In Columbus, Ohio, the season-opening game for the Ohio State Buckeyes is a highly anticipated event. At this time of year, discussion typically centers on how the Buckeyes will replace departed starters, or if any of the highly rated freshmen will earn playing time.
But this has not been a usual offseason for the Buckeyes. Far from it.
The media firestorm that began during The Big Ten Media Days in Chicago in late July have completely changed the focus from the activities on the field to activities off of it. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has been suspended from coaching the team for the first three games of the season, leaving Ohio State co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day as the interim head coach while Meyer serves his university-mandated suspension. Rarely have Ohio State fans been this eager for the college football season to commence, and that is where the Oregon State Beavers come into the picture.
Pac-12 member Oregon State is coming off a dismal 1-11 season in 2017 that resulted in the midseason resignation of Gary Andersen as head coach, and resulted in the hiring of Jonathan Smith as Andersen's replacement. Smith is a former player for Oregon State, and most recently served as the offensive coordinator for Washington. It would be fair to say that Smith's rebuilding process is going to take time, and traveling across the country to take on a talented team such as the Buckeyes is a challenging way to begin that task.
Oregon State and Ohio State have met twice previously, with both games taking place in Columbus and both won by Ohio State. The Buckeyes defeated Oregon State 51-10 in 1974, and 22-14 in 1984.
Oregon State at Ohio State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 1 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Ohio State -39
Three Things To Watch
1. Ohio State's offense without J.T. Barrett
For the first time since the 2014 national championship season, J.T. Barrett will not be an option at quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins has been named the starter, but talented redshirt freshman Tate Martell figures to see playing time as well against the Beavers. While Haskins and Martell are both capable quarterbacks, it will bear watching to see what changes, if any, the Ohio State coaching staff will make to the offense that Buckeyes fans grew so accustomed to watching Barrett pilot over these last few seasons.
2. Oregon State's offensive line vs. Ohio State's defensive line
Oregon State has announced that Jake Luton will start at quarterback for the Beavers in the season opener against Ohio State. While Oregon State returns four of five starters along the offensive line, the Buckeyes defensive line that features projected All-American Nick Bosa at defensive end will be difficult to stop. Look for Oregon State to try to get the ball out of Luton's hands quickly, to negate the strong Ohio State pass rush.
3. Have the Buckeyes blocked out the off-field distractions?
The national media have been relentless with their criticisms of Ohio State since late July. Ohio State has been under self-imposed media lockdown, with little to no news coming out on how the team has looked during preseason fall camp. While some first-game mistakes are probably going to happen, if Ohio State comes out sloppy and lethargic against Oregon State, will the media and fans blame the off-field scrutiny that has engulfed the program?
While Urban Meyer is not going to be on the sidelines for the season opener, the talent that has been accumulated in Columbus over the past several seasons is among the very best in college football, as evidenced by the high preseason ranking and accolades that have been bestowed upon the team by national media members, including AthlonSports. While Meyer's suspension has dominated the preseason focus, the Ohio State coaching staff — one that includes two former head coaches in Kevin Wilson and Greg Schiano — has rallied around Ryan Day and should have the Buckeyes well-prepared as the 2018 season begins. Oregon State does not have the talent or depth that Ohio State possesses, and it should not take long for the Buckeyes to put this game in the books as a win as the 2018 season gets underway.