The surreal world of Covid finally meets Husker football as the boys prepare to square off with the #5 Ohio State Buckeyes, an opening opponent like none in recent memory - highly-ranked and on the road.
The tone will also be quite different as we are only a couple years removed from the Buckeyes of Urban Meyer, a regular in my annual Top 5 Worst Human Beings Alive list dating back to his days at Florida. Instead of sharpening my typewriter to skewer the little rat-faced weasel without a soul, we find ourselves preparing for a sporting contest against Nebraska’s brothers-in-arms in the fight for college football in the Big Ten.
Of course, we are all diseased and depraved for demanding such things as the SEC and others’ players and coaches become diseased at rates that would impress a gonorrhea-infested whorehouse in Tijuana. But come kickoff tomorrow, we’ll be over it - for a couple hours anyway
Many thanks to Tia Johnston of Ohio St’s own Land-Grant Holy Land for taking the time to answer our questions. Without further adieu, let’s get to it!:
(Step Brothers voice) “DID WE JUST BECOME BEST FRIENDS?”
As far as their push to play this season, what are your thoughts on Ohio St. and Nebraska teaming up on something for probably the first time ever?
I thought it was awesome. No program was more vocal or proactive in bringing the Big Ten season back than Nebraska. I mean...threatening to leave the Big Ten and play football elsewhere? Iconic. Obviously Ohio State joined in shortly thereafter but I thought Nebraska really got the ball rolling. I think that just speaks to the incredibly passionate fan bases that both programs have. I’ll even go so far as to say that football just means more in Lincoln and Columbus than it does in some other Big Ten towns. The B1G was sadly mistaken if they thought the Huskers and Buckeyes were going down without a fight.
Are you even a little worried? Be brutally honest. We can take it.
I’ll put it this way— Am I worried that Ohio State will lose? No.
However, if the Buckeyes want a good spot in the playoffs, they’ll have to play catchup with Alabama and Clemson, meaning they’ll have to cover the spread and then some in every single game they play this season. So am I worried about jumping straight into Big Ten play with the expectation that they’ll be in midseason form? A little.
Tell us about someone who isn’t a four or five star recruit who will play a big role Saturday. Do you even have any of those?
This might be cheating, but the easy cop-out answer here is wide receiver Chris Olave. Olave was a three-star prospect in the 2018 class, and the No. 399 recruit in the country. Now, he is Ohio State’s leading receiver, catching 48 balls for 840 yards and 12 TD a year ago. Even with a loaded wide receiver room, Olave will likely be Justin Fields’ favorite target in 2020.
In terms of maybe more of a lesser-known player on a national scale, which I’m assuming was more of the aim of this question, I’d look at someone like safety Marcus Hooker. The younger brother of former OSU safety Malik Hooker, Marcus came to Columbus as a three-star recruit and the No. 640 player in the 2018 class. He will at least split time at the one-high safety spot if not the full-time starter.
— Gene Ross
Is there any weakness whatsoever on the offense or do you expect to score every single time you get the ball with the first string on the field? Second string? THIRD?
Ha! I must admit most of our weaknesses are on the other side of the ball, but if I had to pick one on offense, I’d say our running back situation. Losing J.K. Dobbins didn’t sting (too much) at first because we had Master Teague on deck, who, as a backup, finished as the Big Ten’s seventh leading rusher in 2019. However, when Teague suffered an achilles injury in the first spring practice of the season, reality came knocking. “Ummm guys… we don’t have a running back.”
Enter: Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon, who rushed for 2,076 yards and 22 touchdowns during his three seasons as a Sooner. And now that Teague is presumably back to full health, Ohio State now has two productive backs who are expected to split carries (nearly) down the middle— which is not as ideal as having one stud RB like Dobbins or Zeke that we’re used to seeing in Ohio State’s offense.
(Disclaimer: I’m reaching here. We have a ridiculously stacked receiving unit, the best offensive line in the country and a Heisman candidate for a quarterback so if our RBs aren’t producing...we have options )
Alabama and Clemson are consistently, from year to year, the top two teams in the country. Ohio State hasn’t been as consistent, but appears to contend. What is missing that they haven’t been as incredible as the other two and what needs to happen to get there?
It’s honestly tough to say. I think in terms of talent, Ohio State is obviously on par with Alabama and Clemson, but each Buckeye team over the past few years has had at least one fatal flaw that left them short of competing for a national title.
Urban Meyer’s teams had a tendency to fall flat once a year against subpar opponents — see Iowa, Purdue. The team that got blown out in the CFP in 2016 was not good enough to make it there in the first place, as the offense was not up to snuff. The 2018 team had the worst defensive coaching staff ever assembled. Last year’s roster was certainly good enough to win a national title, and I don’t even think they really had a flaw. They just came up short against a good Clemson team — in a game that Ohio State probably wins eight times out of 10.
I also think the talent in the Big Ten doesn’t help Ohio State’s cause. The rest of the ACC is hot garbage, so Clemson gets to skate through the season clean to the CFP. The SEC West is pretty bad as well, so as long as Alabama can defeat Georgia in the conference title game each year they’re in. The B1G is a conference known for its defense, and sometimes even the lesser teams find a way to play you tough.
I think a combination of these factors have kept Ohio State just behind the Alabama’s and Clemsons of the world.
— Gene Ross
It may still be too early to say but if all things were created equal would you want Ryan Day or Urban Meyer as head coach of the Buckeyes?
I gotta go with Ryan Day. And I’m basing this on the fact that, not only in his first year as head coach did he blow out just about every opponent he came across, beat Michigan and win the conference title on the way to the playoffs, which he then followed up by putting together a top-ranked 2021 recruiting class, but also the way he’s handled all of the adversity that has come his way since then. Justin Fields, Wyatt Davis and Shaun Wade are all going to be first-rounders in the 2021 NFL Draft whether they play another college snap or not. In fact, opting out might even be in their best interest in light of the pandemic. But they all chose to stay at Ohio State to play one more year for their head coach. That speaks to the culture and environment Day has established within the program. He’s kept this team focused on the same goal, whether that be the sacrifices they have to make in order for there to be a season or the messages they want to send regarding social injustice.
Meyer won us a national championship, and for that he’ll always be one of my favorite coaches. But if Day can have this much success in just two years at the helm, I can only imagine what the future holds.
Right now you are favored to beat Nebraska by 26. I am expecting the Buckeyes to come out and destroy everybody in order to impress the CFP committee. Would it be too much to ask if you would take it easy and only beat us by like 18?
(Re: answer No. 2)
In all seriousness, I’m excited for this matchup and—I’m gonna go ahead and quote Scott Frost here—I’ll be rooting for you guys in every game this season but this one!