We’re almost there, folks. The moment we’ve been waiting for since Jan. 2. One of the greatest season openers in Ohio State history is just four days away, and with that comes an extreme amount of pressure. In fact, this entire season comes with a lot of pressure. Will the Buckeyes live up to expectations?
In my 20 years of life, I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for an Ohio State football season, nor have I heard this much chatter about a team. The talent is there. A revamped defense is there. An embarrassment of riches on offense? Oh yeah, that is most certainly there. There is no limit to how much success this team can experience. They could go undefeated and end the season with a ring and a Heisman finalist.
That’s the thing. It is almost expected that the Buckeyes win the Natty, have multiple Heisman finalists and one of them ending up hoisting it, a Biletnikoff winner (JSN) and Doak Walker award winner (TreVeyon Henderson). Plus, Jim Knowles put out there that he expects his defense to be top five in the nation after experiencing struggles last year. That’s a lot.
Accomplishing all of this is very feasible in my mind. As long as the team stays healthy and plays their game, not getting caught up in all of the hype, there is honestly no reason why these expectations can’t be met.
The common answer all offseason for these players has been to go 15-0 and win the national championship. These guys are extremely selfless. You haven’t heard one peep from Stroud talking about how he wants to win the Heisman, or the individual statistics that JSN or Henderson hope to reach. This team is all in, for each other — and I think that is the difference maker.
Last year, the team was obviously very talented. While the defense wasn’t the greatest, it was still a historic team. Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson did provide some veteran leadership, but it was a fairly young squad. Stroud and Henderson were both starters for the first time, JSN was breaking into his role, and the defense was pretty inexperienced.
Now, with a year of playing with each other under their belts, I see this season turning out very differently. From the Rose Bowl alone, it’s obvious that Stroud meshes well with all of his receivers. Clearly he demonstrated that with JSN all year long, but it was great to see him, Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka and Julian Fleming connect so well, even though it was their first time playing together in starting roles.
With the quarterback and the receivers comfortable with each other and the running back room probably being the best one-two punch in the nation, the offense is looking 100% solid. That leaves it up to the defense to ensure the team is completely qualified to make it all the way to the second week of January.
I got a good feeling about the D. Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau are going to be absolutely unreal as the bookends on the line. Sawyer has majorly bulked up in the offseason, and now with both of them in their second year, they have to feel more confident in their positions.
The secondary is looking mighty fine with the returns of Denzel Burke and Ronnie Hickman as well as the additions of transfer Tanner McCalister and freshman Sonny Styles. The linebacker room is also improved, with five-star recruit C.J. Hicks joining the team (finally— it’s been a long time coming) and Steele Chambers working with Knowles.
This is an experienced team, guided by one of the best coaching staffs in the nation. They weren’t satisfied with last year’s finish and are hungry to win it all this season. I don’t think anything, not even the amount of pressure they are under, will cause them to falter.