As we all know, Ohio State is expected to have yet another successful year that will at the very least result in a 10-win regular season and perhaps another run at a Big Ten title, if not the College Football Playoff.
Just like in the movies, we all expect a happy ending. We expect Will Smith to be the hero in Independence Day. We expect the guy to get the girl. We all know that Harrison Ford is going to find and save his family in whatever action movie he is in.
However, what would happen if the story took an unexpected, devastating turn? The guy doesn't get the girl. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum die in space and the aliens destroy us all. Harrison Ford can't stop the Russians from releasing their leader in Air Force One, and the plane goes down. See where we are going with this?
We are applying the worst case scenario to Ohio State's 2018 football season, and predicting doomsday in Columbus. WARNING: If you are still nursing your Independence Day hangover, this might not help.
A Rocky Start
Ohio State opens the season at home against Oregon State with plenty of excitement surrounding Dwayne Haskins and a two-headed monster at running back. On the first offensive series however, new left tackle Thayer Munford whiffs on a defensive end who plants Haskins into the Ohio Stadium turf onto his right shoulder. Haskins, who entered the season with as much hype as any OSU signal caller since Braxton Miller, leaves the game and is unable to return.
Enter Tate Martell, who is more than talented enough to lead Ohio State to a closer than expected win over Oregon State, which is arguably the worst Power-5 team in the nation. Urban Meyer announces after the game that Haskins is out for the season and that it will be Martell's team moving forward.
The Buckeyes get by Rutgers in Week 2, but everything goes haywire the following week in Arlington, Texas against TCU.
The Horned Frogs, playing just a short drive from home in Fort Worth, take a page out of the 2014 Virginia Tech playbook and force Martell and the Buckeye offense to air the football out, while stacking the box in a 'bear' front. Inexperienced as a passer and with no help from the running game, Martell commits a handful of turnovers as the Horned Frogs pull the upset in Arlington, sending Ohio State home with its third non-conference loss in the last five seasons.
The Buckeyes return home to dismantle a young Tulane team, heading into the full conference slate with an admirable 3-1 record. A trip to Penn State is on the horizon though, and the Nittany Lions have revenge on their minds.
From Bad, To Worse
Ohio State rolls into Happy Valley still ranked, but the Nittany Lions put an end to that quickly.
Playing in front of a white-out crowd, Martell gets rattled early and throws a pair of interceptions, while Trace McSorley begins his Heisman campaign, totaling five touchdowns in what becomes a 42-17 blowout win over the Buckeyes. Ohio State's inexperience in the secondary shows, as Damon Webb's replacement at safety gets burned deep on multiple occasions. To make matters worse, Jordan Fuller leaves the game with an injury after having to make multiple stops in both the run and pass game.
Penn State fans storm the field as Ohio State drops to 3-2, already firmly out of the playoff race and just trying to keep its head above water with more than half of the season to go.
Things Start to Look Up
Ohio State returns home for games against Indiana and Minnesota in the Horseshoe, and things begin to turn around. The Hoosiers, who usually play the Buckeyes tough, are met by an angry Buckeye squad that runs for nearly 300 yards, as the game is reminiscent of the win against Michigan State in 2017.
Martell is limited in his carries with Ohio State's lack of depth at the position, and Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins take care of business in a blowout win.
The next week doesn't go nearly as well, as Minnesota's defense, inspired by its energetic coach P.J. Fleck, pitches a first-half shutout as the Golden Gophers take a 10-0 lead into halftime. The Buckeyes, looking as though they might suffer their third loss of the season, force a pick-6 on defense and add a field goal heading into the fourth quarter.
With both teams playing inexperienced quarterbacks, the game turns into a stalemate with both offensive coordinators afraid to make a mistake. Eventually, Martell shakes free on a zone-read play, giving Ohio State a 17-10 lead and moving the Buckeyes to 5-2 on the year heading to Purdue.
Shades of 2011
Four games above .500, Ohio State fans are uneasy, but pleased with the bounce back performances against the Hoosiers and Golden Gophers. However, a trip to West Lafayette, Ind. once again ends in disappointment.
Martell, who at this point in the season is starting to accumulate a hefty amount of carries, leaves the game early in the second quarter with an injury. A less-than 100 percent Matthew Baldwin is forced to burn his redshirt and enters the game, largely just handing of to Dobbins and Weber.
With Ohio State reeling and with all the momentum, Jeff Brohm pulls out all the stops, calling a flawless offensive game, and once again taking advantage of poor secondary play by the Buckeyes. Still hampered with an injury, Fuller watches from the sideline as his younger peers give up nearly 400 yards passing and the Ross-Ade Stadium hell whistle blows for hours as the Boilermakers pull a shocking 31-27 upset.
Baldwin finishes the game having thrown an interception and a late touchdown pass, but Meyer announces that Martell should be healthy enough to return for Ohio State's game against Nebraska the following week.
The game against the Cornhuskers sees the return of both Martell and Fuller, but Ohio State's confidence is visibly shaken. The Cornhuskers jump out to a two-score lead before the Buckeyes roar back to tie the game by halftime.
Martell has his shining moment as a freshman in a night game at Ohio State, throwing three second half touchdowns, negating Scott Frost's shot at his first signature win in Nebraska. The Buckeyes survive a 38-34 victory in Ohio Stadium, making them bowl eligible with three regular season games left.
The Wheels Fall Off
Sitting at 6-3, Ohio State needs to win out and get a little help from the Nittany Lions in order to return to the Big Ten title game. A trip to East Lansing, Mich. however is not what the Buckeyes needed.
After shellacking the Spartans a year prior, Mark Dantonio leads an angry Michigan State team into the matchup and again forces Ohio State to throw the ball, stacking as many as eight men in the box to slow Martell and the Buckeye run game.
Starting right tackle and offensive line staple Isaiah Prince is rolled up on in the first half, sending him to the locker room. The Michigan State defensive line begins to tee off on Martell, who is still hobbled from the Purdue loss. Martell guts the game out, but Ohio State's offense fails to muster enough points to win, as the Spartans send the Buckeyes packing with a 24-13 loss. The game looks much like the 2016 stalemate, but Ohio State's offense can't keep its defense off the field as Michigan State adds a late touchdown run to seal the game.
After the game it is revealed that Martell played the entire second half on a severely sprained MCL and is expected to miss the rest of the regular season.
Ohio State head south to take on Maryland in the penultimate game of the 2018 season with Baldwin making his first career start. With little pressure on his shoulders and not many expectations, Baldwin actually leads the Buckeyes to a halftime lead, throwing a pair of touchdowns and getting help from the defense.
The Buckeyes take a 17-7 lead into halftime, but the freshman can't keep the momentum going, throwing a pick-6 to open the second half. After the interception, Ohio State's play calling becomes ultra-conservative as the Terrapins ride momentum – and a healthy Kasim Hill – to a 21-20 victory.
Harbaugh Finally Gets His
Ohio State limps back to Columbus for The Game, looking to salvage what is left of the worst Urban Meyer-coached season since his final year in Gainesville.
Playing the role of spoiler this season, the Buckeyes pull out every play left in their playbook and jump on the favored Wolverines early, as Mike Weber is the recipient of a running back screen – a play Ohio State NEVER runs – as the Buckeyes strike first.
However, the veteran Michigan defense stiffens in the second half, getting just enough plays from Shea Patterson to give Jim Harbaugh his first win in the rivalry, 28-17. With Penn State winning the Big Ten East (and eventually the conference crown) and getting an invite to the CFP, Michigan is sent to the Rose Bowl with a 10-2 record, leaving Ohio Stadium with roses in their mouths as they walk up the southeast tunnel.
Ohio State limps to the Taxslayer Gator Bowl against South Carolina with a 6-6 record, hoping to at least finish with a winning record.
Martell is healthy enough to play, and returns to the lineup for the bowl game. However, a number of Ohio State players about to turn pro – including Jordan Fuller and Nick Bosa – elect to sit the game out to protect themselves from further injury.
A defensive battle breaks out, as the teams head into halftime with a 7-7 tie. In the second half, Ohio State's offensive talent finally shows. The Buckeye fans almost feel tortured as to what could have been as OSU finally finds its stride, scoring four unanswered touchdowns to win a 35-10 game.
After the game, Meyer affirms his commitment to turning the program around, but hints at a possible early retirement despite signing an extension at the beginning of the season.
Yet another quarterback battle is in the works for 2019 between Haskins and Martell with the loser transferring out of the program, leaving Meyer with yet another depth issue at QB.
The fact that a 7-6 season is one of the worst case scenarios for Ohio State is truly a testament to the program Meyer has build in Columbus. Such a season would be viewed as a success in nearly 50 percent of college football.
For the record, I don't see much, if any of the above scenarios happening, but if it does go down this way, please don't try to find me. I am just a sports writer.