College football is going to look a lot different this fall, both because of the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that there'll be new faces in key positions around the country.
As it stands now, Ohio State's schedule looks like one of the toughest in the country. A week 2 trip to Eugene for a showdown against a top 10-ranked Oregon squad sets the tone early, and an October stretch that features games against Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State and Nebraska could define the 2020 campaign.
Whether the season goes on as scheduled is the question. The Buckeyes just had to pause voluntary workouts due to the number of positive coronavirus cases the program detected, which has happened at a number of schools around the country.
Important decisions about the season need to be made soon. Ivy league schools announced there won't be any sports for their programs until at least January, which includes football and the start of the basketball season. The NCAA needs to figure out whether the season can go on as planned or if certain restrictions need to be implemented.
Assuming Ohio State at least gets to play against Big Ten competition this fall, here are three new starters it'll have to prepare itself for as it tries to make a return trip to the College Football Playoff in 2020.
Spencer Petras, Iowa Quarterback
No one here needs reminded of what happened the last time Ohio State faced off against Iowa.
That game took place in Iowa City, and quarterback Nate Stanley threw for five touchdowns in a 55-24 beatdown of the Buckeyes that effectively knocked them out of the 2017 college football playoff race.
This year's matchup takes place in Columbus, and the Hawkeyes have a new quarterback behind center for the first time in three years after Stanley's graduation.
Spencer Petras looks like the guy in charge heading into 2020. He was Stanley's primary backup last year but only threw 10 passes all season. While he's a relatively unknown product, he's dangerous because of Iowa's playmakers.
Tyler Goodson is back at running back after a solid freshman season in which he ran for 638 yards and five touchdowns. But the biggest issue for Ohio State's defense could be out wide as the Hawkeyes return their top four pass-catchers in Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Tyrone Tracy Jr., Brandon Smith and Nico Ragaini, who combined for 163 catches for 2,189 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2019.
Petras will invade Ohio Stadium with all the weapons he needs to challenge the Buckeyes defense this fall.
John Dunmore, Penn State Wide Receiver
James Franklin needs his wide receiver room to develop quickly after a disappointing 2019 season and the departure of KJ Hamler.
Hamler led the Nittany Lions in receiving with 56 catches for 904 yards and eight touchdowns. Two of the top four other pass-catchers were tight ends in Pat Freiermuth and Nick Bowers, and only one other wideout (Jahan Dotson) eclipsed 150 receiving yards on the year.
John Dunmore could be the spark Franklin is looking for.
Rated a 4-star recruit and the No. 120 prospect nationally in the class of 2019, Dunmore was one of the crown jewels of Penn State's recruiting class. He took a redshirt season last year as he added strength to his impressive frame, but he looks primed for a breakout season in 2020.
Speaking of Dunmore and fellow wideout TJ Jones, Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford is excited about their potential.
“They have boatloads of talent, but you know, talent only gets you so much, you have to actually work for it and I think that they also have that work ethic," Clifford said last month, via Bob Flounders of Penn Live Sports. "I’m extremely excited. Although they’re young, I think that they’re both very capable of having great years. I’m just excited to get to work with them in person.”
Dylan McCaffrey, Michigan Quarterback
As Eleven Warriors' own Kyle Jones wrote earlier this week, Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis was brought in from Alabama to bring more speed and space to the Wolverines offense in 2019.
That road was bumpy for Michigan for more reasons than one, but the biggest issue was the inconsistencies of quarterback Shae Patterson.
The former 5-star never fully developed after transferring to Michigan from Ole Miss, and his departure opens the door to a new era in Ann Arbor.
Dylan McCaffrey, the younger brother of former Stanford superstar Christian McCaffrey, looks to be next in line after backing Patterson up in 2019.
With another year in Gattis' system and three of Michigan's top four pass-catchers in Ronnie Bell, Nico Collins and Tarik Black returning, McCaffrey could help the Wolverines offense take the next step.