It’s fitting that Ohio State plays Tulane tomorrow, because I’ve been on a wave kick lately. Last night I finished a great book about them, which led to the subsequent YouTube rabbit hole I fell down, and the sobering realization that I would instantly meet my maker if I ever tried to surf. Luckily, the Green Wave the Buckeyes face tomorrow won’t be as vicious.
The big story this week is obviously Urban Meyer’s return to the sideline, but spoiler: I’m going to spend exactly zero sentences discussing what it means for him to be back, because it really doesn’t matter until Penn State next week.
Other than that, Ohio State’s main objectives tomorrow are to stay healthy for that game, get the backups playing time, solve the big play issues on defense, and score some more points. In the interest of making this column longer than 150 words though, here are five things in particular that I’m watching for:
Will Tate Martell ever throw another incompletion?
While last week pretty much confirmed that Ohio State isn’t interested in taking Dwayne Haskins off the field in a big game —at least as long as Ryan Day is calling the shots— Tate Martell should get ample time to hone his abilities after Haskins is done slicing and dicing the Green Wave for a half. But how will he be used?
Ohio State’s quarterback depth is low-key perilous at the moment, and as exciting as it is watching Martell run, Ohio State being one hit away from ‘Chris Chugunov, backup QB’ is a reality I don’t think any of us want to exist in.
We already know he can run, but can he continue the growth we saw in his 10-of-10 passing performance against Rutgers?
Jonathon Cooper gets his chance
There’s no getting around how much Nick Bosa’s absence affects the defense if he’s out long-term. He might be the best player in college football, and the prospect of going into Happy Valley without him is less than ideal. Don’t sleep on Jonathon Cooper, though.
Before and after Bosa’s injury, Cooper got major playing time, and not only flashed some playmaking ability, but also the patience to stay in position:
Cooper had his moments last season, and this will really be his first chance to prove he can play at a high level. Tulane’s triple option scheme won’t allow much opportunity to rush the passer, but I think he’ll have a standout game, and ease some of the worry about not having Bosa going forward.
Looking the part
Tulane is a 37-point underdog, and doesn’t have an advantage on any front, except for their uniforms, which are [scours dictionary] ICY:
If you’re going to get blown out, you might as well do it in style. As a uniform geek, I’m excited to see this beautiful look grace Ohio Stadium.
Why return punts when you can just...point at the ball?
WHAT IS THIS? SOMEONE EXPLAIN IT TO ME; I DON’T UNDERSTAND.
Despite recruiting at a clip higher than anyone except maybe the greatest dynasty in modern college football history, Ohio State is still struggling to find a punt returner capable of just catching the ball, much less gaining seven or eight yards a pop. (RIP the wild Jalin Marshall return era.)
It beats the fumble/run into each other strategy we saw in the Oregon State and Rutgers games, but it’d also be nice to see an actual return before the Penn State game.
The Nick Saban Special
When you play Tulane four weeks into the season —with Penn State next— there’s nothing to gain by leaving your starters in, and keeping your foot on the gas pedal for more than a half. The ideal scenario tomorrow is that we see a lot of this:
Ohio State can definitely drop 70 or 80 points on this defense if they want to, but my guess is that they’ll play this one smart, run the ball a lot, and keep it simple. It’ll probably make for a less entertaining game —and grumbling that it wasn’t a bigger blowout— but the healthier everyone stays for next week, the better.
That does it for this week’s I Got Five on it. I’ll be back next Friday with more bad photoshops and opinions, plus a preview Ohio State’s terror-inducing trip to Happy Valley.