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Column: It’s gonna take Ohio State time to reach peak performance

They probably won’t be a finely oiled machine on Oct. 24, but they could be an adequately oiled contraption.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma 35, Kansas State 38

Oklahoma 30, Iowa State 37

Iowa State 14, Louisiana 31

Texas 31, TCU 33

UCF 26, Tulsa 34

LSU 34, Mississippi St. 44

Mississippi St. 14, Arkansas 21

These are just a handful of upsets that have happened to ranked teams so far in the 2020 college football season. This, of course, is not to mention the near misses — heavy favorites squeaking by against teams that you would have expected them to blow out.

While obviously there are major upsets practically every week during a normal college football season, that’s one of the reasons that we love this messy, bass-ackwards sport — things just feel weirder in the early goings of this year. Sure, it is probably at least partially due to the Big Ten and Pac-12 not yet playing, but with all of the confusion and uncertainty brought on by COVID-19, it just feels like there is a much bigger gap than normal between where we expect teams to be at the beginning of the season, and where they actually are.

Even the traditional big dogs like Alabama and Clemson have been winning, but not necessarily in the manner in which you would expect them to in the before times. The Tide let Missouri make their game semi-respectable in the second half, while Virginia kept it close with Dabo’s boys. Now, this is not to say that ‘Bama and/or Clemson aren’t good. This is just to remind you that without a camp this spring, with an awkward version this fall, and without a non-conference season, it might take some time for the Buckeyes to get into their peak form.

By the time Ohio State faces off against Nebraska on Oct. 24, it will have been 301 days since the last time that Ryan Day’s team took to the field for a game. Also, they will have only been practicing in pads for 24 days, and even then, they are spending roughly a week to ramp up to going full-speed and full-contact.

So, with 20 days until kickoff, I am mentally preparing myself for the eventuality that as good as the Buckeyes are, they probably aren’t going to be a finely oiled machine when they finally get back to action. They might be an adequately oiled contraption, but based on what we’ve seen from other teams this season — including some of those that I expected OSU to be competing against for a playoff berth — they’re going to need an adjustment period.

Now, I don’t think that this manifests itself in an Ohio State loss, or in any real danger for the Buckeyes, but I do think that it will be important to keep in the back of our collective, Buckeye Nation mind if tackling isn’t great against the Huskers, or if Justin Fields’ timing isn’t perfect with the young receivers against the Nits on Halloween.

The things that are normally worked out and developed in the spring, during fall camp, or against Bowling Green and Akron will have to be handled against Big Ten opponents. Fortunately for OSU, save Week 2 against Penn State, they should have plenty of time to get into mid-season form as they play the B1G also-rans until December hits (although I’ve got my eye on the Indiana Hoosiers on Nov. 21).

So, as I mentioned in yesterday’s column, don’t freak out if they don’t look national title-ready from Day 1, literally no one else has. While the season is only going to be nine weeks long this year, there is plenty of time for them to get things worked out; just realize that it’s probably not going to happen before they kick off at noon on the 24th.


After some unexpected start and stops, I am back to posting a column every single day from preseason camp until whenever Ohio State’s football season ends. Some days they will be longer and in depth, some days they will be short and sweet. Let me know what you think of this one, and what you’d like to see me discuss in the comments or on Twitter. Go Bucks!