Last Call: Final Thoughts, Questions and Predictions Prior to Ohio State's Week 3 Meeting With Tulsa

By 11W Staff on September 18, 2021 at 7:30 am
Ohio State Buckeyes

With the chalk still fresh from last week, Ohio State returns to the scene of the crime Saturday as it looks to get back in the win column at Ohio Stadium.

The Buckeyes, who slid from No. 3 to No. 9 in the country after their loss to then-No. 12 Oregon a week ago, draw 0-2 Tulsa from the American Athletic Conference in their first game back from defeat.

Before the contest kicks off at 3:30 p.m. in the Shoe, check in with the staff writers at Eleven Warriors for our final thoughts, questions and predictions about the impending non-conference clash.

Final Thoughts

For a game against a winless Group of 5 team, there is no lack of intrigue for Ohio State

Given Ohio State's 4-0 record against AAC teams since the conference formed in 2013, with the closest game in the bunch being a 22-point Buckeye win, a Week 3 home matchup with Tulsa would typically be a bit of a snooze in most other years. That has changed after the result of last week's game, even if a comfortable Ohio State win is still widely expected.

After Ryan Day's comments on Thursday, it's possible we see a new defensive play caller for the Buckeyes Saturday, with Kerry Coombs potentially taking a seat in the box for what could be the first time in his entire Ohio State coaching tenure. We also may see significant modifications on the field defensively, as Day said “structural changes” are on the horizon, with Garrett Wilson hinting toward “new things” being worked on in practice by the Buckeye defense this week.

It is assumed that the Buckeyes will run away with this one, but it's how they do it – specifically when it comes to the defensive performance – that makes this game a must-watch.

– Griffin Strom

This defense is going to be scrutinized to the max

Tulsa gets two first downs on its opening series? You’re going to hear an audible groan from Ohio Stadium. A blown assignment results in a large gain? That’s going to dominate the message boards for a while. We’ve heard all week about how OSU’s defense will be making adjustments and trying new things out after a poor showing its last two games, including possibly naming a new play caller instead of Kerry Coombs.

If there was ever a time a team needed a shutdown defensive performance, it’s now against a team that lost to an FCS program earlier this season. It would go a long way in starting to settle down the team a bit and take some nerves away from a very concerned fanbase.

– Garrick Hodge

Developing starters and backups both important in this game

If this afternoon goes according to plan, it could be the biggest opportunity Ohio State has had since 2019 to give its backups real game reps. Opportunities for the Buckeyes to take their starters out of the game early were few and far between during Ohio State's shortened season in 2020, and as a result, there are still many second- and third-year Buckeyes who have seen minimal playing time so far in their Ohio State careers.

Given that, Ohio State will certainly want to get a lot of players game reps against Tulsa (and next week against Akron). That's important for the Buckeyes to build depth for not only the rest of this season but for the future, as well.

At the same time, Ohio State has many players who already starting or playing significant roles – especially on defense, which has surely contributed to its early struggles there – that still haven't played a lot of football as Buckeyes because of the reps they missed last year. Considering the issues Ohio State has defensively, the Buckeyes might actually be best served by shortening their rotation in this game – at least early in the game – as they look to improve on that side of the ball. They probably won't want to take C.J. Stroud out too early, either, considering he's still short on experience as he enters his third start as a Buckeye.

Established veterans like Wilson, Chris Olave, Jeremy Ruckert, Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere probably won't play much in the second half, if at all, if Ohio State can take a comfortable lead into halftime. For just about everyone else, though, the Buckeyes might have incentive to keep their starters in a little bit longer than they normally would against a Group of 5 opponent.

– Dan Hope

Tulsa got extremely unlucky today.

In most scenarios, this would be a game where Tulsa might catch Ohio State sleepwalking a bit as a seemingly non-threatening 0-2 team that lost to an FCS opponent is strolling into Columbus for a lazy 3:30 game a week after the Buckeyes' biggest non-conference game in years.

Unfortunately for Tulsa, there's not a shot in hell Ohio State sleepwalks through this game. In fact, the Buckeyes are going to want to absolutely blow out the Golden Hurricane today, leaving absolutely no doubt from start to finish.

Due to no fault of its own, Tulsa will be facing a pissed-off Ohio State team that absolutely needs to be at its best. And I think it's going to show.

– Kevin Harrish


Who’s calling defensive plays?

Is it Kerry Coombs? Matt Barnes? Someone else? One lucky fan from the stands? Will Ryan Day even tell us after the game?

– Garrick Hodge

Will the defensive scheme look noticeably different?

Aside from the bullet replacing the Sam linebacker in the Buckeyes' base defense, Ohio State's defensive scheme for the first two games has looked mostly the same as it did for the last two years. After both Day and Wilson suggested this week that Ohio State is working on changing things up defensively, though, I'll be keeping a close eye out today – as I suspect most of you will be, too – to see what the Buckeyes do differently on defense this week.

Realistically, we probably shouldn't expect to see drastic schematic changes against Tulsa, as a new defensive system can't be installed overnight. But I do believe we will see a few new wrinkles, as the coaching staff that simply sticking with what they've been doing defensively isn't going to cut it.

– Dan Hope

Will we see McCord, Miller or Ewers at QB?

All eyes will be on the Buckeye defense Saturday, but there are still plenty of offensive storylines to follow after an admittedly imperfect performance from Ohio State’s prolific offense against Oregon.

Ryan Day gave Stroud a full vote of confidence this week, saying the redshirt freshman is “not our issue," and with just two starts under his belt, Stroud has the chance to gain some much-needed experience while getting into a rhythm against what appears a less talented opponent. However, if the score gets lopsided in the second half, we may see some other big names get a crack at quarterback. It seems unlikely that Quinn Ewers will make an appearance, but Kyle McCord or Jack Miller may very well see some snaps late.

Which of those two is Stroud’s true backup? Day has given us no official word, but we could find out Saturday.

– Griffin Strom

What does the running game look like?

I think we were expecting to see the running game kind of solidified last week, but instead, it was all but abandoned late in the game leaving us with many of the same questions that we had heading into last game.

How is Ohio State going to distribute carries between Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson, and what is that rushing game going to look like in the long run, in a regular game where the Buckeyes aren't playing catch up?

Ryan Day made a point to say that he feels Ohio State put too much on C.J. Stroud's plate against Oregon. Does that mean we'll see a lot more ground game today?

– Kevin Harrish


Buckeyes cover first-quarter, first-half and full-game spreads

Considering that the line has dropped by nearly a full touchdown since Ohio State opened as a 31-point favorite on Sunday, the consensus among bettors seems to be that Tulsa will keep this game at least semi-competitive. I'm going against the line movement, though, with my personal prediction that the Buckeyes win 59-21, in which they would easily cover the current spread (as of late Friday night) of 25 points.

Betting big on the Buckeyes covering might still be a risky play, mostly because the final score could end up closer than it should be if Ohio State builds a big lead early and plays backups in the second half. The lines I really like for those inclined to bet on the Buckeyes, though, are the first-quarter spread (-7) and the first-half spread (-14.5).

While Ohio State sometimes sleepwalks out of the gates in games like this against inferior opponents, I think the Buckeyes will be looking to make an early statement in this game coming off of last week's loss, and I think they dominate both the first and second quarters before potentially taking their feet off the gas a bit in the second half.

– Dan Hope

Ohio State dominates, but we still have the “What about the defense” conversation for another week

It would be very disappointing if Ohio State’s offense can’t find a way to shred this Tulsa defense, and I fully expect the Buckeyes to overwhelm the Golden Hurricane. While it’s very likely the defense won’t be as lackluster as it was against Oregon, with all the uncertainty on the defensive end right now, I can’t in good conscience publicly expect a strong performance defensively until the Buckeyes strap up and deliver one.

– Garrick Hodge

Marcus Hooker will see his first snaps at safety since the 2020 Michigan State game

Last year’s Week 1 starter at free safety has fallen far from grace since then, having slipped to third-string status at best in the opening weeks of 2021. Hooker’s offseason arrest certainly didn’t help his cause after more than one shaky performance on the field in 2020, but with Josh Proctor now out for the year, he seems likely to be back in the mix against Tulsa.

Bryson Shaw did not look like a permanent fix after starting against Oregon, and Day said Hooker, Ryan Watts and Kourt Williams have all seen time at free safety this week. Watts is a cornerback without much experience playing safety despite possessing size that undoubtedly suits the position, and Williams was expected to play bullet whenever he debuted for the Buckeyes after last year’s ACL tear. That means Hooker is by far the more experienced player of the bunch, and the only one that has spent considerable time playing free safety at all to this point.

Expect to see him on Saturday, even if it’s part of a wider rotation.

– Griffin Strom

At least three quarterbacks see action

I think this is finally the game where Ohio State gets the chance to play some of its depth at quarterback and we get to see that backup quarterback race take shape.

I think this game will be well at hand by halftime, which means Ryan Day will be able to play some depth for the bulk of the second half, including at the quarterback position. I think we'll see at least Kyle McCord and Jack Miller today. The big question is whether or not Quinn Ewers will make his Buckeye debut.

– Kevin Harrish

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