Despite the fact that a global pandemic threatened the Big Ten season, and that other conferences have already been playing for a month or more, on Saturday, the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes will host the Nebraska Cornhuskers in both teams’ season opener at 12 noon ET.
With so much changing in and around the Ohio State program, we decided to provide you with a handy list of everything that you need to know about the 2020 Ohio State Buckeyes, from A to Z!
A is for Almost Here
After the longest and most bizarre offseason in the history of college football, the Ohio State Buckeyes will finally start their 2020 season in just over three and a half days. Given the rollercoaster that the team has been through over the last two and a half months, when the team finally runs out onto the Ohio Stadium field in their scarlet uniforms on Saturday, I imagine that it will be as emotional that fans and players will have been for a season opener in years. For all of the starts and stops, protests and petitions, opt-outs and opt-ins, it’s nice to finally be ready for some football. — Matt Tamanini
B is for Best Damn Band
Ohio State football and the legendary Ohio State marching band go hand-in-hand, and while the Pride of the Buckeyes will in fact be a part of football Saturdays this fall, it will not be in the way that we are used to seeing them. Unfortunately, due to the attendance restrictions and health concerns surrounding football games, The Best Damn Band in the Land will not be in The ‘Shoe for home games this season, but instead you can watch pre-recorded pregame and halftime performances online, created specifically for each game. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. — Connor Lemons and Matt Tamanini
C is for COVID-19
Obviously, the reason that things have been so out of whack this offseason is a result of the global pandemic that we are still fighting across the country. The Big Ten seems to be going about it in the most stringent of ways to ensure all of the players and coaches stay safe, with daily rapid testing and strict protocols across the conference. In theory, this should give the B1G the best chance at playing through a whole season without interruptions. — Gene Ross
D is for Defense
I don't know if you guys have been watching the rest of the college football world leading up to Ohio State’s season opener, but I'll tell ya what: defense — it’s been bad. The Big 12, a conference usually known for its poor play on defense, has been somehow even worse as the majority of teams in the league are now incapable of tackling. Even the SEC looks a bit slow defensively, with LSU allowing over 600 passing yards to Mississippi State and Alabama letting up 48 points to Ole Miss. We’ll see if the Big Ten, a conference notorious for being defense-oriented, can put up a better showing, or if the choppy start-and-stop offseason has just made it impossible for defenses to compete in 2020. — Gene Ross
E is for Empty
As in stadiums. This season, there will be no fans in attendance at Ohio Stadium for the Buckeyes’ four home games against Nebraska, Rutgers, Indiana and Michigan (though fans can purchase cutouts to sit in their place if they want). It’ll be a different atmosphere, certainly, for opponents who are used to the raucous crown the Horseshoe brings to bear on normal fall Saturdays. For the Buckeyes, the quiet should be a similar noise level to what they see at the Big House every other year, and Ohio State already tends to do pretty well there. — Meredith Hein
F is for Fields
Junior quarterback Justin Fields had a phenomenal season in his inaugural year as a starter in 2019, when he tossed 41 touchdowns with just three (THREE!) picks. Now, heading into 2020, Fields looks to defend his Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year title. Despite losing a set of veteran receivers, including all-time career receptions leader K.J. Hill, Fields will have plenty of weapons at his disposal, including a quartet of four and five-star true freshmen wide outs along with veterans Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. — Meredith Hein
G is for Garrett
As football fans, we are used to players being sidelined with injuries. ACL tears, concussions, ankle sprains are all unfortunate, but commonplace things that we are accustomed to seeing athletes deal with. What we are not accustomed to is a player being literally shot in the face, and yet still working out with the team less than a month later.
According to police reports, OSU defensive tackle Haskell Garrett attempted to intervene when he witnessed a man getting physical with a woman during an argument. The man pulled a gun and shot Garrett in the cheek. The 6-foot-2, 299 pounder spent two days in the hospital, but shortly after returned to his team.
While he has yet to be cleared to return to practice, the senior’s presence will certainly be a source of motivation for the rest of his teammates, and it does seem like he fully intends to play again this season.
H is for Hang 100, on ‘Em
Before the B1G initially cancelled the fall season, things reportedly got frisky on a coach’s conference call between Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and OSU’s Ryan Day. This prompted the Buckeyes’ head man to tell his team that they would be looking to “hang 100” on TTUN this fall. From your mouth to Woody’s ears, Ryan.
To commemorate the historic declaration, we designed a special t-shirt that you can order today. Be the envy of all of your friends when you are rocking this bad boy on your virtual, socially-distanced The Game watch party in December!
— Matt Tamanini
I is for Intensity
Kerry Coombs is back. Need I say more? — Matt Tamanini
J is for Juiceman
I don't know about ya’ll, but I am super excited for Jameson Williams, aka “The Juiceman.” We got a very small glimpse into what the speedy wideout is capable of last year, but I think that he’s going to make an even bigger impact this season than people think. He’s fun, he’s got wheels, and I’m ready for much more of this:
— Gene Ross
K is for Kicking
Ohio State is fortunate to be bringing back its specialists from last season, namely Drue Chrisman at punter and Blake Haubeil at kicker. Haubeil connected on 87% of his field goal attempts last season and 100% of his extra points. In particular, Haubeil was 4-for-4 on field goal attempts of greater than 40 yards. Chrisman, meanwhile, is entering his senior season in Columbus and third as a starter. Chrisman has a career average of 44 yards per punt, which is good for fifth in program history. — Meredith Hein
L is for Losses
L is for losses, and I do not think that there will be any for the Buckeyes this season, especially not during the regular season. — Matt Tamanini
M is for Munford and Sons (see what I did there)
Ohio State has no shortage of elite skill players on offense this season, but a team is only as good as its offensive line. You can’t win football games unless you can win in the trenches, and luckily for the Buckeyes, they probably have one of the best offensive lines in the country this year. They return incredibly talented starters in Thayer Munford, Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis, and joining them are a pair of former five-star prospects in Harry Miller and Nicholas Petit-Frere. The running backs should have some big gaps to hit, and Justin Fields should have all day to throw. — Gene Ross
N is for Nine
Which is how many times in a row Ohio State will have beaten TTUN once the Buckeyes dispatch the Wolverines on Dec. 12. — Connor Lemons
O is for Ohio
As you would imagine, it has been super important for Ohio State to recruit within its own backyard given all of the talent that exists in the Buckeye state. This year’s roster contains 54 players from Ohio, however, exactly half of them are walk-ons. The Buckeyes have had really good success specifically at finding offensive lineman within the state, with Thayer Munford and Josh Myers as well as five-star freshman Paris Johnson Jr. all being in-state prospects. A few other Ohio guys among this year’s starters include Jonathon Cooper, Luke Farrell and Zach Harrison. — Gene Ross
P is for Playoff
We’ve got a whole (well, eight-game) regular season ahead of us before we get there, but why not start thinking about playoff projections? With Ohio State as the favorite for the Big Ten title in 2020, and the fact that the Big 12 seems to be playing even less defense than usual this year, it would seem that the Buckeyes have a pretty darn high chance of making the College Football Playoff for the fourth time. Clemson and Alabama look to be favorites, with Ohio State and Georgia rounding out many of the early picks. However, given UGA’s loss to the Tide last weekend, that fourth spot is currently up for grabs. — Meredith Hein
Q is for Quarterback Depth
Last year when I wrote about Quarterback Depth for our ABCs article, I started the blurb by saying that OSU didn’t have any. This year, that is not the case. While Justin Fields still doesn’t have a backup with any substantive experience, he does have a few with some legitimate talent.
I imagine that Kentucky transfer (and Ohio State legacy) Gunnar Hoak will be the No. 2 QB on the depth chart, but the story will really be about who gets more game action between true freshmen C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller. Stroud ended his recruitment as the No. 42 player in the country, and before a series of injuries derailed his final high school season, Miller was one of the most highly-rated QBs in the country.
The presumption has been that Stroud will be the one to get on the field first, since Miller hasn’t played football in over a year, but OSU’s coaches have said that he is 100% healthy, meaning that not only does Fields have a veteran behind him in Hoak, but he’s got two talented freshman ready to step in as needed as well. — Matt Tamanini
R is for Ryan Day
Coming in and filling the shoes of a college football coaching legend is not the easiest thing in the world to do, but could anyone have asked more from Ryan Day in year one? The first-year head coach dominated every opponent in the regular season en route to the College Football Playoff, and was a few plays and questionable officiating decisions away from competing for a national title. On top of that, he has been a role model off of the field, fighting alongside his players both in the social justice movement and to reinstate the season. We are very lucky to have Ryan Day at the helm in Columbus. — Gene Ross
S is for Splitting Carries
J.K. Dobbins did it all for Ohio State last season as a true bell-cow running back. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, Dobby is off to the NFL, but they do have a pair of talented ball-carries in Trey Sermon and Master Teague. Both coming off injuries, the two guys are expected to split carries to begin the year, and I suspect it will go much better than the last time OSU attempted to share the workload between two RBs. — Gene Ross
T is for Tailgating
Another unfortunate casualty of attendance restrictions around games this fall is the fact that tailgating will not be permitted on campus. The OSU athletic department said earlier this week that campus police will be patrolling on game day and asking anyone who is congregating to leave, and if they refuse, the tailgaters will be given a ticket. It’s probably best to just watch the games at home this year fam. The food and beer is cheaper there anyway! — Matt Tamanini
U is for Unprecedented
When the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin 34-21 in last year’s Big Ten Championship Game, they became the first team in the conference’s long and storied history to achieve an unprecedented feat: win three-consecutive outright conference titles. Fielding Yost never did it. Woody Hayes never did it. Bo Schembechler never did it. Jim Tressel never did it.
So, as the undisputed favorites to win the league title for a fourth time in a row, Day and his team have the opportunity to continue to write their own history. — Matt Tamanini
V is for Vincent
One of Ohio State’s mottos, for as long as I can remember, has always been, “We don’t rebuild, we reload.” And that is certainly true with this team. However, there is one position group that has been especially struck by injuries and is now unusually thin, and that’s the interior defensive line.
Tommy Togiai seems like he is now a lock to start at tackle, but due to Haskell Garrett’s unavailability and Taron Vincent’s continued struggles to return from a shoulder injury, who else will be playing along side of him is still a bit of a mystery. Vincent — a former five-star, top-20 recruit — missed all of last season, but is still not guaranteed to return for the season opener, leaving coach Larry Johnson without the depth that he normally relies on to rotate his players freely.
However, should Vincent be healthy enough to play on Saturday against Nebraska — or at any point early in the season — that would be a huge, talented addition to a spot on the Buckeye defense that desperately needs it. — Matt Tamanini
W is for Wyatt and Wade
One of the best parts about Big Ten football returning this fall is that Ohio State OL Wyatt Davis and CB Shaun Wade also opted to return to Columbus after initially opting out. Both Davis and Wade are projected as two of the top players at their respective positions in the 2021 NFL Draft, and neither would have had to have played a single snap this season to solidify their draft stock. But, it says something about the culture that Ryan Day is building in Columbus that both chose to come back for one more season. — Meredith Hein
X is for X marks The Spot
And the spot was good. — Tia Johnston
Y is for Youngsters
Ohio State will be set at wide receiver this season with Jameson Williams, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave eating up most of the first-team snaps, but the Buckeyes have an embarrassment of freshman WR’s as well. Julian Fleming, Mookie Cooper, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Gee Scott Jr. are all top-100 recruits in the 2020 class, and all four are top-20 wideouts in their class. Ohio State is loaded at wide receiver this year, and it’ll stay that way for the foreseeable future. — Connor Lemons
Z is for Zebras
I am not generally one to complain about officiating. I think that bad calls tend to even out in a game, and especially in a season, so getting hung up on one specific call — or one poorly called game — isn’t usually worth the effort. I am also very much against the “Refs Hate Ohio State” conspiracy theory.
But, the officiating in December’s Fiesta Bowl was horrendous. There was about a half dozen major calls that all broke against the Buckeyes for reasons that seemingly defied logic and the rules of college football. Again, I’m not sporting a tin-foil hat about this, but if I am going to believe in the law of averages, the football gods are going to owe Ryan Day some pretty substantial make up calls in some key spots this season. — Matt Tamanini