It has been a long and winding road for the Ohio State Buckeyes to get to the first game of their 2018 season. They have weathered suspended and fired coaches, and an independent investigation, but waiting on the other side is their season opening opponent, the Oregon State Beavers.
Coming off of a 1-11 season, the other OSU has turned to a favorite son, former Beaver quarterback Jonathan Smith, to lead the program following the mid-season dismissal of Gary Anderson in 2017.
Though the Beavs are currently pegged as something north of five-touchdown underdogs, they boast a veteran-laden team that is looking to claw back to respectability under their new head coach.
We spoke to Building the Dam’s co-managing editor Marcus Russell about what Buckeye fans should expect from the underdog Oregon State squad on Saturday.
LGHL: What has new head coach Jonathan Smith done to change the culture of Oregon State football after taking over from Gary Anderson?
Marcus Russell: Jonathan Smith has had the unenviable job of trying to turn a program around, where the previous head coach effectively quit on his team midway through a one-win campaign. While Jonathan Smith (former Oregon State QB) doesn’t have any head coaching experience, in a lot of ways, he’s the perfect man to restore a good culture to the program.
He’s hired a good staff around him and really understands what it takes to be a win football games at Oregon State. He’s also been able to connect with his recruits and players. He’s pretty young for a head coach (39) and is upbeat and energetic enough to bring a certain amount of excitement to the football team.
LGHL: Despite coming off of a 1-11 season, the Beavers return a ton of veterans. Who is one player that you expect to breakthrough as an upperclassman this year?
I’ll go with senior cornerback, Dwayne Williams. The secondary has suffered a bunch of injuries and Williams has also dealt with his fair share of injuries during his collegiate career.
I think this is the year that Williams is able to put it all together and become a leader on and off the field. With so many injuries, Williams and Jalen Moore might be the only two upperclassmen in the secondary against Ohio State and their leadership and experience will be crucial, if they are going to compete with the Buckeyes.
LGHL: If the Beavers are going to have a shot to pull off the upset in Columbus, what will the single most important factor be for them on offense?
Marcus Russell: The Beavers have a very experienced, veteran-laden offensive line. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a great unit, but it is their most experienced position group. Going up against Ohio State will be a whole new challenge and while Oregon State has a lot of questions to answer on the offensive side of the ball, none of that will matter if their offensive line can’t hold up against the Buckeye’s front-seven.
If they have any shot at this game not turning into a blowout, then they’ll need a tremendous performance from their offensive line.
LGHL: Sophomore safety David Morris appears to be a legitimate standout in the defensive backfield for Oregon State. However, an injury will keep him out of action for a while. Will the other DBs be able to pick up the slack?
Marcus Russell: David Morris is a rising star for the Oregon State football team. He tallied 75 tackles as a true freshman a season ago, but unfortunately he will not be playing against Ohio State. He suffered a severe foot injury in practice a couple weeks ago.
On Monday, Coach Smith announced that Morris would be out 4-6 more weeks. The Beavers were hoping that David Morris and Jalen Moore would form a fearsome duo at the safety spot, but now less experienced players will fill in. Buckeye QB, Dwayne Haskins, will probably feel confident in most of his match-ups on Saturday.
LGHL: What is your score prediction for the game?
Marcus Russell: I’ll say 48-10, Ohio State. Season openers are always weird as both teams try to get settled, but even with the noise and controversy surrounding Ohio State’s football team, they are still one of the most talented teams in the nation and the Beavers are just trying to get some positive momentum going.