By Nathan Junk ’19
Fall in Columbus, Ohio brings the start of a new school year, crisp weather and the anticipation of another Ohio State football season. Every Saturday, nearly 110,000 passionate fans gather at 411 Woody Hayes Dr. and pack Ohio Stadium to cheer on the Buckeyes. Students and teachers around UAHS are anxious to see what the new season has in store for Buckeye Nation.
The Buckeyes enter their 2016 campaign with a national rank of six. Alabama enters the season as the number one team in the country, on top of being the defending national champions.
The Oklahoma Sooners check in at number three. This could potentially catch the eye of Ohio State fans, as the Buckeyes and Sooners are set to play in Norman, OK on Sept. 17. This game is anticipated to be one of the biggest of the year for the young Ohio State team, as it will have many implications on each team’s chances of making the College Football Playoff.
Buckeye fans all around the country have the Oklahoma game circled on their calendar. Long time Buckeye fan and UAHS sophomore C.J. Karsatos expressed his thoughts on the upcoming out-of-conference matchup.
“It gets me a little nervous when I think about it, because it’s our biggest non-conference test that we’ve been in for a long time,” Karsatos said.
This game is predicted by many analysts to be close all the way until the finish. Some experts have Ohio State winning, and some have them narrowly losing.
Buckeye Head Coach Urban Meyer is entering his fifth year at the Ohio State University. During his time at Ohio State, Meyer has taken the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title in 2014, a Fiesta Bowl title in 2016 and the coveted National Championship in 2014. Meyer’s consistent success can be traced to his long lasting victories as a recruiter. Year in and year out, Meyer brings the top talent of high school football to play for the Buckeyes in Columbus.
According to 247 Sports, since 2013, Meyer’s recruiting classes have been ranked 1, 2, 7 and 2 in the country, respectively. Ohio State fans are more than grateful to have Meyer as a persuader to young players.
“I’m very impressed with Urban Meyer’s ability to recruit. I know there are a couple young players who will be impacting the team this year,” Karsatos said. This year’s class of incoming freshman is considered to be one of Meyer’s best, as it highlights players such as five star recruit Nick Bosa, younger brother of former Ohio State defensive lineman Joey Bosa, who was selected by the San Diego Chargers as the third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft. Bosa will be joined by four star wide receiver Austin Mack, who is already being talked about by the Buckeye faithful.
“I’ve heard he’s going to be contributing a lot this year on offense. I feel like he and J.T. (Barrett) will have a special connection,” Karsatos said.
Although there is no doubt that the fresh young crop of talent from this year’s recruiting class will have a major impact on the play of the team, the Buckeyes still have veteran upperclassmen at key positions on both sides of the ball. Redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett, is expected to man the helm of the Buckeyes offense year. Barrett led the Buckeyes to the Big Ten Championship game and eventually to the national championship in 2014, but he was unable to finish the season due to an ankle injury he sustained a week before during the Michigan game. Last season, Barrett led Ohio State to a Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl victory.
Junior linebacker Raekwon McMillan is expected to lead the defense this season. McMillan has been making plays for the buckeyes ever since he was as a freshman in 2014. This year he will be one of the most influential players on the defensive side of the ball for the buckeyes.
Many experts and analysts are calling this season a “rebuilding year”. This claim is well supported, as the Buckeyes lost a record 12 players to the NFL draft this spring. Key players such as Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Taylor Decker, Darron Lee and Eli Apple will no longer be an option for Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes. They are expected to struggle on both sides of the ball, simply because of how many experienced players they lost at various positions on the field.
However, these dull predictions of the upcoming season have not phased the optimistic predictions of the Buckeye faithful.
“[I think the Buckeyes will be] national champs. I think we have the talent and coaching staff to not only dominate the Big Ten, but the nation,” Karsatos said.
There are a few analysts who have Ohio State going far into the post-season, such as winning the Big Ten and being selected for the college football playoff. However, the Buckeyes will have to get past one of their most difficult schedules in recent years in order to reach their expectations of a championship.
Strength of schedule has always been an issue when discussing Ohio State football.
College football experts have thought that their schedule was “too weak” and that they never played quality opponents. This year the Buckeyes will encounter three ranked teams in Oklahoma, Michigan State, and the hated rivals of the University of Michigan. Two of these three games are on the road, which only adds to the difficulty of the games.
Buckeye fans are well aware of the threat other teams in the Big Ten pose to their dreams of success this season.
“In the past years it’s been Michigan State, but Michigan definitely this year with all of the attention that gets put on [head coach] Jim Harbaugh and all of his silly recruiting tactics,” Karsatos said.
The approach of a new season brings fans excitement on the field, but off the field as well.
“I’m excited for the atmosphere at the ‘Shoe, all of the home games especially tailgating, and just the tradition of Buckeye football,” said Karsatos.
Ohio State football is well known as more than a passion for the people of this city and state, and college football fans around the country are interested to see what Ohio State will bring to the table this year.