Five Predictions For The 2020 Ohio State Football Season

By Chris Lauderback on October 1, 2020 at 8:35 am
Justin Fields is primed to flex on Ohio State's record book despite the shortened season.
40 Comments

Now that we're officially into October - aka game month - for Ohio State's expected football juggernaut, it's time for my latest round of swing-and-miss predictions for the upcoming season. 

I was all over the map last year, correctly calling J.K. Dobbins would rush for at least 100 yards in 10 games and that the Buckeyes would win the Big Ten, make the College Football Playoff but lose in a semifinal matchup. 

I did say they'd pick up a loss in the regular season which didn't happen and I was WAY OFF predicting the defense wouldn't be Top-25 total defense (they were No. 1 lol). 

In more aggressive guesses, I thought the pass catchers might set a school record by having five dudes rack up at least 450 receiving yards. Turned out, only three eclipsed the mark with Garrett Wilson falling 18 yards short and Austin Mack further behind. 

Finally, I went out on a limb calling Jordan Fuller to lead the team in tackles for a second-straight season, becoming just the second safety since at least 1970 to do so. Fuller faded down the stretch and ultimately finished third on the team with 62 stops, 13 behind team-leader Malik Harrison. 

So now we turn the page to 2020.. 

SOPHOMORE ZACH HARRISON WILL AVERAGE MORE SACKS PER GAME THAN CHASE YOUNG DID IN HIS SECOND SEASON

As a sophomore in 2018, Young racked up 10.5 sacks in 14 games, or 0.75 per contest while averaging about 56 snaps. 

Young was pretty streaky that season, picking up multiple sacks against Rutgers (2.0), Penn State (2.0), Maryland (2.0) and Northwestern (3.0) while snagging one against Washington and a half-sack versus Purdue.

Basically, nine of Young's 10.5 season total came in four of 14 games and he failed to record a sack in eight other outings. 

Harrison enters his sophomore season after an almost-identical freshman campaign to Young's. Last year, Harrison logged 5.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Chase's freshman year produced 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. 

It will be up to Harrison to prove he can be the number one pass rushing option in Larry Johnson's arsenal and my bet is he'll do exactly that. To average 0.75 sacks per game and equal Young's sophomore production, Harrison will need 8.25 sacks across an 11 game season or 7.5 across a 10-game slate. 

I'm not even contemplating a season any less than 10 games. 

JAXON SMITH-NJIGBA WILL LEAD OHIO STATE'S TRUE FRESHMAN RECEIVERS IN RECEPTIONS AND YARDS

I've been a fan of the way Smith-Njigba quietly goes about his business ever since he committed. 

The fact insiders I trust are also bullish on the 6-foot, 196-pounder out of Rockwall, Texas has me expecting big things right out of the gate. 

His versatility could also help him see more snaps than some of his peers as Brian Hartline has said he will find ways to get his best guys on the field regardless of their primary spot as an H, X or Z. 

To make my prediction come true, he'll have to fend off fellow freshmen Julian Fleming, the consensus No. 1 receiver in the 2020 class, Gee Scott Jr., the country's No. 10 rated receiver and No. 16 ranked Mookie Cooper. 

No doubt this one feels like a toss up between Fleming and Smith-Njigba but I'm going with my gut and rolling with Jaxon. 

OHIO STATE WILL RANK IN THE TOP-15 IN SCORING DEFENSE FOR THE FIFTH TIME IN THE LAST SIX SEASONS

Despite losing first round talent in defensive end Chase Young, cornerbacks Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette, along with safety Jordan Fuller and defensive line veterans in DaVon Hamilton, Robert Landers and Jashon Cornell, among others, the Buckeyes have the talent to finish in the top-15 in scoring defense once again. 

To do so, they'll have to prove they can reload, primarily in the secondary and the trenches. 

I'm betting on big steps forward from Zach Harrison, Sevyn Banks, Josh Proctor, Tommy Togiai, Tyreke Smith and even vets like Baron Browning to fill some big shoes. I'm also betting on the defense taking advantage of playing Nebraska (No. 72 scoring offense in 2019), Rutgers (No. 129), Maryland (No. 93), Illinois (No. 79) and Michigan State (No. 104) in the middle of the schedule. 

Beyond holding those teams to low point totals, I'm banking on the seasoning acquired throughout the schedule paying dividends against Michigan and into the postseason. 

It feels like a somewhat risky pick but what's the point in predicting "Shaun Wade will be good?" 

JUSTIN FIELDS WILL AVERAGE THE SECOND-MOST PASS YARDS PER GAME IN A SINGLE-SEASON IN SCHOOL HISTORY

Go big or go home. 

First of all, I said second-most because nobody is ever beating the 345.1 passing yards per game Dwayne Haskins averaged in 2018. 

For Fields to make this one a reality he'll need to average more than the 277.5 yards per game Joe Germaine threw for during his stellar 1998 campaign. Last year, Fields averaged 233.8 yards through the air which slots No. 5 in school history. 

Expecting Fields to add nearly 44 passing yards per game to his 2019 tally is a tall order but I'm betting on Justin for a couple reasons.

For starters, Fields put up 302 passing yards against Michigan, 299 on Wisconsin and 320 versus Clemson to round out the season and it sounds like he's only gotten better in the offseason. 

I also think Ryan Day wants to give Fields every opportunity to showcase his talent after the signal-caller showed great poise and maturity in never wavering in his decision to play this year. Fields has two proven studs to throw to in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, and a host of other talented receivers vying for opportunities to show what they can do. 

Finally, putting up style points could matter this year and Day's best bet to do that is to ride Fields to the promised land. 

JOSH MEYERS WILL WIN THE RIMINGTON AWARD AS THE NATION'S BEST CENTER

I'll finish out going with 6-foot-5, 312-pound center Josh Myers to win the Rimington Award. 

The redshirt junior out of Miamisburg was dominant at the center position in 2019 after arriving in Columbus as a four-star prospect at guard. 

Myers teamed with Jonah Jackson and Wyatt Davis to give Ohio State an elite interior offensive line last year and there's no reason to think Myers won't be even better this fall. 

Creed Humphrey at Oklahoma and Drake Johnson at Kentucky are just a couple of the guys Myers will have to surpass in order to claim the Rimington but I'm going with him to pull the upset, joining LeCharles Bentley (2001), Pat Elflein (2016) and Billy Price (2017) as Buckeyes to capture the award. 

40 Comments
View 40 Comments