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 players to watch this upcoming season. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”What If?” articles here.
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 if Ohio State could bring back any alum for this year’s Michigan game?
Jami’s Take: Nick Bosa
By all measures, Ohio State football is stacked at defensive end this season, with juniors J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer projected to start, supported by a treasure trove of backups including sophomores Caden Curry, Kenyatta Jackson, and Omari Abor.
So why on earth would I worry about this position when there are so many other brilliant positions I could fill with alums?
Because the biggest issue we have on defense is consistency. The talent is there, but the execution changes day to day.
Tuimoloau, for example, shone bright in the Penn State game, logging six tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble and fumble recovery (pauses to take a deep breath), and a touchdown. In one game. I mean, these are absolutely lights-out numbers in every column. It was one of the greatest defensive performances ever by a defensive lineman.
Now, I’m not worried about Tuimoloau, even in the Michigan game. I trust the consistency is something that’s been worked on in the off-season, and he’s someone I want on the field as a leader in the Michigan game.
But for the Michigan game — and the Michigan game ONLY — I’d bring in Nick Bosa to start alongside Tuimoloau.
Sawyer, for his part, spent much of last season adjusting. When Mitchell Melton suffered a season-ending injury, Sawyer stepped in to fill the “Jack” position, a hybrid role between defensive end and linebacker, more than any other player on the team. While it wasn’t used all the time, defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has said this shift prevented Sawyer from really improving last season.
Now Sawyer — and the backups — are all players I trust to get the job done this Fall, and I do think Sawyer will make up for lost time on the improvement front in the games leading up to Michigan. Certainly, the gap is not due to lack of talent.
But as Tuimoloau himself said after OSU’s loss to Michigan last season, “In big games like this, it’s the little things.”
And since I cannot physically stomach another loss to Michigan, I’m calling in Nick Bosa to make sure he and Tuimoloau can take care of the big things.
During Bosa’s time as a Buckeye, he secured his spot as one of the all-time great defensive linemen. Accolades and honors rolled in — and so much of it was due to Bosa’s execution. By the 2018 season, he was considered by some to be the best player in all of college football before a core muscle injury in the TCU game (just the third game of the year) ended his season.
Now about to enter his fifth season with the San Francisco 49ers, Bosa is still in playing shape — so much so that he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year at the end of last season.
Keep in mind, if we were adding one alumnus back in for the entire season, this is not the choice I would make. But because it is only for this one very high-stakes game — a game the Buckeyes have to travel to Ann Arbor for — I want the reassurance that we’ve got an extra playmaker on defense.
It wasn’t that the defensive ends were the big defensive gap in last year’s Game. Michigan’s usually exceptional rush game limped into the Shoe, with standout rusher Blake Corum (who I still maintain should have been a Heisman finalist) playing only a few snaps and Donovan Edwards donning a cast on his arm. Still, the Wolverines rattled our defense, particularly in the second half.
Bosa would bring an added dose of leadership to help keep the defense focused on the details and the execution, and he’d likely toss in a few key plays while he was at it.
His presence could be that not-so-small detail that bridges the gap the Buckeyes have failed to fill for the last two years and FINALLY brings a victory back to Columbus.
Matt’s Take: Joe Thomas Barrett IV
Would I like Justin Fields or C.J. Stroud back for another full season at quarterback for Ohio State? You’re damn right, I would. Would I like Maurice Clarett or Ezekiel Elliott lined up in the backfield for 12 to 15 games? Of course. Would I want either Bosa or Chase Young coming off of the edge for an entire fall? Duh.
But that’s not the question that we are wrestling with today. Instead, we are talking about who we would want to add to the team in order to beat Michigan. And for that, there is truly only one answer: Joe Thomas Barrett IV.
Is J.T. Barrett the best quarterback in Ohio State history? Of course not; although you could argue that he had the greatest career. Would he stack up well against Fields, Stroud, Dwayne Haskins, Terrelle Pryor, Troy Smith, et al. in terms of talent? No.
But you know one category that no OSU QB can match him in? His record against TTUN. J.T. Barrett holds a career record against the Maize and Blue of 117-0; that’s true, look it up. Ok, all kidding aside, Barrett started four games against the Wolverines and won all four of them. Granted, he went a combined 40 for 76 (52.6%) in those games for 443 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception thanks in part to a handful of injuries in 2014 and 2017.
While those stats aren’t exactly mind-blowingly impressive, the fact that he has four pairs of gold pants from games he started is. You know who doesn’t have that? LITERALLY ANY OTHER QUARTERBACK IN OHIO STATE HISTORY!
So, would J.T. Barrett being added to the 2023 Ohio State football team dramatically increase the talent level on the roster? No. Would he be the best person to throw the ball to Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Ebguka, Julian Fleming, and the rest of the wide receivers? Probably not. But if you want to break the two-year drought of rivalry wins, I’m going with the man who’s never lost to the Mitten Men.
Ok, now it’s time to have your say. Who are you agreeing with this week?
Who has the right answer to today’s question?
This poll is closed
Jami: Nick Bosa
Matt: J.T. Barrett