Dwayne Haskins and Nick Bosa might already be two of the biggest stars in college football.
If they can play at the same level on Saturday as they have in Ohio State’s first two games of the season, they certainly will be.
Haskins and Bosa both entered this season surrounded by enormous hype, and so far, they’ve only exceeded it. Haskins has been one of college football’s top passers through two games, completing 42 of 53 passing attempts (79.1 percent) for 546 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception. Bosa has been one of college football’s most dominant defensive linemen, recording nine total tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks, two fumble recoveries and a touchdown between the Buckeyes’ first two games.
Those performances, though, have come against Oregon State and Rutgers, who are expected to be two of the worst teams in the Power 5 conferences this year.
On Saturday, they’ll have the opportunity to prove they can continue to perform at that level against significantly stronger competition – and on a bigger stage – when Ohio State faces TCU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in a game that will be nationally televised on ABC’s Saturday Night Football.
Both players, who met with reporters after practice on Wednesday, are embracing the opportunity to play in their first big game of the year and show what they can do.
“We haven’t had a big game yet. We haven’t really had a true test yet,” Bosa said. “We know that they’re going to take their best shot at us. So we got to be ready.”
While the Buckeyes regularly say that they prepare for every game the same way, Haskins said Wednesday that the team’s veteran leaders have also emphasized that Saturday’s game is a big game, and that they need to play at their best.
“I definitely think that,” Haskins said when asked if he viewed Saturday as an opportunity for he and his team to make a statement. “We take that very seriously. And every day in practice, Isaiah Prince and Terry (McLaurin) and Parris (Campbell) and Johnnie (Dixon) emphasize how big this game is, and how it’s our first really key game of the season.”
With their superb play in Ohio State’s first two games, Haskins and Bosa have both been a part of the early conversation about who could win this year’s Heisman Trophy, as well as who could be top picks in the next year’s NFL draft (even though Haskins still has two more seasons of eligibility after this one, and Bosa still has one). Saturday’s game could be a big opportunity for both players to elevate their chances for each of those possibilities, as NFL scouts and Heisman voters will certainly be watching.
Both players, though, say their focus going into Saturday’s game is not what it could mean their themselves individually, but on how they can help the Buckeyes accomplish their team goals: Beating TCU to improve to 3-0, keeping them in control of their own destiny toward their ultimate goal of winning a national championship.
“Biggest thing for me is just go win the game. And that’s all I want to do,” Haskins said. “I’ve always been an ambitious person. So I’ve always put my dreams on paper, and I wrote them down, and I achieved them. But the goal is to take one day at a time, one game at a time. Eventually the dream is to be in the NFL. But right now, I’m at Ohio State. Right now, it’s win TCU.”
Bosa, who said two weeks ago that he felt there was “no reason (Ohio State) can’t win the national championship” this season, said Wednesday that he believes “everything is just coming together this year” so far toward that goal. But he also acknowledged that TCU is “way better” than the first two teams the Buckeyes played, so now they have to go out and prove they’re a championship-caliber team.
“I just think (this year’s team) resembles that team in 2014 a lot,” Bosa said. “I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. But after this game, I’ll be able to really give you a feel on how I compare the teams.”
“We know that they’re going to take their best shot at us. So we got to be ready.”– Nick Bosa on playing TCU
Bosa, who has only played for about a half in each of Ohio State’s first two games, said he is looking forward to the opportunity to play in what should be a more competitive game, as he should be on the field for all four quarters against the Horned Frogs.
“Definitely,” Bosa said when he asked if he wanted to play a game that remained competitive into the fourth quarter. “I’m excited to play a full game. We’ll see.”
As for the Heisman conversation, though, Bosa said he isn’t getting his hopes up, because he figures the position he plays will ultimately keep him from winning the award.
“I don’t think any defensive player’s winning a Heisman,” Bosa said.
Haskins said he also hasn’t given much thought about what a big game on Saturday could do for his Heisman chances. But as he prepares for what is undoubtedly his biggest game yet as Ohio State’s starting quarterback, Haskins – whose aspirations of playing at Ohio State since he was a child have been well-documented – has thought about how it’s an opportunity to live out what he has long dreamed of.
“Just having the opportunity to go play on Saturday night, ESPN, a dream come true,” Haskins said. “Just playing in That Team Up North game (at Michigan last year), a dream come true. Every game is a dream come true. Just being able to go out there and be the starter for my dream school. So I take every game like it’s my last.”