This week at LGHL, we have taken a look through the record books at some of the most impressive marks in Ohio State history. Some records will stand the test of time, as the college football game has changed drastically through the years and is almost an entirely different sport than it was back in the day. However, some records are very attainable, and there are a few that could certainly be broken during the 2021 season if this team lives up to its lofty expectations.
If you listened to this week’s Hangout in the Holy Land, you would have heard Josh and I wax poetic about Chris Olave. Now a senior, the star wideout is a veteran of 27 games played in his career with the Buckeyes, amassing nearly 1,800 receiving yards on 110 catches with 22 touchdowns. While the nation’s best returning wide receiver probably won’t quite reach the Ohio State career receiving yards record — set by Michael Jenkins’ 2,898 yards from 2000-03 — barring an 1,100 yard season (which, to be honest, isn’t entirely unrealistic), as you heard Josh and I discuss on the pod, the career touchdowns mark is very much in reach.
The Ohio State record for career touchdown receptions is 34, set by David Boston from 1996-98. Chris Olave sits just 12 behind that mark, and has already had a 12-touchdown campaign back when the Buckeyes played their last full season of football in 2019. In fact, if it weren’t for the pandemic-shortened campaign in 2020, Olave would probably top the program record books across nearly every statistical category.
It is actually quite impressive to see what Olave was able to do despite the half-season last year. After racking up 840 yards and 12 scores over 13 games in 2019, he still managed to total 729 yards and seven touchdowns over only seven games in 2020. While Olave was a special talent right from the beginning, as we all remember his spectacular game against Michigan as a freshman wherein he hauled in two touchdowns and blocked a punt, we really saw him grow into a true superstar over these last two seasons.
Olave is one of the smoothest receivers Ohio State has seen take the field since Michael Thomas. A spectacular route runner, the 6-foot-1 pass-catcher has a knack for getting open and creating separation from opposing defensive backs. On top of his crazy athleticism and football IQ, Olave also features one of the sturdiest set of hands on the team, making him a perfect go-to option for whoever starts at quarterback this season whenever they find themselves in trouble. He is also very adept at keeping plays alive, as we saw him continue to try and get open when Justin Fields was forced to scramble, resulting in a number of completions that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
At the very least this season, Ohio State is scheduled to play 12 games, with a 13th almost certainly on the table given the Buckeyes make the Big Ten title game/a postseason bowl. If Ohio State makes the College Football Playoff, which most people expect them to, it would give them a 14th game, and a trip to the National Championship would be a total of 15 games played. Obviously, if everything goes wrong and OSU somehow only plays 12 games, Olave would need to average one touchdown per game. If they play the max of 15, he would need to average just 0.8 touchdowns per game.
Ohio State’s schedule this season does not start out in the simplest of ways, with a Thursday night trip to Minnesota to kick things off followed by a marquee matchup against Oregon in the home opener. However, they then begin a stretch of four games against Tulsa, Akron, Rutgers and Maryland before their off week. Obviously, matchups of that caliber provide the opportunity for multiple-touchdown games for Olave, a feat he has accomplished seven times during his stint in Columbus. If Olave is able to match his three two-touchdown games he had during the 2019 campaign, he would need to average just 0.67 TDs per game in the other nine regular season contests, or one TD every other game if they go all the way.
None of those sound like super difficult marks to accomplish, but he will have the added hurdle of playing next to another stud wide receiver in Garrett Wilson — bad for Olave’s record chase, but excellent for Ohio State. However, I think there is also a chance that we see the first-ever season in Buckeyes history with two 1,000-yard receivers on the same team between Olave and Wilson.
During Olave’s best season in 2019, Justin Fields had a ton of receivers to throw the ball to. K.J. Hill, Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack and Jameson Williams were all legitimate options next to Olave and Wilson that saw a ton of playing time. While Ohio State’s wide receiver room is probably deeper than ever, none of those guys had really separated from the pack as much as Olave and Wilson have this season, so I would expect those two to get the lion’s share of targets in 2021 — especially as Ohio State looks to break in a new QB. Olave and Wilson combined for 78 of Fields’ 238 completions that season, or 33%. I would expect the duo to be much closer to 50% of this year’s quarterback’s total completions, if not more, so the opportunities will be aplenty.
If there is one position to have zero worries about heading into this upcoming season, wide receiver is definitely the one. The Buckeyes are loaded with talent thanks to the recruiting chops of Brian Hartline, and the two guys at the top of the depth chart in Olave and Wilson are looked at as two of the best wide receivers not only in Columbus, but in the college football world as a whole. Chris Olave will be WR1 for Ohio State this season, and as the most established guy in the room thus far, he will have a very good shot at cementing himself in the Buckeyes’ record book at season’s end.