The mornings are starting to get a little colder and schools across the country are back in session. Football season is coming. Here’s a preview of your 2017 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Biggest Questions Heading into the Season
Who gets the touches on offense?
As Curtis Samuel and his more than 1,600 yards from scrimmage move on the the next level, Urban Meyer will be looking for the next man up to fill that playmaking role on offense. Parris Campbell appears poised to step up. K.J. Hill comes into the season with the most receiving yards among returning players listed as a wide receiver. J.K. Dobbins is turning heads during summer practice. Of course there’s still J.T. Barrett and Mike Weber leading the charge.
One thing is certain; newly appointed offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson has plenty of firepower at his disposal.
Will there be a drop-off in the defensive secondary?
Malik Hooker, Marshon Lattimore, and Gareon Conley are all taking their talents to the NFL after being selected in the first round of the draft earlier this year. As is usually the case at Ohio State, there’s a slew of athletes ready to make their mark. Denzel Ward saw quite a bit of playing time last season and will be a key player lining up across from opposing receivers. Damon Webb, Damon Arnette, Kendall Sheffield and Erick Smith are four more guys all who could be household names by season’s end. With the regular season only six days away, we should find out sooner than later if the secondary is once again a strength for the Bucks.
Is this the year J.T. Barrett finally breaks out? (Again)
Ever since he stormed onto the scene in 2014, expectations have been sky high for J.T. Barrett. He’s seemingly always in preseason Heisman conversations but to this point hasn’t put it all together to win it. As he enters his senior season, it’s his last chance to make it to New York at the end of the year. He’s able to make an impact through the air and on the ground, but his passing accuracy and explosiveness running the ball have decreased in each of his three seasons at Ohio State. With another year under his belt and many new weapons around him, perhaps this is the year Barrett turns into the elite college quarterback Buckeye fans know he can be.
Three Under-the-Radar Storylines
Damon Arnette looks to be the next big-name defensive back at OSU.
With a clear path to playing time, sophomore cornerback Damon Arnette appears to have the makings of a fan favorite. He’s a confident player with the game to back it up. Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs compared him to former Buckeye Bradley Roby, who was a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Arnette himself described his mindset:
I like having fun out there, I like knowing that somebody else is worried about me covering them and telling them that, ‘Yeah, I’m right here.’
Revamped coaching staff looks to improve offensive efficiency.
There are a couple new names running the offense from the sidelines this year. Skim through the resumes of new hires Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson, and it’s apparent J.T. Barrett is in good hands.
Sean Nurenberger returns as kicker.
After missing the 2016 season due to an injury, place kicker Sean Nurenberger is back to handle extra-point and field-goal duties for the Buckeyes in 2017. Tyler Durbin did a fine job last year, although he began to struggle a bit in the last few games of the season. While he may have a little rust, Nurenberger has looked good so far in the summer.
Intriguing Stats You Should Know
- Ohio State ranked third in the country last year in turnover margin. Although the defense intercepted 21 passes last season, three players who accounted for 15 of those picks are now playing in the NFL.
- The Buckeyes ranked first in the Big Ten in offensive third down conversion percentage.
- The offense’s 6.02 yards per play last year was the worst average Ohio State has had since 2011, when the Buckeyes, led by Joe Bauserman and freshman Braxton Miller, averaged 5.12 yards per play under Luke Fickell.
Player Who is an X-Factor
Mike Weber, entering his second season in scarlet and gray, just might be the key to the entire season in 2017.
The success Mike Weber experienced as a freshman is well documented. His shortcomings were also a topic of discussion in the offseason. J.T. Barrett is at a point in his career where Urban Meyer knows what he’s working with. There are plenty of question marks at receiver entering the season. The defense, even with a few unknowns, should be in good shape. It’s Mike Weber, and the kind of improvement he’s able to show entering his sophomore year, that has the greatest potential to take the offense as a whole to the next level.
Three Toughest Games of the Season
3. vs. Oklahoma Sooners, September 9
The Buckeyes were able to head to Norman, Oklahoma last year and beat the Sooners pretty handily. While there were some big names to move on from Oklahoma, they still find themselves ranked inside the top ten in the preseason polls. Early losses can be overcome by season’s end, but this Week 2 showdown is one that both teams will be looking to win in order to get their playoff resumes off to a strong start.
2. vs. Penn State Nittany Lions, October 28
Games against Penn State are usually close, but when you consider the fact that it could determine who represents the Big Ten East Division in the conference championship game, the matchup gets even more critical. With both teams beginning the year in the top ten, expect this late-October contest to receive plenty of national attention leading up to the game.
1. at Michigan Wolverines, November 25
It’s a rivalry game. Both teams will be good this year. It’s in the Big House. We’re not talking about a game. We’re talking about “The Game”.
August 31 at Indiana Hoosiers – W
September 9 vs. Oklahoma Sooners – W
September 16 vs. Army Black Knights – W
September 23 vs. UNLV Rebels – W
September 30 at Rutgers Scarlet Knights – W
October 7 vs. Maryland Terrapins – W
October 14 at Nebraska Cornhuskers – W
October 28 vs Penn State Nittany Lions – W
November 4 at Iowa Hawkeyes – W
November 11 vs. Michigan State Spartans – W
November 18 vs. Illinois Fighting Illini – W
November 25 at Michigan Wolverines – W
The Buckeyes should be favored to win every game on the schedule this year barring any major health issues.
The opener on the road at Indiana on a Thursday night on national television won’t be an easy way to start, but it does give Ohio State a couple extra days to prepare for Oklahoma the following week.
All in all, a 12-0 regular season with a trip to the Big Ten Championship and potentially their third playoff appearance in four years is a strong possibility for this year’s Ohio State Buckeyes.