The Ohio State Buckeyes have passed the test, if you will, so far with flying colors. However, the team has yet to play an opponent from the Big Ten Conference and still has a grueling schedule to make it through if the team’s hopes to make the College Football Playoff end up becoming a reality. Here are some roadblocks the Bucks will have to battle through for the duration of the year:
Legitimate Big-Ten Competition
Ohio State isn’t the only undefeated team in their conference. The Michigan Wolverines, Wisconsin Badgers and Nebraska Cornhuskers all will go into the month of October without a loss. The Big Ten has those four teams ranked in the top 15 and the Buckeyes along with the Wolverines in the top four. Buckeye fans would be smart to enjoy the journey so far, as the road will likely get a little bumpy later on. We’ll get to know these teams a little better down the stretch, as the Buckeyes won’t face another ranked opponent until mid October.
Players who can spoil the entire season
Here are a few players from the above-mentioned undefeated squads up to date who can make a big impact and possibly be the catalyst to an upset of the Buckeyes later this season.
T.J. Watt- Yes, as a matter of fact this is the younger brother of football superstar J.J. Watt. Watt has sacks in three consecutive games, with his breakout performance against Michigan State over the weekend propelling him to this list, with 2.5 sacks in the 30-6 victory for the Wisconsin Badgers.
Corey Clement– Clement, the other Badger to make the cut, hasn’t been explosive this year, but you can expect the starting running back to get plenty of touches when the Ohio State Buckeyes travel to Madison, Wisconsin for a showdown under the lights on October 15th.
Tommy Armstrong Jr.– The Ohio State Buckeyes defense will have to possess razor-sharp focus, when Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong comes to town in early November. Armstrong, a well-experienced senior, is coming off a season in which he threw for over 3,000 yards and he’s also rushed for nearly 1,500 yards in his career as a Cornhusker. However, his inability to avoid big mistakes was a concern coming into the season, as he threw 16 interceptions along with his 22 touchdown passes in the previous campaign. This year, Armstrong isn’t only off to a hot start, but he’s also been nearly mistake-free, throwing only one interception through four games while passing for eight touchdowns and rushing for four more.
Jordan Westerkamp– Westerkamp is a playmaker when the ball’s in his hands. The senior wide receiver for the Nebraska Cornhuskers had over 900 receiving yards last season and had two touchdowns this season in the Huskers’ home victory over the Oregon Ducks. Expect him to be lined up all over the field when Nebraska plays the Buckeyes later on this season.
Jabrill Peppers– When the Michigan Wolverines head to Columbus, Ohio to face the Ohio State Buckeyes, it’s safe to anticipate Peppers to be on the field for offense, defense and special teams. Peppers is a starting linebacker for the Wolverines, averaging 8 tackles per game. He also leads the country with 227 yards on punt returns, averaging just under 23 yards every time he catches or scoops the ball up. This guy simply makes a big impact on games.
Jourdan Lewis– Michigan’s top cornerback made his presence felt over the weekend in a 49-10 victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday. The Buckeyes are fortunate to have plenty of offensive firepower this season, but quarterback J.T. Barrett will have to be cautious of where to throw the ball with Lewis occupying plenty of real estate on the defensive side of the ball.
Overconfidence & A Lack of Adversity
Football is a physically demanding game, but the mental side can’t be overlooked. Ohio State will have to take on the role of high expectations and not let them affect their performance on Saturdays throughout the season. Although the team has thrived with a lack of experience thus far, we’ve yet to see them have to truly overcome adversity within a game. When that time comes, we’ll see if the team is fully ready to go both physically and mentally.