I want to start this week’s I Got 5 on it with an apology.
This column has been C-grade all season, and I’m sorry. Each has been rushed and poorly thought out. My writing’s been bland. Creativity’s lacked.
The usual insanity I’ve brought to this column for the last three seasons has been missing. I’ve made zero Michigan photoshops, despite all the hilarious content they’ve gifted us. There’s been no Dwayne Haskins throwing blue shells at Bowser’s castle, the ghost of Joe Bauserman lingering in Nebraska, or even J.K. Dobbins as Sam Fisher. It’s been “five things I’m watching for” and that’s it. It’s been bothering me, and I needed to get that out there.
Starting today, I’m doing less of that, and getting back to more of this:
I really was out of control last season pic.twitter.com/K5WOikQPex— Colton Denning (@Dubsco) September 26, 2019
Whether that’s actually good or not is up to you, but for selfish purposes, I feel like this column is at its best when we go off the rails. That’s the goal for the rest of the season.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about Ohio State’s fairly significant game tomorrow night at Nebraska. How you feel about this game probably depends on how convinced you are that the Buckeyes are one of the two best teams in the country, and also how convinced you are that this isn’t going to happen again:
I’ll expand on the latter in a bit, but this is a great test for Ohio State. Nebraska’s the best/most talented team they’ve played so far, and the environment’s gonna be lit. Memorial Stadium in primetime is always tough—except that one time— and College Gameday’s appearance for the first time in 12 years takes it up another level.
Kicking Indiana’s ass in their house was impressive, but this is a different beast. How will Ryan Day manage the game ? Will Justin Fields finally look like a young quarterback? Can this team handle adversity if the game is close in the second half? Find out on the next episode of Dragonba-
Here are my five thoughts on this game:
Justin Fields: Blastoise?
Last week on the Hangout in the Holy Land, I mentioned thinking that Fields is the quarterback version of Wartortle right now. (If you don’t know who Wartortle is; I’m sorry- please skip this section). Much like Wartortle, Fields is in stage two of his evolution. They’re both extremely athletic, accurate, have a cool shell/helmet, and aren’t quite at their ceiling yet.
Don’t get it twisted, Fields has been fantastic. The athleticism and arm are unreal, and the decision making is far ahead of what you’d expect for such a young quarterback. It’s also fair to acknowledge that the competition hasn’t been the greatest, and there’s still room to grow in certain areas (Pocket awareness, high throws). Tomorrow is an important step in scratching that ceiling.
Nebraska’s defense can pressure the QB (34th in sack rate, 19th in total sacks), and are talented enough to speed up Fields’ decision making more than any group he’s seen yet. Add in the most hostile environment he’s ever started in, plus the atmosphere of the whole game, and we’re going to learn a lot about where he’s is truly at. I think he takes the next step, and it looks something like this:
Let’s talk about it
I mentioned the Purdue/Iowa games in the intro, and you can’t tell me it hasn’t at least crossed your mind. Top-5 Ohio State team on the road. Hostile crowd. Badass freshman receiver on the other side. Could the unthinkable happen for the third straight year?
As great as the last two seasons have been, those two losses made a 25-3 overall record about as bittersweet as it can be. Both were College Football Playoff killers, and ultimately have held Ohio State back from proving that they’re on the same level as Clemson and Alabama. Neither of those teams lose games like that, and this is Ryan Day’s first chance to prove that his Ohio State doesn’t, either.
I said all offseason that I think those type of losses went out the door when Urban Meyer retired. As great as he was, something about his coaching style the last two seasons directly led to those embarrassing losses. I don’t foresee that happening with Day, especially in year one. (You can send all angry tweets about that statement to me on Twitter at @Patrick_Mayhorn. Thank you.)
Winning tomorrow doesn’t mean Ohio State won’t/can’t lose to a team they’re better than. College football is weird. Losses happen. Winning proves to me is that the lapses in coaching we’ve seen the past two —and if we’re being honest, four— seasons are probably a thing of the past. It proves that this is a team that can get back to taking care of business when they should, like the two programs above of them routinely do.
Less is more
Me if Ohio State ever has more than two linebackers on the field on anything but third and short tomorrow:
Do you think this is good company for Nebrask?
Literally one FBS team has turned the ball over more than them this season. 11 turnovers in four games, including four last week at Illinois. Five of those are fumbles by quarterback Adrian Martinez. Here’s a live look at Chase Young:
Fumble luck is wonky, but the clearest path to Ohio State putting this game away ASAP is by pressuring Martinez, and forcing him into mistakes. He’s supremely talented, but he’s also proven to be very loose with the ball. A couple of early turnovers could turn this game into a runaway, quickly.
Gotta catch ‘em all
The receivers have been so good this season that I think they deserve their own Pokémon comparisons:
Chris Olave - Arcanine: There’s something distinguished about both Arcanine and Olave. They’ll both also burn the hell out of you. (Arcanine would be great on special-teams).
Garrett Wilson - Jolteon: Obviously.
Binjimen Victor - Scyther: Tall and lanky, going to cut you to shreds.
Austin Mack - Marowak: Marowak is 100% not afraid to go over the middle.
Jameson Williams - Rapidash: Pure speed.
KJ Hill - Flareon: Dependable. Flareon would also be a hell of a slot receiver.
That’s it for this week’s I Got 5 on it. Come back next week for less Pokémon photoshops, but more special teams talk since Michigan State is on the schedule. Also tune in to the Hangout in the Holy Land recap podcast for my breakdown of whatever happens tomorrow.
This game should be a lot of fun. Ohio State’s got a great opportunity to show that the 2019 group can operate at a high level in a tough environment, and prove that they’ve evolved from the mistakes they’ve made the past two seasons in similar situations.