We've been stuck in an alternate dimension for the past few weeks, but having found the monkey's paw which allowed us to travel back to a land in which there's actual football about to be played (no matter who the head coach is on the field), it's probably prudent that we start talking about the sport that pays the bills around here a little bit.
Unfortunately, the September slate of Ohio State opponents is... less than inspiring. Sure, you get Penn State at the very end of the month, and I guess a second road trip to Dallas in the same calendar year might be fun if you're a big fan of urban sprawl and oppressive heat, but beyond that you might think that the pickings are the equivalent of rice crackers topped with cream cheese.
Well you're wrong, smart guy! Oregon State, Rutgers, and Tulane all have something to offer us (beyond the existential fear of a truly ludicrous upset). They may not be great teams, or good teams, or slightly above-average teams, but aspirations to mediocrity are still aspirations, dammit!
Anyway, for those three supposed stinkers on the September schedule, let's take a look at least one cool and good thing about those teams that should keep you occupied through at least the first five minutes of the third quarter.
Noah Togiai, no relation (as far as I can tell), is a tight end who might, just might cause Ohio State's defensive secondary some fits in the opening game of the season.
In 2017, Noah was the Beavers' leading receiver in terms of both yards and total catches, and the 6'4" junior had a pretty great breakout game with nearly 100 yards receiving in Oregon State's only win last year against, uh... Portland State.
Look, they might be the worst team in the country, okay? We're looking for silver linings here. Throwing to Togiai could be 6'7" Jake Luton (assuming he wins the starting quarterback job), which would be a really interesting duo for the Ohio State defense to confront, so hopefully nothing bad happens to either of them and they remain vacuum sealed in their original packaging.
Wait, what's that? Togiai on crutches? COME ON!!
The Chris Ash angle has been beaten to death, but he appears to genuinely be a decent coach who has at least an idea of what he wants Rutgers football to look like, other than "bad."
And what he wants is a team that actually looks a lot more like what you saw with Jim Tressel than Urban Meyer. The obvious strength of Rutgers is their defense, and it isn't a stretch to say that their starting linebackers might actually be better as a group than what Ohio State has, at the very least in terms of production.
Linebackers Trevor Morris and Deonte Roberts both had over 100 tackles last season, and they get to play in front of a very efficient and stingy secondary that won't force them to help out in coverage too much. If the Rutgers defensive line can hold up against the run (which... it probably won't), the Scarlet Knights might end up giving the Buckeyes a challenge on the defensive side of the ball.
Philosophically, I want Tulane to be good. They've got a weird (read: good) mascot, cool uniforms, and they're in one of America's three coolest cities.
Tulane is not good, because while their defense might be a force eventually, that isn't going to materialize at any point in the next month or so. Instead, the Green Wave will rest its hopes on Jonathan Banks, a Jeff Blake-y kind of quarterback who also played Mike on Breaking Bad.
Here's a fun article of Banks and Tulane coaches spouting every possible cliche they can think of to describe Banks' offseason, but honestly, if I'm them, I just start yelling "AIR RAID" anytime someone asks me about how I'm feeling about 2018. He'll be throwing it a lot to Terren Encalade, a wideout who had 730 yards receiving in 2017.
In the season finale against SMU, Banks threw for 314 yards. That was cool. He should try to do that against Ohio State. He won't be able to, but he should still try.
Yes, getting through September games can be a slog, like so much chewing of arugula to get to the delicious croutons of the 2018 Ohio State football season salad. But there will be storylines and items of interest in all of these games, and hopefully the above can pique your interest as you watch Dwayne Haskins score his 7th touchdown of the first half.