The young season feels like it has barely started, and yet it is already basically a quarter over. Through 3 games, of 13, the Buckeyes are 3-0, shooting better than they have in a long time, and seem to be gaining steam with each passing week.
Saturday's game appears to be a pretty standard step to 4-0, as the 1-2 Bison of Bucknell come to open the 2019 season at the Shoe.
Bucknell beat Bryant 9-6 to notch their first W 2 weeks ago, and dropped games against Maryland in their opener and Richmond last weekend.
It's been an interesting ride for Bucknell, and Ohio State should continue its ascension up the rankings.
Offensively, Bucknell is playing fairly mediocre lacrosse. Coming into a matchup with the Buckeyes, the Bison are averaging 8.67 goals per game.
That's about what the Buckeyes allowed to teams all of last year. Bucknell had its best offensive game last week, putting up 11 goals on a Richmond squad that is trying to make a name for itself.
Overall, Bucknell has a shot percentage of .234, and an SOG percentage of .559. That's close to what Ohio State did last year on O, and the 2018 season was awful offensively for the Buckeyes.
Bucknell, meanwhile, is a pretty offensively balanced team, with 3 players accounting for 17 of the Bison's 26 goals. Freshman attackman Matthew Barkauskas (#26) has 6 goals and an assist, senior middie Reed Malas (#17) has 5 goals and 2 assists, and junior attackman Will Yorke (#99) has 6 goals.
The caveat for Yorke is that 5 of his goals came in the second half against Bryant. Regardless, Bucknell will be looking to utilize all of its players to score open looks.
Yorke managed to score his goals from the left wing, dipping his shoulder and going low-to-high with a hard lefty shot. The Bison are capable of scoring off of feeds, but generally are looking to score off the dodge.
Ohio State should match up pretty well, as the Buckeyes have been holdimg opponents below 20% shooting all year. Hopefully the LSMs can step it up this week after a bit of a struggle last week with UMass' substitution games.
Defensively, Bucknell is pretty porous. Teams are shooting 30% against the Bison, which is pretty high for any team to be giving up.
Additionally, opponents have scored 4 more goals than Bucknell on 12 fewer shots than the Bison have taken. On the flipside, Bucknell has 26 Caused Turnovers through 3 games, good for 8.67 CTs a game, which isn't too shabby.
The Bison will turn you over if you aren't careful, but aren't exactly clamping down on teams elsewhere.
With Jack Jasinski dodging and Tre Leclaire his foil, I think the Buckeyes will have ample opportunity to put goals in the net. And I don't expect Tre to hit 3 pipes like he did against UMass.
From a goalkeeping perspective, Bucknell has a solid, if unspectacular, netminder in senior Christian Klipstein (#13).
Despite having a 10.00 goals against average, Klipstein has increased the number of saves made each game, going from 10 against Maryland to 14 against Richmond.
Since opponents have been getting more shots on goal than Bucknell, it stands to reason that Klipstein is having more shots go by him than the Bison would like.
While he has had a solid start, Klipstein isn't winning games by himself. If Kirson continues his solid start, Ohio State should have no problem turning their shots into goals.
At the faceoff X, Bucknell is going to rely heavily on their senior FOGO, Jarrett Witzal (#3). He is the best faceoff man the Bison have ever had, leading them in career faceoff wins and with the single-season record for winning percentage.
This season, Witzal is winning 54.5% of his faceoffs, and has taken all but two of Bucknell's draws. Justin Inacio had a slow start, but has been steadily improving all year. Witzal should be a stiff test, but I have a hard time imagining anything less than a 55-45 split in favor of OSU.
If the wings play a bit better, it could be even worse for Bucknell.
Finally, from a special teams perspective, the two squads are pretty evenly matched. Ohio State was 1-7 on Man Up heading into the game against UMass, but managed to convert both opportunities against the Minutemen to get to 3-9 on the year.
Through 3 games, Bucknell is 1-6 on Man Up, which is less than ideal for them. On Man Down, both squads are nearly identical, as OSU is allowing opponents to convert 38.5% of their opportunities, and Bucknell has allowed opponents to score 40% of their opportunities.
The key will be in number of opportunities, as OSU has given teams 13 chances to score up a man, while Bucknell has only allowed 5. If OSU can keep things under control, Bucknell shouldn't have much opportunity to do damage.
Holistically, the game tomorrow should be a fairly routine Buckeye win, as the 2019 squad has been improving steadily and isn't showing signs of the instability of last year.
The team is good, but can certainly take steps to be great. Bucknell provides an excellent opportunity to iron out any remaining kinks.
Final prediction: 14-9, Ohio State.