Welcome to “I Got Five on It,” the weekly column where I give you five things to watch for during each Ohio State game. For the last three seasons I’ve had the honor of comparing playing Maryland to driving Rainbow Road (The GOAT track in video game history), visiting the ghost of Joe Bauserman in Lincoln, and saying this before the 2015 Michigan State game:
Needless to say, much of what I type in this column ends up being incorrect, and leads to comments like this from OU fans:
Getting owned online won’t stop me, and I’m excited for a third season of bringing you C-grade photoshops, talking about efficient punting, and sharing the glory that is Big Bob Landers. With all that said, here’s what I’m looking for tomorrow in Ohio State’s 2018 season opener against Oregon State:
The Players didn’t do anything wrong
This one is the obligatory leadoff. (If you want my full take on Urban Meyer’s suspension, you can listen here.) After watching almost all of the adults in leadership positions involved in this situation stumble over themselves and embarrass the university —not to mention some of you cargo-short-wearing-fans— for the past month, it’ll be nice to see the players take the field.
Others have said it better than I can, but regardless of everything else, the players deserve your support. Road games are probably going to be a bit messy for them this year —especially when Meyer comes back— but they didn’t do anything wrong, and shouldn’t have to pay the price for a situation they aren’t involved in.
The world is yours
I’ve had a theory on the podcast all off-season that Ohio State’s coaching staff has deliberately been trying to keep the hype on Dwayne Haskins down as much as they can. From saying that there was a chance that Joe Burrow could take the starting quarterback job in spring ball —despite the fact that it was Burrow, not Haskins, who made statements about the possibility of transferring— to Ryan Day saying Tate Martell, “Made a really big push” to be the starter earlier this week, I think the coaches have been going overboard in giving Haskins some extra motivation prior to his first career start.
Why would they do that? Because Haskins is real good, and he knows it. Haskins may not be as vocal as Cardale Jones was, but he strikes me as having just as much confidence, but in a different way. Now that he’s the starter, I think we’re going to see much more of that than we did in his first two seasons.
Also, have we mentioned about how crazy it was that he came into the Michigan game cold, immediately made one of the biggest plays of the season, and led a comeback win in The Big House against one of the best defenses in the country?
His talent is undeniable, and I think we’re in for a pretty special season from No. 7.
New look linebackers
Ohio State’s linebackers were secretly (or not so secretly?) disappointing last season. I’m not smart enough to decipher whether that was more on the coaches or the players, but I’m not the only one with nightmares of Oklahoma and Iowa bamboozling the middle of the defense to an embarrassing degree in each of those games. With Jerome Baker and Chris Worley in the NFL, can a new group provide more consistency?
I’m most excited to watch sophomore Baron Browning make his first start at middle linebacker. He’s the type of athlete that you need against modern offenses, and can provide the play-making Ohio State got from Baker in 2016, but was absent from last season.
He’ll be flanked by Malik Harrison and Pete Werner, with Justin Hilliard, Keandre Jones, and others sprinkled in. Almost all of them are former blue-chip recruits, and Werner in particular received a lot of praise for his improvement this off-season. There’s too much talent from this group to not come out with a couple viable options on the outside.
The big question is Tuf Borland’s status. Playing him six months after an Achilles injury in a game where you’re favored by almost 40 points seems like a rather unnecessary move, but I guess we’ll see tomorrow just how much he’s progressed ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Tate Martell logs on
I know I heaped some heavy praise on Dwayne Haskins earlier, but that doesn't mean I’m not excited to watch Tate Martell play. Frankly, finally seeing him in a live college football game is going to rule. It sounds like he’ll get plenty of snaps, too, and we’ve set the official over/under on his rushing yards tomorrow at 80.
On that note, it’ll be interesting to see how much the offensive style changes with Martell running the offense. It feels like Ohio State has been trending into more of a “pro-style” QB archetype lately, and Martell definitely does not fit that mold. I’m looking for at least one or two scrambles of 20-plus yards, a personal foul for taunting some poor Oregon State corner, and a touchdown pass to Demario McCall that bounces off a defenders’ hands and makes us collectively yell, “THAT’S TATE, BABY!”
Shaun Wade Hive
My hottest take this season is that Shaun Wade will end the year as the best player in Ohio State’s secondary, and one of the best corners in the country. If you don’t remember, Wade was one of the top recruits in the 2017 class, enrolled early, and ultimately had to redshirt due to an abdomen injury. From all indications, he’s healthy, had a solid spring, and is ready to make an impact this season.
While he’s listed as the backup to Kendall Sheffield, Wade will see plenty of time in the first couple weeks, and I’m going to bet that he makes the most of it and becomes a regular by the time Ohio State reaches conference play. In fact, I’m betting on it to such a degree that I’ve become the new President of The Shaun Wade Hive, as evidenced by my recent podcast notes:
So there you have it. Those are the five things I’m watching for tomorrow, and I can’t wait to be horrendously wrong about all of them, and repeat the process for the next 15 weeks. Go Bucks, y’all.