Quick 2018 Recap: It was quite the eventful year in Columbus. It began with a major controversy surrounding Urban Meyer and his role in the domestic abuse case that led to the dismissal former wide receivers coach Zach Smith. Ohio State pulled out all the stops to justify retaining Meyer, who would start the season off with a three game suspension before ultimately announcing his “retirement” at the end of the season. On the field, the team overcame some inconsistent weeks to finish with a 12-1 record, Big Ten Conference Championship and Rose Bowl victory against Washington. While they just missed out on the playoffs yet again, it was a tremendous year considering the off-the-field turmoil and a few close calls on the field.
Offensive Player to Watch: RB J.K. Dobbins
Dobbins is primed for a huge season now that he will not be sharing the load with Mike Weber. Dobbins is one of the elite playmakers in college football, and could find himself in the Heisman race if the Buckeyes lean on him more as they break in a new starting quarterback. He can make something out of nothing and is a threat to score with each touch, even when the defense has done everything right to bottle him up.
Defensive Player to Watch: DE Chase Young
Young was the one who crushed Penn State’s final hopes by taking down Miles Sanders on the now-infamous fourth-and-five. He’ll make life a living hell for the Penn State offense if they can’t find a way to slow him down. Young led the Buckeyes with 9.5 sacks and 14.5 TFLs in 2018, and those numbers will only increase with another offseason of improvement and more time on the field this season.
Penn State Wins If: Step one- come up with a gameplan that allows you to get an early lead against the premiere program of the Big Ten and maintain it for three quarters. Once this happens, here are a few helpful tips to hold on to that lead in the fourth quarter:
-tackle the person in red who is carrying the football
-catch the football
-have a couple sustained drives to keep the Buckeyes offense off the field (or at least a couple drives that are longer than 42 seconds)
-block stunts and twists by the Buckeyes defensive line, instead of simply waving them into the backfield
Ohio State Wins If: I’ll have much more specific thoughts on this by Nov. 23 when both teams have 10 games under their belts. For now, the biggest factor will be big plays on both sides of the ball. Ohio State will (likely) be the overall more talented team at home. If they can halt big plays from the Nittany Lions, it will prevent them from needing late-game heroics to escape with a victory. If the Buckeyes can produce more than one of the following: a long strike on offense, return touchdown, pick six, etc., they should be in good position to win a game that traditionally goes down to the wire.
Major Changes for 2019: Every year Ohio State loses a plethora of uber-talented players to the NFL and then simply reload with the four and five-star players waiting their turn. While that’s true, the Buckeyes will be undergoing a couple major adjustments with a new head coach and quarterback. Ryan Day does not have the experience you would expect for someone to take over a marquee program, but he was clearly a star on the rise in the college football world and Ohio State deemed it best to snatch him up before someone else offered him a top job. One-time Penn State commit Justin Fields is poised to take over for Dwayne Haskins. The five-star prospect put impressed in mop-up duty at Georgia as a true freshman, connecting on 27 of 39 attempts for 328 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. With an unusual late-season game against Ohio State, time will tell what to expect from Day and Fields as they look to begin a new era of Buckeyes football.