From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about our Biggest Concerns. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our Biggest Concerns here.
Around this time of year, it usually sinks in that there isn’t a whole lot going on with Ohio State athletics until preseason camp for the football team, which signifies the college football season is just around the corner. Here at Land-Grant Holy Land, we have come up with some theme weeks to get us through the spring and summer. The first of those theme weeks is our “Biggest Concerns” for the upcoming season.
Since Ohio State fans have no problem with taking the smallest problem and blowing it totally out of proportion, we figure that coming up with topics that are concerning should come easy for Buckeye Nation. Today we are going to focus on the schedule for the upcoming Ohio State football season. If the Buckeyes want to return to the College Football Playoff for a second consecutive season, they’ll have to navigate a schedule that does have some tough games on it.
Not only will Ohio State have to take a non-conference trip to South Bend at the end of September, they’ll also be tasked with going to Purdue, which always seems to be a house of horrors for the Buckeyes. This year will also see Ohio State head to Madison to take on Wisconsin under new head coach Luke Fickell. As if some of those matchups weren’t cause for concern, Ryan Day will take his team to Ann Arbor at the end of November to try and avoid three straight losses to Michigan.
Today’s question: Which game on Ohio State’s schedule this year causes the biggest concern?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: Notre Dame
Obviously I’m worried about the Michigan game, but the game that concerns me the most is at the end of September when the Buckeyes hit the road to take on Notre Dame. While I know Ohio State opens up the season on the road against Indiana, this is going to be the first true road game for expected starting quarterback Kyle McCord. The game against the Hoosiers on Labor Day weekend doesn’t really count as a road game to me since Memorial Stadium in Bloomington is usually filled with Ohio State fans.
Unlike last year when Ohio State’s defense was able to handle new starting quarterback Tyler Buchner, this year they’ll face a tougher challenge in Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman. While it remains to be seen if Hartman will be able to put up numbers like we saw from him in the Demon Deacons offense, he won’t be nearly as flustered as Buchner was in Ohio Stadium last September. Hartman will be able to capitalize on any holes he finds in an Ohio State defense that still has plenty of questions to answer in the second year under defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
Another reason why this game is so concerning for me is it will be Marcus Freeman’s second season as Notre Dame’s head coach. Last year Freeman’s first true game as head coach came against his alma mater. Not only did Freeman have to worry about returning to where he played college football in a primetime game on the season’s opening weekend, it was his first real game as the head coach of one of the most prestigious programs in the nation. This year Freeman should be a lot more comfortable on the sidelines, especially with this year’s game coming a few weeks into the season, when he will have had time to get a look at his team and make some adjustments.
While I still think Ohio State wins this game since they have one of the best offensive units in the country, the Buckeyes are going to be tested by a Notre Dame team that is going to want revenge for the loss in Columbus last season. This is the type of game that can really bring Ohio State together with a win on the road in a tough environment, or it could be the type of loss that shows some bigger cracks in the foundation of what Ryan Day is trying to build with this team.
Matt’s answer: Michigan
I appreciate Brett taking the non-conference marquee matchup so that I can have the obvious answer here, The Game. For the better part of two decades, Ohio State fans have been rightly able to puff out their chests and lord their dominance over their rivals. But I don’t need to tell you that the tide has changed in the last two seasons with the Buckeyes suffering demoralizing losses in back-to-back seasons.
This game is always the most important of the season and therefore comes with the biggest concerns, but when you factor in that this year’s contest will be in Ann Arbor, no one knows what Ohio State’s quarterbacking situation will look like, and the Buckeyes’ biggest question is on the offensive line, the concerns are quickly becoming existential.
OSU has been beaten in the trenches each of the last two seasons by the Wolverines, and while I think there is ample reason to be optimistic about the defensive line this season, the offensive line continues to be the team’s biggest concern. There is a lot of time between now and Saturday, Nov. 25, but looking at the matchup now, having Jesse Minter’s aggressive defense bearing down on a thin, patchwork Ohio State line is already giving me agita.
Ryan Day is not on the hot seat in any way, shape, or form, at least not with the people making the hiring and firing decisions. And I think that the fact that the Buckeyes were arguably one play away from winning a national championship last season probably means that short of an absolute collapse, few fans will be calling for him to be relieved of his duties. However, if the head coach drops his third straight to Jim Harbaugh after the program had only lost twice in the 21st Century prior to 2021, there will undoubtedly be people marching over to the Woody with torches and pitchforks.
It is also difficult to maintain a recruiting advantage over your rival when you keep losing to them on the field. Currently, TTUN has the No. 1 team in the 2024 recruiting rankings, though Ohio State is No. 2 and far ahead in terms of average player rating. But, another blow to the Buckeyes’ air of superiority could shift the balance in the rivalry and the Big Ten.
Again, we are a long way away from The Game itself, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be worried about it for the next 207 days.