2019 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Florida Atlantic

Its a new Day for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

This pun will most likely be the common phrase associated with the 2019 Buckeyes team, especially for the first few games, but this team feels like a new shift from the 2018 team.

Ryan Day replaces Urban Meyer as the head coach, and the expectations are as high as ever. Buckeye Nation holds the Scarlet and Gray to a high standard, and expect no fall off from the future hall-of-fame coach. Ryan Day seems fit to do such that, an offensive guru who studied under Meyer, and Chip Kelly. He led Ohio State to a 3-0 start in the 2018 season, and now he does not have a coach in waiting. Every decision, call, on and off the field impact is all on him now. There is a blueprint to continue the success, and Ohio State hopes to contend not only for the Big Ten title but a national title.

Gone is Dwayne Haskins, who was selected by the Washington Redskins.

Gone is Tate Martell, who transferred “The U” and is competing for a second string quarterback spot, and tempting to play receiver.

In is Justin Fields, a 5 star quarterback from the 2018 class, who transferred from Georgia to Ohio State in lieu of the transfer portal. Monday, August 19, Ryan Day named Fields the starting quarterback. Fortunately he has an arsenal of weapons around him to help satisfy his own expectations of success.

The most important goal for this team is to win every game, and it has to approach the season one game at a time.

And it starts with Florida Atlantic University.

Head Coach: Lane Kiffin
2018 Record: 5-7
Location: Boca Raton, FL
Conference: C-USA

Ohio State Preview: Ryan Day officially starts his Ohio State career, and brought in several new names to the defensive side of the ball, including Greg Mattison and Al Washington, who were on Michigan’s staff last year, Jeff Hafley as a secondary coach, and Matt Barnes for special teams. He also brought in Mike Yurcich from Oklahoma State as the new quarterback coach, and promoted Brian Hartline to the wide receivers coach. All eyes will be on Ohio State as they are seen as vulnerable this season with the change in coaching and a brand new quarterback. They will look to defend their Big Ten title this season, and hope to make a return trip to Indianapolis. 

The biggest storyline this season is Justin Fields, who transferred from Georgia in the transfer portal, and was officially named the starter on August 19. There is a high bar set for him in terms of expectations thanks to Dwayne Haskins, who shattered sing season passing records in for the school, and the Big Ten. Fields will add an element that was the weakness of Haskins game, and that is the threat of the run. The other reason expectations are high for Fields is that he and Trevor Lawrence, who won a National Championship last season with Clemson, both came in the same class, and Fields beat out Lawrence in The Opening. There is not a lot of depth though behind Fields, as Gunnar Hoak is the current back up, and also new to the Ohio State system. Ryan Day though has admitted that because Justin Fields in new to the system, keep standards low, and Day will rely on the running game in the first 6 game stretch as the team is still solidifying their identity. 

JK Dobbins will be the running back to help them out with this transition. Dobbins ran back to back 1,000 rushing yard seasons, and if he is able to run 1,000 yards this season, he will be in elite company as the only other running back to have 3 straight seasons. The other running back is Archie Griffin. Behind him is junior Demario McCall, who was announced as the second string running back. Even with McCall as the backup, Dobbins should take the lions share of the carries as he will not need to split with Mike Weber, who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. 

Ohio State could argue it has one of the deepest wide receiver groups in the country, highlighted by captain KJ Hill, who only needs 48 receptions to be the all time reception leader in Ohio State history. He is the leading returner, along with the experience from Ben Victor, who is the deep ball threat, and Austin Mack, who was injured during the Indiana last season. They will also have Chris Olave, who emerged late in the season with some big catches in place of Mack, and probably none bigger than the Michigan game where he hauled 2 touchdowns. Two other names to look for this season and in this game will be Jaelon Gill, and freshman phenom Garrett Wilson. Both are highly touted recruits and a lot of positive remarks from Brian Hartline from those two during the summer.

There will be a lot of new faces on the offensive line, but Day feels confident at the depth in talent, despite the inexperience.

The defense will look to turn around a statistically mediocre season, giving up the most plays of 35+ yards in the country. With the addition of Mattison and Washington, the defense should be more Silver Bullets, especially with the added “bullet” position on the field, which is a linebacker/safety hybrid. Hafley has made some strides for the secondary, and has them communicating in the same study room. Reports from the practices has been that the defense has created a lot of turnovers, which hopefully translates to success on the field when the games matter.

Chase Young headlines the defense this year, and finds his name on the lists for best defensive player in the country. He is the only unanimous Pre-Season All American from the Buckeye squad, and should improve on his numbers from last year. Jeffery Okudah and Jordan Fuller look to redeem the much maligned secondary from last season, and are aiming to start the trend of first round draft picks for the NFL draft after not having any secondary members selected in the 2019 edition. The linebacker core will be similar to last seasons line up, with Tif Borland, Peter Werner and Malik Harrison. Al Washington took over that group, and has them hungry and hopefully the will live up the tradition of great Ohio State linebackers. 

FAU Preview:  Lane Kiffin took over the head coaching job after leaving Alabama as the offensive coordinator in 2017. His previous head coaching spots include Tennessee and USC, which were both surrounded by some turmoil during and after his tenure. He has changed leaves since taking over for the Owls, indicating that the tutelage under Nick Saban has helped shape him as a coach, and understand how to bring a winning culture to the team. Overall, his record at FAU is 16-10 in his first two years, including a 5-7 record last season. FAU returns 13 starters to this years team, and is aiming to compete as the top team in the Conference USA East division. Ohio State will e the only Power 5 team the Owls will play this season, and will host UCF the following week. 

Kiffin has not named a starter as of yet, and like the trend for his team, there have been a few transferred quarterback to his time. At one time, Deondre Francois was on the roster, but then transferred again again to Hampton. On the roster still though are two other transfer quarterbacks with Oklahoma transfer Chris Robinson, who won the job last season and set a school record of 471 yards passing in a game against Air Force. Also on the roster is Indiana transfer Nick Tronti, who had to redshirt.

The Owls lost their top 2 running backs to the NFL draft, and will be fielded with Alabama transfer BJ Emmons. With limited playing time, he rushed for 173 yards, and is a big back at 6 foot and 230 yards. He will test the Ohio state front 7 with his running power and could create some issues if he gets into the open field. Behind him is sophomore Malcom Davidson who is a smaller back, and could be a threat in a screen passing game. 

At the wide receiver position is where the Owls return some experience. Their top wide-out is Willie Wright, who caught 657 receiving yards last year. Another threat, their tall receiver is Tavaris Harrison, who caught 304 yards last year. The Owls tend to use a 2 tight end set, with 2 wide outs, so Ohio State will have to utilize their linebackers to cover and manage the senior tight-ends John Raine and Harrison Bryant.

Defensively, FAU is looking to have a better season than last year. They gave up an average of 31.8 points per game and 424 yards. They do return 6 starters from last season, and play a nickel defense with 5 defensive backs and 3 down lineman. They replaced their defensive coordinator though every year for the last 4 seasons. 

Buckeye Spotlight: Justin Fields. This is the obvious choice, and for good reason. Ryan Day may have been playing the coaches game by waiting until the third week of preseason camp to officially name Justin Fields the starter, but I think a part of that was to make sure he knew he had to earn it. Fields took most of the first team reps on the summer, and even when he transferred in January, he was taking the first team reps during the Spring Game. He didn’t look solid in that outing, but everything that has been reported since indicates that he is much better and is letting the offense slow down and come to him more now. He has an arsenal of weapons around him, and will have a great offensive line to help protect him. It will be hard to live up to the hype, but a 200 yard passing game with 3 touchdowns, and 50 yards rushing will help calm the unrest of Buckeye Nation. These first few games will be great for him to learn and grow, and even make some mistakes before the season gets into the meat of the schedule, starting with the week 5 showdown against a rebounding Nebraska team. 

Owl Spotlight: Harrison Bryant. Dubbed as one of the best tigh-ends in the country, Bryant will be a challenge for a regrouping linebacker core. Regardless of who does get the start at quaterback, Bryant will be a threat and keyed on to to help limit the Owl passing game.Bryant earned All-Conference USA honor last season is is a second team All-American on Pro Football Focus’s Pre-Season All-American list.

Water Cooler Stat of the Game:  2012. The last time Ohio State hosted a Conference USA opponent was in 2012, and played UCF (who was in that conference at the time) and UAB. They beat UCF 31-16 and UAB 29-15. That was also Urban Meyer’s first year as the Ohio State head coach.

Prediction:  Lane Kiffin is going to use this opportunity to recruit for FAU, especially with a national audience in one of the biggest stadiums in the country. Last year, FAU started the season against Oklahoma, and lost 63-14. There is that much of a talent gap between these two teams as well when they take the field on Saturday, and Ohio State won this game with the recruiting in February. Urban Meyer did not leave the cupboards bare, and Ohio State fans should expect a better transition between coaches than when Meyer left the Florida job. Ryan Day already had his debut as a head coach last season, but this game should mean something to him, his first official game without an interim tag. He will have the offense ready, and I expect to see Justin Fields make a few great plays, and maybe some mistakes, but the ground game should be rolling with Dobbins, who had a transformative mental and physical offseason. With the changes on the defensive side of the ball, they should pressure Deondre Francois, and create some turnovers. Expect to see the Silver Bullets flying around once more as Ohio State wins this one big, and prepares for their instate opponent next week with Cincinnati. 

Ohio State 56 – FAU 10

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