After two posts already this week from me, it is time to tune up the pre- and post-game content creation machine. The season is already upon us. THE Ohio State Buckeyes open up with a game against Air Force, in the first official contest to grace the newly built lacrosse field.
After years of fundraising, and a speedy construction process, the new stadium will hopefully just be one of several historic milestones we get to witness this season.
But first, the Falcons.
Air Force is not exactly a lacrosse force in the 75-team DI field. The Falcons are really in the bottom half of that grouping as a trend, and have been up-and-down for several years.
This season, Air Force will look to soar to new heights, a few games above .500. It will almost certainly be a tall order.
As there's no current information to review, a look at last season's stats vs this season's roster shows a real dearth of offense. Brandon Dodd (#45) is the biggest threat on the roster, in terms of both physique and talent. Dodd had 46 goals and 24 assists last year, easily pacing an 8-7 Air Force squad.
No returning player had more than 22 points. Starting at attack will likely be sophomore Kyle Griffith (#31), and an unknown third player. In midfield, sophomore Wes Peene (#56) will look to use his massive size (6'4", 232 lbs.) to generate offense against a Buckeye pole. Aside from those names, there's just not a lot to look out for if you're the Buckeye defense.
On the other side, Air Force had no defenseman start all 15 games. That should tell you a lot about how unsettled this roster is heading into 2023. Only goalie senior Jason Rose (#33) was in the starting lineup every game last season, and he had a very respectable .542 save percentage, allowing just over 10 goals per game.
With so many defensemen being in and out of the lineup, and being unfamiliar with Air Force lacrosse, my best guess for a starting unit is junior James Chastain (#25), junior Chris Bardak (#17), and senior Mitchell Gruenewald (#27). But that's only a guess. Either way, this is an advantage for the Buckeyes.
As mentioned, goalie Jason Rose will be the key to the game. If Ohio State figures him out early, then this could be an easy W. If not, Air Force likely keeps it kinda close before fading in the second half. I really don't see any reason to doubt an Ohio State victory. Air Force just doesn't have the horses to compete in the half field.
At faceoff, Braden Gaab (#29) was 33-62, good for 53% at the dot. As the best performing FOGO on the roster from last year, he will likely take the opening faceoff against Ohio State. And that means both FOGOs will be first time starters, whomever trots out for Ohio State. Last year Air Force lost the faceoff battle, managing to win a meager 49% of the time. With minimal returning experience, this should be a good tuneup for the Buckeye unit as more formidable opponents await.
On special teams, Air Force was subpar when up a man, converting just 38% of the time. On the flip side, the Falcons smothered opponents, giving up goals on only 36% of opponent opportunities. This will be a good test for the Buckeye Man Up unit, as Air Force will likely be above average in 2023, but still be getting all the pieces put together.
Last year, Ohio State was a menace on both sides of special teams. This year's squad is improved offensively, even with the loss of Jackson Reid. And the defensive side should be utterly lights out. Opponents should be very afraid.
Even though Inside Lacrosse was a little more quick to sing Air Force's praises in an article about the new stadium, I truly do not think there's much to worry about in terms of final result. Ohio State scrimmaged multiple Final Four and tournament teams, winning despite heavy rotation of personnel. The offense is deeper than it has been in years. And much more athletic.
The defense is going to be menacing, with the trio of Van Buren, Hudgins, and Snyder likely to be amongst the best in the country. If Wahlund recaptures his end of season form from 2022, look out. This could be a magical season.
Final Score: Ohio State 15, Air Force 10.