COLUMBUS — When the game starts, Ryan Day will be watching just like everybody else outside of the Ohio State program.
Obviously he’s going to be a much more invested, knowledge viewer than the rest of the audience. But Day isn’t going to be allowed to have any communication with the rest of the Buckeyes coaching staff once kickoff arrives, he obviously won’t be dialing up plays like normal and he’ll several hours away fro his team while in quarantine.
The wonders of technology have enabled him to remotely coach Ohio State during the week. But that will come to an end at noon on Saturday while the Buckeyes are at Michigan State, and he already is expecting a painful experience.
“I’ll be watching and communicating up until game time, trying to do the best that I can that way,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said on his radio show on 97.1 The Fan on Thursday. “But once the game starts, the coaches have to coach and the players have to play and just go from there.
“It’ll probably be the hardest three hours of my life. But at that point, you just have to get them into the game and then let them go.”
The Buckeyes remain on schedule to go play without their coach, which certainly wasn’t guaranteed a week ago when Day tested positive hours before the program cancelled a trip to play Illinois. Obviously that’s a big deal for a team with College Football Playoff aspirations, and the expectation from the Lettermen Row staff is that Ohio State’s loaded roster will still be strong enough to overcome some absences and claim a win over the Spartans.
How will it play out? As always, the crew made some Bold Predictions about what to expect from Ohio State.
Austin Ward: Sevyn Banks gives Ohio State another defensive score
For all the hand-wringing about the Ohio State secondary, that’s still a unit with more than enough talent to get any issues fixed and dominate opponents. And taking on a Michigan State passing attack that has thrown more interceptions than any team in the Big Ten is a perfect get-right opportunity for the Buckeyes. Spartans quarterback Rocky Lombardi is almost certainly going to serve up some turnover chances, and Sevyn Banks will validate the fact that he’s still been playing at a high level by snatching one and taking it to the house. Keep an eye on Josh Proctor for a big play or two in the Ohio State secondary as well — but Banks will set the tone for a hungry group of defensive backs.
Birm: Justin Fields will throw five Ohio State touchdowns
Justin Fields, champing at the bit to get the taste of the Indiana game and his uncharacteristic mistakes therein out of his mouth, will return to the frozen field in East Lansing with much to prove to himself. And the junior quarterback will do so in remarkable fashion. Ohio State receivers will be challenged by the physical brand of defense played by the Spartans, but that means opportunities for big plays down the field. The Buckeyes are going to come out slinging the football. Expect Fields to dominate from the jump and play the best game of his Buckeyes career.
Spencer Holbrook: Jaxon Smith-Njigba explodes for Ohio State
Ohio State’s passing attack has largely been a two-headed monster with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. And while that has worked for the Buckeyes, it would likely benefit them to get more receivers involved before tougher competition comes calling. Jaxon Smith-Njigba has flashed his superstar potential early this season, but he hasn’t had a breakout game this year like Garrett Wilson had late in his freshman campaign. That will change against the Spartans. Smith-Njigba finally breaks out, and he might even have more receiving yards than Olave on Saturday.
Tim May: Buckeyes will rack up five sacks at Michigan State
It’s Ohio State at Michigan State, Covid 19-avoidance willing, and there is one number that has critics of the defense screaming for more: Sacks. The Buckeyes have gained merely 11 through its first four games, including two just two weeks ago in the win over Indiana — which attempted 51 passes. Sure, the Buckeyes created some quarterback hurries, and they hit Michael Penix Jr. many times. But the sack is the stat upon which defensive front sevens are judged and …. OK, truth in advertising, this is pretty much the same start to the bold prediction I had a week ago before the game at Illinois was canceled. But the impetus for the defense to get to the quarterback even more has not changed. Defensive line/acting head coach Larry Johnson said as much this week. So look out, Rocky Lombardi. Look for the Ohio State defensive linemen to shut up their critics, at least for a week, with a minimum five-sack assault.
Will Crall: Two new defensive backs will shine for Buckeyes
Several young Ohio State defensive backs who haven’t seen all that much action will emerge against Michigan State. The Buckeyes have a stable of talented young defensive backs that include Lathan Ransom, Bryson Shaw, Lejond Cavazos, Cameron Martinez, Ronnie Hickman and Ryan Watts. The time has come to start experimenting with different guys in the defensive backfield, which has been by far the weakest unit so far this season. The expectation is those aforementioned guys will see the field — and several will emerge against the Spartans. The safety position is especially wide open given the struggles of Marcus Hooker. As a result, let’s narrow it down and go with either Hickman or Ransom to make big plays and lockdown a starting role moving forward.