Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
Today’s Question: What player is most likely to surprise us on Saturday?
Jami’s Take: Denzel Burke
Cornerback Denzel Burke has had a rough season so far, but that hasn’t deterred the coaches from reiterating time and again how much confidence they have in him and how talented he is.
We know the talent is there – he was OSU’s top cover cornerback in his breakout 2021 freshman season. But until now, Burke has been hampered by injuries – first in the preseason and then a hand injury right before conference play. As you can probably guess, a hand injury for a corner is enough to scare anyone this Halloween weekend.
But Burke’s cast was off against Iowa, and both Ryan Day and Jim Knowles have continued to stand behind him, expressing how competitive he is and how much respect they have for his grit in the face of his setbacks.
Saturday’s game against No. 13 Penn State will be his chance to prove it. Don’t call it a comeback, but if you’re going to turn things around after an up and down start, a huge road game against a ranked opponent would be a good time to do so. Keep an eye on Burke to come out of the rut and surprise the naysayers who claim last season was a fluke.
Burke’s hand injury has caused him to struggle with man-to-man coverage on receivers, something that will be critical if we’re going to beat the Nittany Lions on Saturday.
But whether we’ve played football or not, how many of us have stepped up in life when it really mattered because someone we admired had faith in us? Day and Knowles have continued to support and encourage him, and I think they believe he will pull things off on Saturday. So why shouldn’t we? Neither have led us astray so far this season.
The beauty of a scattered first half is that Burke has nowhere to go but up. And he has proven he’s capable – last season didn’t seem like a blip, where the guy was just playing out of his mind in a way that can’t be replicated. No – it reflected consistency, focus. And those are the traits that help someone come out of a slump.
Knowles has been vocal about the fact that Burke has shown tremendous grit despite a challenging injury and that he stands by the fact that Burke deserves to work through those challenges. And Day has mentioned that Burke’s been on top of the plays but has struggled to finish the job this season, and that’s where they’ve been focusing. He’s almost there so much of the time, but we know almost isn’t good enough against a ranked opponent – it’s not even good enough against the likes of lesser teams.
Now, against the Nittany Lions, I expect he’s going to zero in and make sure the job gets done. He certainly has the confidence of his coaches and teammates behind him.
Injuries can be fickle, so all of this is assuming his hand is really back to normal and that he won’t hold back in fear of re-injury. But the Buckeyes lack depth at cornerback, and Cam Brown will likely be out again. So the pressure is on for Burke to step up, and I believe he has the drive to prove to himself, his coaches, his teammates, and the rest of us plebeians what he is really capable of.
Matt’s Take: Miyan Williams
I suppose the answer to this question depends on your definition of surprise. Given his level of production this year, I don’t think it is necessarily going out on a limb to say that Miyan Williams could have a big game during any given week. However, considering that he missed the Michigan State game due to injury and then after an off week, only managed 19 yards on 10 carries against Iowa, picking him to break out against the Nits does feel a bit adventurous.
But, when you take a look at PSU’s only loss of the season — a 41-17 drubbing at the hands of TTUN — the Weasels’ running backs absolutely dominated the game. While Blake Corum was steady — going for 166 yards on 28 carries — it was Donovan Edwards who stole the show, ripping off 10.8 yards per carry for 173 yards. Both backs were added by 60+ yard runs.
Now, Edwards and Williams are two very different backs, but they do have something fairly similar in common, their yards per carry average. Technically, Miyan leads the Big Ten with a 6.97 average, but Edwards is averaging 7.1 yards, though he doesn’t have enough carries on the year to officially qualify.
The Nits’ secondary is very good, and while I don’t think that there is a team outside the NFL that can completely shut down the Buckeyes’ passing game, I do think that they will be able to stymie them more than anyone else thus far this season.
So, on the assumption that Williams — and TreVeyon Henderson — are healthy for Saturday’s game, I can envision Ryan Day leaning heavily on the running game. Penn State is 10th in the conference in terms of rushing yards allowed per game at 140.29 — although their pass defense is only ninth in the league at 232.9.
The Hawkeyes completely shut down the Buckeye running game by loading the box in an effort to not give quarterback C.J. Stroud enough time to get through his progressions, and it worked in the first half. I don’t imagine that PSU will go that far, because of their talent on the backend. So, I imagine that the OSU backs will have a bit more room to run than they did last week, and given what we’ve seen from Chop in the past, he’s probably angry about his production last week, and opposing defenses wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
Far be it for me to ever thank the Corn and Blue for anything, but I think that the Harboys might have just given the Buckeyes a roadmap to beating their Big Ten East rivals this week.
Who has the right answer to today’s question?
This poll is closed
Jami: Denzel Burke
Matt: Miyan Williams