Ohio State announced today that four key players would miss the Sept. 7 season opener against Virginia Tech. While it’s a big enough news story in and of itself, especially since one of the players suspended is All-American defensive end Joey Bosa, what about the impact on the field?
Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes are the defending national champions and the overwhelming favorite to defend their title. However, the team will now be without Bosa and wide receivers Corey Smith, Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall when Ohio State travels to Blacksburg, Va., to play Virginia Tech, which also happens to be the last team to defeat the Buckeyes.
So will these suspensions matter against the Hokies or do Ohio State fans have nothing to worry about come Labor Day night? AthlonSports.com contributors Chip Minnich and J.P. Scott offer their two cents.
Why the Ohio State suspensions matter against Virginia Tech
The news that Ohio State would be without four players for the opening game at Virginia Tech arrived on the first day of The B1G Media Day like a ton of bricks. Rumors had been percolating that there would be suspensions of some manner or variety, but when the news was released that the players involved were Joey Bosa, Correy Smith, Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall, it would be fair to say that the strong confidence Ohio State fans may have had going into the season opener had been dramatically diminished.
Offensively, Ohio State has enough players to compensate for the losses of players such as Marshall, Smith and Wilson. However, I would like to raise the following concerns that Ohio State fans may need to contemplate.
With the suspensions of Marshall, Smith and Wilson, Ohio State is now down to only Michael Thomas from their top receivers of a year ago. Remember that Devin Smith and Evan Spencer have moved on. With the suspensions, Thomas is the lone experienced receiver that either J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones will have played with from last season from the wide receiver corps.
At H-Back, both Wilson and Marshall were experienced at the position. Those individuals citing the move of Braxton Miller need to remember that a) Miller has never played the position before in a game-time situation b) Miller is coming off two labrum surgeries. Ohio State may be looking at a truly inexperienced H-Back, such as Parris Campbell Jr. for the opening game. Not impossible, just inexperienced.
Defensively, Ohio State has plenty of talent returning across the board. Of these returnees, none were or are held in such high esteem as Bosa.
Ohio State was already projecting TyQuan Lewis at the opposite defensive end from Bosa. Sam Hubbard, Darius Slade, and Jalyn Holmes are possible contributors who may rotate at Bosa's position throughout the Virginia Tech game. Similarly to what I have written regarding the offensive positions, these are talented players, but very inexperienced, and not as reputable as Bosa.
Compounding the loss of Bosa is the fact that Ohio State is still trying to adequately replace the departed Michael Bennett along the interior. Without Bosa at one end continually being accounted for, the Virginia Tech offensive game plan may be to attack the interior of the Ohio State defense, as Adolphus Washington is the only established player along the entire Ohio State defensive line.
Can Ohio State win the game at Virginia Tech, even without the four suspended players? Certainly. Needless to say, the road to repeating as national champions was just made that much more difficult with the announcement of these suspensions.
Why the Ohio State suspensions won’t matter against Virginia Tech
Unlike 2014, the 2015 matchup between Ohio State and Virginia Tech is a high-profile one. The Hokies are not about sneak up on the Buckeyes again, as Urban Meyer is going to have his squad prepared, both mentally and physically, for their trip to Blacksburg.
Although Joey Bosa could very well be the best player in the nation, his suspension is the least of Ohio State’s worries. He’s still just one player on a defense with six legit Bronco Nagurski Award candidates. It’ll be an excellent opportunity for one or more of Ohio State’s talented underclassmen to step into the defensive line rotation in place of Bosa. In short, Ohio State’s defense is going to be good enough to dominate their side of the ball in most games with or without Bosa. He simply raises them to another level.
The offensive side of the ball could be a different story, but again, there is still enough talent on the Ohio State depth chart to get the job done. Whether the quarterback is Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett or both, they’ll still have the luxury of Ezekiel Elliott behind them and one of the best offensive lines in the country in front of them.
In terms of other weapons, Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller, Curtis Samuel and Nick Vannett are all more than capable of producing enough big plays and posing consistent threats to keep the Hokie defense on its heels.
As good as Ohio State is and despite being the No. 1 ranked team in the nation by basically everyone, people still continue to doubt or just flat out not understand just how talented this team is. Suspensions or not, I’d be shocked if the Buckeyes didn’t win the game by two touchdowns.