“Appearing on ‘The DA Show’ on CBS Sports, [Braylon] Edwards scoffed at the idea that his alma mater was merely falling behind Ohio State. ‘Falling? We fell,’ Edwards said. ‘It’s past tense. We’re light years behind Ohio State right now.’”
The Game is one of, if not the, most heated rivalry in all of sports. Each and every year, a hatred-fueled battle between Ohio State and Michigan takes place at the conclusion of the regular season, usually with a trip to the Big Ten Championship on the line. However, the matchup has been incredibly one-sided for nearly the last two decades, as the Buckeyes have come away victorious in 14 of the last 15 meetings between the two schools. Braylon Edwards, a former standout wide receiver at Michigan and NFL Pro-Bowler, thinks he knows why.
Edwards feels that a big reason for the Wolverines’ struggles against Ohio State, mainly under Jim Harbaugh, comes down to preparation. “Three-hundred-sixty-five days a year, they are breathing, living, hating – they can’t even say our name. They hate us so much. When they go into that game, that’s that old-school, 1960s football, Friday Night Lights in Texas – that’s the atmosphere.” Edwards said in regards to Ohio State’s attitude towards the rivalry.
According to Edwards, Harbaugh told him a couple of years ago that he approaches the game against the Buckeyes as just another game. “I know it’s cliché to say you approach every team like you approach any other team. That’s B.S. You approach certain teams differently. We got to start approaching that game from the standpoint that they do.” Edwards said.
Coming into 2019, Harbaugh is 0-4 against Ohio State — the first coach in Michigan history to lose their first four games against the Scarlet and Gray. Many believed this to be the year the Wolverines absolutely have to find a way to win. With the Buckeyes debuting a new head coach and new quarterback, it seems as though if Harbaugh can’t figure it out this season, then when could he? Michigan was picked the favorite to win the Big Ten in the preseason, but with the Wolverines trending in the opposite direction, Harbaugh could very well find himself on the hot seat should he come up short yet again against Ohio State.
“Sometimes in drills we’ll throw different bags at his feet to make him feel that presence of a body right there. He’s come a long way continually building on that. But again, where he is right now is light years ahead of where I thought he’d be. We’ll just keep working those drills, and the more he feels comfortable, the better he’ll be”
While a former Michigan standout feels that his school is light years behind Ohio State, the Buckeyes’ head coach feels that his own quarterback is light years ahead at his position. Justin Fields came to Columbus with a ton of hype, and huge shoes to fill with the departure of Dwayne Haskins. Fields has done everything in his power to help his team succeed and more, and even still he will have a chance to get better as he continues to grow and get comfortable within the Buckeye offense.
Fields has come out of the gate hotter than anyone could have expected. The sophomore quarterback has completed over 70 percent of his passes through his first three games, throwing for 657 yards with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions, adding another 114 yards and four scores on the ground. By his own admission, Fields has been far from perfect, missing some open throws and making the wrong read at times. However, it is the obvious growth in such a short period of time that has been really impressive.
Despite only playing three games, and barely sniffing the fourth quarter in any of them, Fields has clearly already been working hard to fix some of his early flaws. In the first game of the season against Florida Atlantic, Fields was too quick to tuck and run, trying to pick up yards on the ground when his receivers weren’t immediately open. In just his third game, Fields has limited his running, instead keeping his eyes downfield while scrambling outside the pocket to find the open man — with great results.
It is not an overstatement to say that Fields has been brilliant for Ohio State. He is a very smart player, taking minimal risks and not forcing anything early in the season. He makes the occasional mistake, leaving some yards on the field against Indiana with a couple missed throws on seemingly easy opportunities. But, with only three games under his belt, Fields has shown tremendous promise and leadership. Buckeye fans should have no worries about their quarterback as he continues to grow and lead them into the meat of the regular season schedule.
“But it turns out all Ohio State needed was a healthy Teague, who has been one of the biggest surprises for the program over the first three games. The second-year tailback has not only staked a claim to the No. 2 job for the Buckeyes, his prolific outing last week at Indiana suggested that he might be ready for any kind of workload the offense needs from him.”
After a two-man show at running back in 2018, Ohio State entered this season with a clear every-down back in J.K. Dobbins. The controversy remained who would take hold of the job as the No. 2 guy for the job, with Demario McCall seemingly earning that spot as the year began. Now after three games, it is instead Master Teague, who sat out the majority of training camp with an injury, is ready to take over the reigns with authority.
Teague came to the Buckeyes as a four-star recruit in the 2018 cycle. The redshirt freshman is getting his first real chance to contribute, and boy is he making it count. Teague has ran the ball 29 times for 215 yards thus far — good for a 7.4 yard-per-carry average — including an impressive 40-yard touchdown run against Indiana. The second-year back came in as the relief to Dobbins after his 193-yard performance, and shined with 10 carries for 106 yards of his own.
Teague is one of the more surprising contributors for Ohio State in 2019, and could prove to be an incredibly valuable asset moving forward. If he can continue to produce at a high level, he is an excellent option for whenever Dobbins needs a breather. However outside of that, should Dobbins elect to enter the NFL Draft after this season (which he should), Teague could very well be the Buckeyes’ starting running back next year. The 2020 recruiting class has no RB commits, and so it would appear at this time to be Teague’s job to lose.