Newly minted as the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff rankings, Ryan Day's outfit kicks off its November slate hosting a Maryland squad entering as a 43-point underdog.
Well rested after an open week, the high noon kick can't come fast enough the players even though just about everyone else is salty as hell over all the early start times.
The real story of the week, even with details still largely unknown as of this writing, is the status of indefinitely suspended defensive end Chase Young. Since we're covering the situation in much more depth on the site, we'll focus on other questions here.
Coming off the second open week of the season, Ryan Day’s main chore will be to make sure the Buckeyes don’t lose momentum after thumping Wisconsin way back on October 26. This morning's breaking news about Chase Young suspension only fuels that concern. Is the extended rest good for the team or do you worry the layoff and two straight games against bums Maryland and Rutgers will impact the team’s mojo?
Johnny: Another open week is 100% good for the team. Right now they need time to lick their wounds, and an easy three weeks are a good way to get rested and healed for Penn State and Michigan. If you had asked me this question earlier in the season, I might've told you that I'd be worried about the ability of a first year head coach to make sure that his players stay focused. That is no longer a concern of mine.
David: Minus the Young situation which is still in flux, nothing has disrupted this team's mojo to date, so it's hard to be too worried about something like a late-season bye throwing a wrench into the works. I actually like how the bye weeks were staggered in the second half of the season, giving the Buckeyes 13 days off to prepare for their Friday night matchup with Northwestern, which then in turn gave them an extra day to prep for Wisconsin.
If any rust exists after this lull, however, it's fortunate that Maryland and Rutgers are on the schedule. Knock the rust off and go get the East Division title in the final two weeks of the season.
Kyle: The level of of competition is clearly the biggest worry, given the likelihood of early exits for key starters. We’re looking at a very real scenario in which Chugz might see more snaps than Fields over the next two weeks, as the Buckeyes *should* walk all over both the Terps and Scarlet Knights. Keeping this team motivated hasn’t seemed to be a problem all season, but keeping them sharp has to be high on Ryan Day’s list of priorities.
Admittedly nit-picking on the offensive side, which is the greater concern for this team once the Penn State and Michigan battles come around: Ohio State ranking No. 87 in the land allowing 2.38 sacks per game or the lack of consistently dependable receivers outside of Chris Olave?
Kyle: I’m not sure the lack of a secondary receiving threat isn’t actually depth within the receiving corps. Six players have registered 13 catches or more, with K.J. Hill hauling in more passes than Olave (30 to 28), though Olave has far and away more touchdown catches with eight. The sacks are more of a concern, though I’d rather Fields be holding the ball too long instead of forcing it into closed windows and turning it over. Either way, these are champagne problems, for sure.
David: The former, and by a wide margin.
Sure, the passing attack hasn't hit on all cylinders this year, but how much of that is a symptom of blowing every team out week by week? But both Michigan and Penn State get after the quarterback at a high rate, ranked inside the top 15 nationally in team sacks. Fields took a lot of hits the last time he saw a defense of that caliber (Wisconsin).
Johnny: The sacks don't bother me too much; a lot of that has to do with a young, mobile quarterback that sometimes hangs on to the ball too long. The receivers have been good, but not spectacular, this season, and it's hard to identify why. They're running good routes and getting open, but there have been way too many drops and cases of gator arms. With that said, Ohio State simply hasn't had to rely on either Justin Fields' arm or the wideouts to win games. Dobbins has been so consistently great at moving the sticks that you don't have to rely on wideouts making third down catches five times every drive.
Through eight games, who would you say has been Ohio State’s most improved player compared to last season and why?
Johnny: I'll be boring and say J.K. Dobbins, but it's the right answer. At this point last season, he had 521 yards on 120 carries for just 4.34 yards per carry. As of now he's got 1110 yards rushing on 154 carries for a ridiculous 7.21 yards per carry and (I think) the biggest part of why the offense is as effective as it is.
Kyle: This has to be Pete Werner. One of the fans’ favorite whipping boys in Billy Davis’ much-maligned crew last fall, Werner’s consistency and athleticism have made him one of the most important pieces on a unit that has reached a completely new level this season. Part of his development is certainly the scheme, but he deserves a ton of credit for changing the narrative of his career.
David: At first this looked like an easy question, but then I looked at the roster.
You can make an argument for so many guys. Both Chris Olave and Binjimen Victor took big steps forward this year. Running back Master Teague looks nothing like the freshman who barely found the field a season ago, and J.K. Dobbins himself lets like a man reinvented in the backfield.
Then on defense you have guys like linebacker Pete Werner completely changing the narrative on their style of play. A year ago he was a weak link within the unit, and this year he ranks third on the team in total tackles. Then there's Damon Arnette, who returned for his senior season as a potentially undraftable prospect and morphed himself into a likely early-round selection.
Oh yeah, and the quarterback. Fields has elevated his game quite a bit under the direction of Day and the Buckeyes coach staff.
So who among these guys deserves the most improved player honor? Uh... // closes eyes and points blindly // yeah, sure. Him.
It’ll be swell to have Ohio State back on the field but the game of the weekend is obviously LSU versus Alabama in Tuscaloosa. All signs point to Tua being healthy enough to give it a go and Joe Burrow is obviously the Heisman front runner. Alabama enters as a 6.5-point favorite. Who wins and why?
David: Who's going to win? Well, whoever has the ball last, is my guess.
Neither team has what I'd consider an elite defense. Both teams have what I'd consider elite offenses. I'm expecting a shootout in Tuscaloosa (which probably means the teams will combine for 31 points) and LSU to pull out a close one in the final minutes.
Johnny: Alabama will win because until Nick Saban leaves they will be the boring, boring rock tied around the neck of the beautiful peacock that is college football. LSU is a fun, weird team coached by a mid-90's SNL skit and quarterbacked by a kickass Ohio kid that we all like. So of course they're going to lose to Alabama's death machine, because we can't have nice things.
Kyle: Alabama’s lack of a consistent running game is a big change from years past, and regardless of how explosive the Tide receivers may be, LSU may have the better defense between these two for the first time in years. That said, Alabama still has the advantage on the sidelines, and I’m pretty confident Nick Saban will make sure he’s not embarrassed at home by first-time play-caller Joe Brady. ‘Bama wins a relatively low-scoring affair.
Ohio State enters tomorrow’s contest as a 43-point favorite over Maryland. Do the Buckeyes cover the mega-spread? Give us your final score and game MVP.
Kyle: My guess is Justin Fields will have another crazy efficient game against the nation’s 111th-ranked pass defense. I can see him having four first half touchdown passes before spending the second half on the sidelines, as OSU wins 52-7.
David: The Buckeyes cover, winning it 56-10. Dobbins will torch Maryland once again, adding another 170 yards and two scores to his season totals. It will remain to feel good on top.
Johnny: That's an insane spread that I'm mad I can't argue with. If they don't cover I'll be pissed because I'm pretty sure that Michigan did and Michigan sucks. 52-7, good guys.