An undefeated February is nothing to sneeze at, as the Buckeyes were one of only six teams to not lose in the opening month of the season. At 4-0, this team appears much improved from last year's campaign, and there is a lot to be excited about.
Saturday's game against Marquette will be the start of a grueling stretch run through the schedule, where we will really see how good this team is. The Golden Eagles provde an interesting matchup this year, which should be a decent litmus test.
On offense, Marquette is a pretty good team. They've scored double digit goals against every team they have played, including a Detroit Mercy team that has been known for its defense.
Marquette's main scorer is midfielder Peter Henkhaus (#35), who has 9 tallies om the year, nearly double anyone else on the team. He scores off the dodge, with his feet set, and as an off-ball cutter.
Against Mercy, Henkhaus had 5 goals in a surprising loss to the Titans. Much like each team the Buckeyes have faced so far, the offense will be focused on getting Henkhaus the ball as much as possible.
That said, Marquette has plenty of other threats as well, a deviation from Buckeye opponents to date. I counted 5 players with 7 or 8 points for the Golden Eagles through 3 games, which presents a new challenge for a Buckeye defense that has struggled to put together a complete game in 2019.
Frustratingly, Marquette has not put together a stat sheet for the 2019 season, so individual statistics are hard to come by.
Suffice it to say, the entirety of the starting offensive players can punish the Buckeyes for sloppy play.
As a team, the offense of Marquette flows through midfield. Henkhaus will initiate often, but his teammates get their points off spinning the ball through X to get a shot from the high to mid wing.
Occasionally a player will dodge from X to get some offense going, but really the vast majority of shots and actions are going to come from the restraining line.
Defensively, Marquette is below their usual standard this year. In years past, the Golden Eagles were incredibly stingy defensively, regularly holding opponents below 10 goals.
Marquette beat OSU in OT last year by limiting the Buckeyes to 7 goals. This year has been a completely different story.
Only Bellarmine has been held below 10 goals by the Golden Eagles, and they still managed to score 9. In the loss last week to Detroit Mercy, Marquette gave up 15 goals, mostly off of skip passes that switched the field.
That would not have happened in 2018, especially since Mercy has never been a particularly good offensive team. It hasn't helped that Marquette is allowing each opponent to shoot better than the previous one had.
Bellarmine had a shot percentage of 29%, Jacksonville did better at 33%, and Detroit Mercy took Marquette down by shooting 39% last week!
The Buckeyes could, if trends hold, be in for a very good week this week. A huge difference could be the emergence of Jack Myers last week with 7 goals. He adds a brand new threat from X that teams haven't had to account for since 2017.
And with Leclaire or Jasinski lurking up top to provide a constant scoring threat off the pass, it gives Myers that much more room to work. Elite offensive players have been in short supply in Columbus, so to have 3 legitimately great players on the field is only going to help the Buckeyes be that much better on the national stage.
In goal, Marquette is in a bit of disarray. Sophomore John Hulsman (#41) has started all 3 games, but was pulled against Detroit Mercy early in the 2nd half.
3 goalies played for the Golden Eagles in that game, none of them particularly well. After falling apart against the Titans, Hulsman is sporting a save percentage of 38.6%, which won't allow you to be a starter in D1 for very long.
As a result, we really won't know what is happening in net for Marquette until the teams meet at midfield.
Regardless of who starts, it shouldn't be tremendously difficult for the Buckeyes to take advantage of their chances.
At the faceoff X, Marquette has really struggled this year as well. Junior Jared Hershman (#26) is the primary FOGO for Marquette, and he struggled mightily against Detroit last week, going 7-17.
For the season, Hershman is sitting at exactly 50% (30-60), despite facing some pretty poor competition along the way.
With Inacio coming off his best outing of the season against Bucknell, look for the Buckeyes to comfortably dominate the faceoff X.
Finally, special teams will be quie interesting this week. I mentioned in the last preview that OSU has struggled giving up penalties this year, and it could allow Bucknell to have an advantage.
For once, my prediction was completely spot on, as the Bison went 3-5 on Man Up, and got much closer in the 4th quarter than they had any business being.
The Buckeyes are allowing teams to convert 44% of their opportunities through 4 games, something that will lose them a winnable game against a tough opponent if it continues. Marquette is pretty stout on Man Up, around the 50% mark, though they have similar struggles to the Buckeyes on Man Down.
Still, with Golden Eagles going 5-9 on their opportunities this year, the Buckeyes HAVE to stop committing so many penalties. It will only hurt then in the long run.
From a team perspective, the Buckeyes should be able to win comfortably against a Marquette squad that is fairly poor this year on defense.
The Buckeyes are shooting and scoring goals at an elite level, but have had some issues defensively this season. If Ohio State plays their game, it should be an entertaining afternoon.
Final prediction: 18-12, Buckeyes.
Game is on LSN for free tomorrow, 1 EST, 12 CST.