It is FINALLY game day. The No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes will open their season in Bloomington against the Indiana Hoosiers tonight at 8/7c on most of the ESPN family of networks, thanks to their Megacast coverage. The worldwide leader’s “College GameDay” will also be on hand to kick off the season.
However, before we get to the actual game, we asked our Land-Grant Holy Land writers a ton of questions to see what they thought that the season held for Ohio State, the Big Ten, and college football in general.
Spoiler alert: We are a bunch of homers!
Who will lead Ohio State in rushing this season?
This one was a no-brainer for the LGHL staff, as every single response was “Mike Weber.” The only addition was that our co-Managing Editor Alexis Chassen mentioned that she thought that DeMario McCall would also have a great year. Weber went for 1,096 yards as a freshman in 2016, and will look to be an even more valuable part of the offense this season.
Interestingly, no one mentioned quarterback J.T. Barrett. While ideally the Ohio State coaching staff would like the fifth-year senior to run less and pass more, Barrett has accounted for nearly 822 yards per season on the ground over the last three years, coming in as OSU’s second leading rusher in each of those campaigns.
Will Kevin Wilson’s scheme make better use of the Buckeyes’ cavalcade of offensive weaponry in order to save the wear and tear on the quarterback? Time will tell.
Who will lead Ohio State in receiving this season?
There was less consensus on this question, as the LGHL staff was split amongst four candidates, Parris Campbell, K.J. Hill, Austin Mack, and Binjimen Victor. However, despite the range of opinions, the sophomore Victor led the way with nearly 43% of the vote. The other three each came out at about 14.25%, and senior writer Ian Hartitz added simply, “Absolutely not Marcus Baugh.”
What true freshman do you think will have the biggest impact this season?
The clear cut favorite amoungst our staff here is running back J.K. Dobbins who accounted for 57% of the votes. The La Grange, TX-native has drawn wide-ranging praise from OSU coaches during fall camp. Last week, Meyer said in a press conference, “[J.K Dobbins will] play. He's earned that right. We're going to call his family this week and tell them to get ready to watch some football because he's going to play.”
Last season, H-back Curtis Samuel saw more than 47% of his yards come on rushing plays, however, now that Campbell, a former wide-receiver, has taken over the position for the Buckeyes, the question remains how that will impact the team’s stable of running backs. Will it mean more carries for Weber and McCall? Will Dobbins earn enough touches to make it a three-man rotation in the back-field? No on knows yet, but the comments from the coaching staff indicate that he is doing everything that he can to see the field.
Cornerback Jeffrey Okudah received 21% of the LGHL vote on this one, so keep an eye on the newest member of the “B.I.A.” secondary.
Which non-freshman that nobody is talking about will step up to make the biggest impact?
Our staff was again split on this prediction with varying definitions of “nobody is talking about,” “biggest,” and “impact” seeming to muddy the waters. Twelve different Buckeyes received votes with defensive lineman Robert Landers and corner Kendall Sheffield picking up 14% of the votes each.
While not having a consensus leader in the category can create confusion for fans, it also points to the ridiculous depth that Meyer and his coaching staff has amassed over the last few recruiting cycles. As the program funnels more and more players into the NFL, the fact that the LGHL staff can come up with 12 different, lesser-known players that could break through is the epitome of encouraging.
Which game this season scares you the most?
Penn State: 43%
This question was interesting, as the variety of answers seemed to say as much about the respondents as it did about the opponents. As App State taught Michigan a decade ago, every game brings a certain degree of concern, but if you look at the five most common responses from the LGHL staff, they all seem to say something very specific.
In reverse order, Oklahoma is a the No. 7 team in the country with an experienced, Hesiman-candidate quarterback who was embarrassed at home last season, and will be looking to make a statement to legitimize their new head coach. Plenty to be scared about there.
Indiana is a conference foe playing in what could be the biggest game in program history against the conference’s biggest dog, who just so happened to hire the head coach who was run out of Bloomington last year for allegedly mistreating players. Seems like the Hoosiers could put a scare in the Buckeyes tonight.
Iowa is like the Big Ten West’s eternal, proverbial sleeping giant. Everyone expects them to be good again at some point (Kirk Ferentz is a four-time B1G Coach of the Year, after all). This year OSU heads out to Iowa City to face an experience, talented team. Seems somewhat scary.
Michigan? I don’t feel like this one needs to be explained, but Jim Harbaugh has to beat Ohio State at some point, doesn’t he? Michigan can’t continue to finish third in the Big Ten East every year, can they? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
For many Buckeye fans, and presumably players, last year’s Penn State game still sticks in their craw, and there’s no doubt that Meyer will use last year’s loss as extra motivation come October. Not to mention that with the likes of RB Saquon Barkley and QB Trace McSorley returning for the reigning Big Ten champs, they will likely be one of OSU’s stiffest, and scariest, tests on the route to a third College Football Playoff appearance in four years.
What will Ohio State's regular season record be?
More than 64% of the LGHL staff said that Ohio State will finish the regular season undefeated at 12-0. The remaining 36% said that the Buckeyes would go 11-1, and as we know from last season, depending on who the loss comes against and when it occurs, both of those potential records should be enough to get them at least into a New Year’s Six bowl, if not the playoff itself.
How will Ohio State's season end? (which bowl, opponent, etc)
Now, when you see the responses to this question, you might say to yourself that the Land-Grant Holy Land staff is biased in favor of the Buckeyes, and, quite honestly, I would have a difficult time arguing with you.
One hundred percent of our staff predicted that OSU will make it to their second-consecutive College Football Playoff, over 71% predicted that they would make the championship game, and over 41% predicted Ohio State’s second National Championship in the Playoff era.
Big Ten East Predicted order of finish
While the order of Nos. 2 through 7 fluctuated, every single LGHL staff member picked the Buckeyes to win the Big Ten East.
The rankings are an aggregate score of the different predicted orders of finish. First place votes are in parentheses, and the team’s total points are italicized.
- Ohio State (15), 15
- Penn State 34
- Michigan 39
- Indiana 68
- Maryland 71
- MSU 72
- Rutgers 95
Big Ten West Predicted order of finish
Unlike the East, our staff was a little more divided as to who would come out on top in the West. Four teams received first place votes, with a substantial gap coming between Minnesota and the bottom two predicted finishers in the division.
- Wisconsin (8), 22
- Nebraska (4), 38
- Northwestern (2), 46
- Iowa (1), 48
- Minnesota 60
- Purdue 85
- Illinois 93
What Big Ten team is most likely to surpass expectations this year?
Eight different teams were mentioned by our staff in response to this question. The answers ranged from comical, our Matt Torino (who received his undergraduate degree from the State University of New Jersey) said, “Rutgers baby cuz we're getting 5 first downs vs Michigan,” to insightful.
Colton Denning said, “Northwestern. Their conference schedule isn't bad, and I think they'll be just solid enough offensively to complement what should be a good defense for a second place finish in the West.”
Our Brett Ludwiczak thought that the Terps could see improvement this year, writing, “Maryland took steps in the right direction during D.J. Durkin's first year, and (they) should be better in (this) year. (They) could pull a couple of upsets this year in the Big Ten, especially with games against Michigan and Penn State at home.”
And much to any good Buckeye fan’s dismay, Chad Peltier mentioned That Team Up North. “People (are) writing them off due to (having) few returning starters, but they're loaded with talent.”
Who in the Big Ten is most likely to wildly disappoint?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of responses to this questions came from the state of Michigan. The Wolverines received five votes, and the Spartans received three. Many sited what Chad dismissed above, that the Maize and Blue lost a lot of incredible talent.
However, the selection of Michigan State, who finished 3-9 (1-8) last year, was a bit surprising. Christopher Jason wrote, “Sure, no one is picking them to win the division, but they had a horrific offseason, and I think they'll miss a bowl game for the second consecutive season.”
Patrick Mayhorn also posited that the Golden Gophers might have a difficult time adjusting to a new head coach. “Minnesota has the lowest floor in the conference. If the players don't buy in to P.J. Fleck's system, the Golden Gophers are in serious trouble. A 6-0 start parlaying into a 6-6 finish is extremely possible.”
Who is your Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year?
This was a two-person contest with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley garnering 64.3% of the vote to J.T. Barrett’s 35.7%. Barkley won the award, and was named the conference’s Running Back of Year, in 2016.
Barrett was named the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year, and the pair split the Chicago Tribune’s prestigious Silver Football.
Who is your Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year?
Land-Grant’s homer status might be cemented here, as 85.7% of our staff selected an Ohio State player to take home this award. While it is completely possible that a Buckeye could receive the honor (10 have done so since its inception in 1990), there was no clear-cut favorite this year, with Tyquan Lewis and Jerome Baker splitting the votes. Sam Hubbard also picked up a vote.
Michigan tackle Rashan Gary and Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards also picked up votes.
Who is your Big Ten Coach of the Year?
While it is well established that Urban Meyer is one of the best two or three coaches in America, no Ohio State coach has won the Big Ten Coach of the Year Award since Earle Bruce did in 1979. That means that John Cooper never won it, Jim Tressel (who won just about every other Coach of the Year trophy in 2002) never won it, and Urban Meyer has yet to win it.
As much as the LGHL staff loves their Buckeyes, they aren’t stupid either. While there were four gluttons for punishment that selected OSU’s head man, others, like Kyle McKinnon acquiesced to the trend. He wrote, “For some reason, it won't be Urban Meyer. I say Paul Chryst takes it home to Wisconsin.”
Ludwiczak put it a little more bluntly, “It should be Urban Meyer, but the Big Ten will probably find a way to give the award to James Franklin.”
Outside of the completely warranted gripes, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald got the most votes at 35.7%. Meyer was next at 28.6%, followed by Fleck at 21.4%.
Which Big Ten player that nobody is talking about will have a monster season?
We had nearly as many different selections as we did respondents to this question with Indiana linebacker Tegray Scales coming away with a couple of mentions. Colton Denning summed up the reason why by saying, “(He) had 23.5 tackles for loss last season, and should be in for another big year in year two of Tom Allen's defense.”
Minnesota running back Rodney Smith was our Chuck McKeever’s selection. Chuck wrote that he would be an impact back based on the Gophers’ new coaching staff, and “playing behind an enormous line coached by Ed Warinner, a coach who's gotten the most out of RBs before.”
A few of our staff members had some love for Northwestern as well. Meredith Hein selected running back Justin Jackson, writing, “He is heading into his senior season having rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his previous three seasons, including 1,524 last year.”
Sticking with the Wildcats, Max Littman picked safety Godwin Igwebuike because he “has all the intangibles and high football IQ.”
Which team in the preseason AP Poll Top 10 is most likely to disappoint?
Our writers were split on this one with seven of the Top-10 getting votes, and five receiving multiple. Oklahoma led the way with 21.4% of the vote, and USC, Oklahoma State, Washington, and Clemson all receiving 14.3%. Big Ten rivals Penn State and Michigan also picked up a vote apiece.
LGHL’s co-Managing Editor Geoff Hammersley summed up the prognosis for the defending national champion Clemson Tigers. “It's hard to recover after losing a QB like DeShaun Watson,” he said. “Florida State is back in the hunt, and, to be honest, it's insanely hard to go to back-to-back championship games and win--let alone making three title games in a row. This seems like the year Clemson takes a small drop-off.”
Which team in the preseason AP Poll 11-25 range do you see as having the best chance of making the playoffs?
The No. 14 Stanford Cardinal received a lot of love from the LGHL staff on this one, as did No. 20 Kansas State Wildcats.
“Bill Snyder is likely in his last year, and may have the most Bill-Snyder-esque team imaginable,” our Mayhorn wrote. “Quarterback Jesse Ertz is an awesome runner, and the defense could be the best in the Big 12.”
Others receiving votes were No. 23 Texas, No. 13 LSU, No. 15 Georgia, No. 18 Miami, and No. 16 Louisville.
Which team outside the top 25 do you see a potential sleeper?
Despite the fact that they went 4-8 last year, the consensus pick from our staff to this question was the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Who is winning the Heisman Trophy?
Even though J.T. Barrett received 21.4% of the vote, he came in second behind the Southern Cal quarterback Sam Darnold, who had 28.6%.
Others picking up votes were FSU’s Deondre Francois and LSU’s Derrius Guice (14.3% each), Alabama’s Jalen Hurts, PSU’s Saquon Barkley, and UCLA’s Josh Rosen.
Who are your four playoff teams, and who is going to win it all?
For better or for worse, the official Land-Grant Holy Land final four prediction pretty closely mirrors the AP’s pre-season poll. All 15 of our participating writers selected No. 2 Ohio State to make the final four, and 14 picked No. 1 Alabama to be there as well. Seven writers slotted No. 3 Florida State in, and six picked No. 4 USC.
Others picking up playoff votes were Stanford (4), Texas (2), Clemson (2), and Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Miami (FL), Washington, Kansas State, Louisville, and South Florida.
Finally, the big money question, who will end the season hoisting the trophy in Atlanta? Well, we we’ve got a tie. Seven of our writers picked Alabama and seven of our writers picked Ohio State, with one selecting Stanford.