Following a summer full of investigations and allegations surrounding head coach Urban Meyer and former assistant coach Zach Smith, the Ohio State football team opens its 2018 season at home against Oregon State.
Ohio State starts the season ranked No. 5 in the AP poll, making the Buckeyes the second-highest ranked team in the Big Ten, trailing only No. 4 Wisconsin.
The Buckeyes return following a 12-2 record last season, winning the Big Ten Championship and earning a Cotton Bowl victory over USC after missing the College Football Playoff.
Through the offseason, the off-the-field allegations and controversy surrounding the program, junior defensive end Nick Bosa said it is all being used as motivation.
“Hate always drives you, and when people are hating, then you just want to prove them wrong even more,” Bosa said. “We’re excited to go prove that we’re the same team.”
While Ohio State hopes to prove it is the same team that found success a season ago, Oregon State comes into its opener trying to prove the exact opposite.
The Beavers finished last season with a 1-11 record, the program’s worst record since finishing 1980 winless. Oregon State’s only win came by a field goal to FCS opponent Portland State.
Following that victory against the Vikings, Oregon State dropped its next 10 games, failing to win a single game in the Pac-12, including a 38-10 defeat to USC.
The Beavers allowed 43.0 points per game, the third most in the nation, while scoring only 20.7 per game, the 17th fewest in the nation.
Among all the weaknesses, the biggest came in the Beavers’ rush defense. Oregon State allowed 235.8 rush yards per game, giving up 35 touchdowns on the ground. Both numbers were in the bottom 10 in the NCAA rankings.
Oregon State’s hopes come in the hiring of Jonathan Smith at head coach. Smith was the quarterbacks coach at Washington for the past four seasons, helping senior quarterback Jake Browning earn first-team All-Pac-12 honors and become an O’Brien award semifinalist each of the past two seasons.
Acting head coach Ryan Day has praised Smith, and said he is expecting a defense very similar to one of the top teams in the Big Ten.
“Jonathon comes over and obviously has had a great career and he’s going to come in with a lot of energy,” Day said. “They’re going to be instituting that Wisconsin system of some three-down, some four-down, and they’re very, very aggressive.”
Senior quarterback Jake Luton will start under center for the Beavers. The 6-foot-7 quarterback started the first four games last season for Oregon State before going down with a back injury, completing more than 61 percent of his passes in his four starts.
Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber should take advantage of one of the weakest run defenses from last season. This will make redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ first collegiate start a more manageable one, where he can control the tempo and play more relaxed.
If the weak run defense isn’t enough, Oregon State also was tied for the sixth-worst turnover margin in 2017, ending at minus-14. With junior defensive end Nick Bosa, redshirt junior defensive tackles Dre’Mont Jones and Robert Landers and a rotation of sophomore defensive end Chase Young and junior defensive end Jonathon Cooper on the other side, there will be mistakes made by this Beavers’ offense under a new head coach.
Day said he does not see this game as his head coaching debut. He is simply filling in for Meyer while he is serving his three-game suspension.
“This isn’t one of those things where I’m becoming the head coach,” Day said. “This is just something that I’m holding the place for coach until he gets back and the goal is to win the game against Oregon State.”
Whether it was going to be Day or Meyer on the sidelines, it wouldn’t have mattered. Ohio State is coming into this game angry and ready for football.
Wyatt Crosher: 66-3 Ohio State
Colin Gay: 56-7 Ohio State