Eleven Warriors Roundtable: Big Red In Big Trouble

By Chris Lauderback on October 23, 2020 at 9:20 am
Jonathon Cooper is back for one more run at a national title.
Joshua A. Bickel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

One. Sunrise. Remaining.

That's it. Just one more sunrise until Ohio State plays it's first football game since December 28, 2019. Today marks the 300th day of fuming over the loss to Clemson. 

But it's past time to put that one in the review. A new season is upon us and national title aspirations remain. The first step is tomorrow as the Buckeyes look to come out hot against what looks to be an overmatched Nebraska squad. 

What will the run game look like? Who absolutely has to successfully step into a bigger role this year? What could derail a national championship season? 

For answers to those questions and more, we turn to 11W's own Ramzy Nasrallah, Kevin Harrish and David Wertheim

The two-headed tailback combo of Trey Sermon and Master Teague gets its first crack to show it can avoid a meaningful drop in the run game’s production following the departure of J.K. Dobbins. How will the production be split Saturday? Do you foresee a similar strategy deployed as the season wears on or will one guy emerge as the clear-cut best option? 

Ramzy: Hey Chris, it’s good to be back at the roundtable. Let’s get spicy - Teague is very good at running in a straight line while Sermon at Oklahoma was basically Lydell Ross but with the ability to stay upright in a light wind. I don’t think Teague is ever going to figure out how to cutback or wiggle; his upside involves seeing holes faster and hitting them harder.

If Sermon can tighten up his pass-blocking I think he ends up being the primary in December with Teague being the change-of-pace guy. In the absence of that, smashing into defenses with Teague will be the first deliberate run option. Justin Fields releasing on passing plays will end up producing the most rushing statistics.

Kevin: I think we'll probably see a pretty honest split this first game but in games that matter I really think we're going to see Trey Sermon on the field most of the time. I think he's quite a bit more versatile and a lot more experienced.

Master Teague's strength is running straight very hard and very fast, but he wasn't spectacular moving laterally, and that was before an Achilles injury. That's totally fine situationally and against *checks the schedule* pretty much everyone Ohio State's going to face in the regular season, especially behind an incredible offensive line, but it really wasn't fine against Clemson and it showed.

I think there's a role for both of them, but if I had to name an RB1, it would be Sermon.

David: I think Ohio State will start out with a two-headed approach (much like Weber and Dobbins back in the good old days) but Sermon will emerge as the best option in the end. Teague has shown us that he is good at running straight and fast, but his east-west ability seems to leave a lot to be desired, at least from what we have seen so far. Sermon is a relatively proven back, averaging 7.1 ypc last year, and is poised to do well behind this Ohio State offensive line. 

Besides Justin Fields, which Buckeye faces the most pressure to perform at an elite level and why? Will your selection meet the challenge?

David: I think it's Zach Harrison. Ohio State was fortunate enough to go from Joey Bosa -> Tyquan Lewis -> Nick Bosa -> Chase Young, and Harrison is supposed to be the next in Larry Johnson's lineage of great defensive ends. With the departure of Davon Hamilton as well, Ohio State isn't really sure where they are going to get pass rush from. Harrison has to emerge as "the guy," and build off his performance last year. I'm not so sure he can meet the challenge yet. After all, he is just a true sophomore and doesn't really have a proven elite guy on the other side of him. 

Kevin: It has to be Shaun Wade. Everyone (myself included) is basically just assuming he's going to be one of the best players in the country at a position that he's never played at the college level.

Remember, he's only ever played safety and slot cornerback at Ohio State. He may say that outside cornerback is his most natural position, but nobody has ever seen that. And yet we're still labeling him a preseason All-American.

Now, add on the fact that he is the lone returning starter in probably the best secondary in the country that just had two players drafted in the first round and has three currently starting in the NFL. Oh, and there's a new defensive coordinator and position coach, too.

We're expecting a TON out of him in a pretty difficult circumstance. Like, if he's not one of the best cornerbacks in the country this season, he won't have lived up to expectations. But the good news is, I'm a blind optimist so that's exactly what I expect. Go ahead and give him the Thorpe Award now.

Ramzy: Going with the guy who opted out and then opted back in, which means I’m choosing two - Wyatt Davis and Shawn Wade. Guys who were on their way to NFL prep coming back to school have to make a statement. Both of them have realistic shots at 1st team AA seasons on their way out the door. After a 10-month offseason, I think they’ll both do it.

Nebraska may not ultimately be able to expose it but what is Ohio State’ potential Achilles heel that keeps it from winning a national title this season?

Ramzy: Running right at the center of the Ohio State defense seems like a good strategy. The Buckeyes are DBU until further notice, so until there’s a confirmed drop-off with Brown/Banks/Proctor, the strategy is to hammer the space where Davon Hamilton, BB Landers and Jashon Cornell used to be.

David: The pass rush. I've been saying this since last season ended: I'm not sure where Ohio State is going to get a consistent pass rush. Zach Harrison had 3.5 sacks as a true freshman, but that's not really good enough as the #1 option obviously. Jonathon Cooper has been in the program for four years already, and we know who he is. Tyreke Smith and Javonte Jean-Baptiste are relative unknowns, Taron Vincent has never been healthy, and Tommy Togiai will be a first-year starter. I'm just not sure how they are going to generate pass rush and I think this is a bigger problem than people are willing to admit at this point. 

Kevin: The way I see it, a team needs at least one of two things defensively to win the national championship – a dominant pass rush or an elite secondary. Ohio State doesn't have proven talent at either of those positions. The Buckeyes have barely any proven returning players that can rush the passer or defend downfield. If players don't step up, that's going to be a real problem against teams like Clemson or Alabama.

Now, it's tough to look at a defensive line and secondary that has a history of reloadeing with young elite talent and just say "Yup, it's going to suck," just because they haven't seen much action yet, so I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt. But if Ohio State is going to have a weakness this year, that's going to be it.

Which is the most likely to happen this season: Clemson wins the national title, Ohio State wins the national title, Trevor Lawrence wins the Heisman, Justin Fields wins the Heisman, Michigan loses at least three games or Tom Herman gets fired.

Kevin: Oh, it's absolutely that Michigan loses three games. That's going to be basically set in stone after they lose on Saturday night to Goldy. I could see all the other outcomes going either way, but Michigan losing three games this season is more likely than the sun coming up tomorrow.

Ramzy: Fields wins the Heisman. Lawrence’s chances took a hit when Travis Etienne opted to stay in school. Fields’ chances were enhanced when JK Dobbins opted to go pro. The big games are in the beginning and end of the schedule for the Buckeyes, so Fields can immediately hit his cruising altitude, hold serve through the squishy midsection of the schedule and then have his closing argument in the rivalry game and in Indy.

Michigan is a lot tougher for me to laugh at when it has no expectations - this is when they’re at their most dangerous (do I really need to remind you how close the 2012, 2013 and 2014 lost causes were compared to the chest-beaters of the past two seasons?) Big Herm isn’t going anywhere unless Texas has someone better lined up, and I don’t think they’re getting the guy who spends his Saturdays with Brady Quinn and Reggie Bush.

David: Trevor Lawrence seems like a lock for the Heisman at this point. I'd say Clemson winning the national title is the second most likely, followed by the Buckeyes capturing the crown. I'm extremely hopeful that there will be a Clemson-Ohio State rematch. I think both teams are actually worse than last year, but are still the two best teams in college football this year. Michigan will probably lose three games but I could definitely see them only losing two.

Ohio State enters as a hefty 26-point favorite. Do the Buckeyes cover? Give us your final score and game MVP.

David: Sticking with tradition, I will say that Ohio State does not cover. 42-21 Buckeyes, and Jameson Williams scores twice. 

Ramzy: Ohio State 52, Nebraska 24. Huskers scored the final points in Lincoln last year against the back-end of Ohio State's travel roster. The depth chart should get a nice workout on Saturday, and Adrian Martinez will get to eat against it. Again.

Kevin: You think the Bucks have waited this long to play only to blow a cover in the first game? Ryan Day would never. Ohio State rolls 52-14. Justin Fields is the MVP because who the hell else would it be?

View 33 Comments