s obvious “Zone 6” is having a lot more fun this year. The Buckeye wide receivers have found the endzone plenty of times this season, and they are hoping to continue the trend when Penn State comes to town on Saturday.

Wide receivers coach Zach Smith heads up Zone 6, but it has taken a lot of hard work to get where he is now. Smith knew from an early age he wanted to be a coach, especially since his grandfather is Earle Bruce. The former Ohio State head coach told Smith to go to Bowling Green to learn from Urban Meyer. The current Buckeye head coach eventually went to Florida, and Smith wound up on Meyer’s staff from 2005 until 2009.

Meyer and Smith eventually reunited at Ohio State, and they have been together since. During his time at Ohio State, Smith has helped develop receivers like Michael Thomas, Devin Smith, and Noah Brown. Now the Buckeyes have a talented group of young receivers, which could be on their way to the NFL over the next few seasons. Zone 6 works hard, but they also know when they can have a bit of fun. With the way they have played so far this year, they deserve to enjoy some of the fruits of their labor, but Smith undoubtedly has his wide receivers hungry for more.

“Always be aware of where he’s at, know where he is every play, every down. That’s just pure respect.”

Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker via Mitch Stacy, Associated Press

Penn State’s Saquon Barkley can do it all. The junior running back is the first Penn State player to eclipse the 3,000 yard rushing mark and 1,000 yard receiving mark in his career. Oh yeah, Barkley has also returned a kick for a touchdown this year, as well as thrown a touchdown pass. Really all that is left to Barkley to do is record a defensive touchdown.

So far teams have had no luck in slowing down Barkley this year, but Ohio State hopes their disciplined approach will be able to keep Barkley from being the difference in the game. Penn State has used mismatches to free up Barkley for some big touchdowns this year, but the Buckeyes know they have to account for the running back on every down. But there is a fine line because the Buckeyes can’t give Barkley too much attention either, because the Nittany Lions have a number of other weapons on offense who can hurt opposing defenses. All of this is why Barkley is considered one of the front runners for the Heisman Trophy this year.

“I want to believe what I’ve seen these last five games. So do you, Buckeye Nation. Your team still hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent this season because it fell to the only one it played.”

Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports

It’s easy to understand why some people might not be ready to completely buy into Ohio State quite yet. The Buckeyes have demolished their last five opponents since losing to Oklahoma, but those five opponents have a combined record of 17-19. Ohio State isn’t the only team facing questions like this though.

Who really has Alabama played this year? While Penn State has beaten Iowa on the road, and Michigan last week at home, the Nittany Lions schedule has been rather soft. The College Football Playoff could see a serious shakeup if the Buckeyes are able to beat Penn State on Saturday.

What has made the lead-up to the Penn State game even more exhausting that normal, is the uncertainty of which Ohio State is going to show up against the Nittany Lions. Will it be the Buckeye team that laid an egg against Oklahoma, or the buzzsaw fans have seen over the past five games. Were those beatings the Buckeyes handed out over the past month and a half really getting the team more comfortable for these tougher or conference games, or did they just pad stats? Saturday can’t come soon enough for Buckeye fans to find out.

“I think the reality is you have other programs in the state that have been really high-achieving programs. I get why we haven’t played some of those schools in the past, but I also recognize that, I think perhaps if those programs were really struggling programs that wouldn’t be beneficial for us. I don’t think that be in Ohio State’s best interest, but they’re programs that have had success and makes it mutually beneficial.”

Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann via Edward Sutelan, The Lantern

Ohio State men’s basketball head coach is more focused on prepping his team for the upcoming season, but the first-year Buckeye coach is also trying to help put together a Crossroads Classic-type event in Ohio. While he was at Butler, the Bulldogs participate in a yearly event, which saw the four best teams in Indiana square off in Indianapolis. In his first year on the job, Holtmann’s Bulldogs took on Indiana, followed by Purdue and Indiana again in his final two seasons at Butler. The only team he didn’t face off with during his time at the school in the Crossroads Classic was Notre Dame.

Any type of Crossroads Classic event in Ohio would likely include Ohio State, Cincinnati, Xavier, and Dayton. Fans have been calling for an event like this for years, but putting it together is easier said than done. In the past Ohio State hasn’t really had anything to gain by participating in an event like this. Now with the Buckeyes rebuilding, and the other three schools seeing more success at this time, if there was ever a time to put an event like this together, it would be now.

One recent change would could get in the way of Ohio State being involved in an event like this would be the recent change by the Big Ten, increasing the number of conference games from 18 to 20. With Ohio State involved in the CBS Sports Classic for at least a few more years, the Buckeyes might be hesitant to add an event like this to their schedule. If Ohio State is able to work an event like this into their future schedules, it’ll be sure to increase interest on the hardwood in the Buckeye State.