If you've been around 11W for a few years, you know I come with some bold predictions for the season during fall camp, then I take my medicine once the season is over as most of the predictions fail to pan out.
That said, I do put effort into not giving you five vanilla predictions like "Garrett Wilson will be even better than last year" or "I bet Ohio State beats Nebraska."
Instead, I try to hit home runs with most of my predictions, knowing full well the options are to either clear the bases or strike out.
For the 2021 season, I went full Reggie Jackson.
Let's all laugh at me together..
JEREMY RUCKERT BECOMES OHIO STATE'S FIRST TIGHT END SINCE 2003 TO RECORD AT LEAST 30 RECEPTIONS
Lol at me thinking this would be The Year that Ohio State more prominently featured the tight end. Part of my reasoning for Ruckert's likely success was the Buckeyes being really thin at the position and therefore thinking he would get a ton of snaps and almost by default, a fair amount of targets.
Ruckert did finish with 26 catches in 12 games and of course I projected him playing 15 games based on my prediction below that Ohio State would make the CFP championship game.
His 26 grabs still finished tied for second-most by a Buckeye tight end since Ben Hartsock recorded 33 way back in 2003. Marcus Baugh had 28 in 2017 and Jeff Heuerman also talllied 26 in 2013.
Ruckert played 713 snaps in 2021 and frankly, I don't think he was as effective overall as he was in 2020. He certainly wasn't bad but did have some drops. Maybe a couple less drops and 15 total games could've pushed this prediction over the hump but as you know, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
OHIO STATE AVERAGES AT LEAST SIX YARDS PER CARRY FOR SECOND TIME IN SCHOOL HISTORY
Welp, this one's a miss as Ohio State averaged 5.55 yards per carry for the 2021 season, still good for No. 3 in the country.
Obviously I was counting on TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams doing their part and they delivered averaging a combined 6.91 yards per carry while accounting for 60% of the team's rushing attempts.
Unfortunately, the four other guys with at least 20 carries - Master Teague (67), C.J. Stroud (32), Evan Pryor (21) and Marcus Crowley (20) - averaged a combined 4.67 yards per carry. Even if you take out Stroud's -0.6 average, the trio of tailbacks clocked in at a pedestrian (for Ohio State) 5.25 per try.
I figured the running game would blow up since it would be difficult for team's to stack the box and leave Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba extra room in secondary, and I had a ton of confidence in the offensive line but it wasn't meant to be.
Ohio State averaged 6.22 yards per carry over the first six games but also averaged just 4.86 yards per carry against top-50 defenses on the season, including only 2.13 yards per try against Michigan.
Throw out the Michigan game and the yards per carry vaults to 5. 81. Still not 6.0 but much closer than 5.55.
AT LEAST FOUR DEFENSIVE ENDS WILL RECORD AT LEAST FOUR SACKS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN RECORDED SCHOOL HISTORY
Here's another one that was close but not good enough, however again, this would've been a first in school history.
I figured Zach Harrison and Tyreke Smith were locks to get at least four sacks apiece however Smith finished with just 3.0 while Harrison (4.0) held up his end of the bargain. Of course, my excuse for Smith is he missed two games. Even if Smith came through, I still needed one two more guys.
Jack Sawyer posted 3.0 as a true freshman despite playing 60% less snaps than Smith. After that, J.T. Tuimoloau logged 2.5 each and Javontae Jean-Baptiste tallied 1.5 despite logging 313 snaps, third most among the defensive ends.
PASS DEFENSE IMPROVES BY AT LEAST 75 YARDS PER GAME
I was honestly kinda rolling with the law of averages here, thinking the 2020 pass defense which ranked No. 122 in the country giving up 304 yards per game would be better by default.
I felt like even though Kerry Coombs and company would be counting on mostly the same guys - excepting Shaun Wade's departure - another year of seasoning and the fact they'd have full spring and fall camps would give the secondary a boost.
The pass defense did improve over 2020 but still gave up 245.8 yards per game, an improvement of 58.2 yards per game, or 16.8 yards short of my prediction.
Safety Josh Proctor going down for the season in game two was a big blow for me as I was betting on him to make a big leap and I was also burned by assuming Lathan Ransom would be a really contributor. He still may be next year after he returns from a leg injury suffered in the Rose Bowl but he didn't perform as I'd expected in 2021. I did however get a boost from Denzel Burke having a hell of true freshman season.
Again, fairly close but no cigar.
OHIO STATE WINS THE BIG TEN, REACHES THE CFP TITLE GAME AND FALLS TO ALABAMA AGAIN
You know the deal here. The loss to Oregon in week two foreshadowed Ohio State's inconsistency when it mattered of running the ball and stopping the run, as Michigan handed the Buckeyes a 42-27 loss that killed my prediction.
I had Stroud emerging as an above average performer or better, guiding an offense that would average more than 40 a game, and figured the defense would keep the Buckeyes from winning a natty but I still expected Ohio State to coast through the Big Ten.
So there you have it. I was at least in the neighborhood on a couple bold predictions but I'm here to accept all the Nelson Muntz "Ha-Ha" comments you can muster.
While you're throwing shade at me, don't forget to claim victory of defeat specific to your own prognostications for the 2021 season. With that, I'll cook up another batch of likely horrible predictions for the 2022 season come August.