COLUMBUS — Ohio State still isn’t done growing.
That’s the scary part, because the Buckeyes have already established themselves as one of the best teams in the country during an awe-inspiring six-week stretch to the season. And for those that like to compare such things, Ohio State did it against a schedule that was the toughest any unbeaten team left has faced so far.
The work isn’t done, of course, and the Buckeyes have a handful of challenges left on the regular-season schedule. But right now during the off date, the main competition is winning against complacency.
“We have to keep that going,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “We have to keep building. And really that game on Saturday night was the first time we played 60 minutes. We had to get that thing into the second half and go win the game in the second half. So, that’s going to be the challenge moving forward.
“I think higher-end execution just in all phases is going to be critical. When you kind of play the way we did in the first five games where it gets a little lopsided, you’re talking about 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids, when you play a team like Michigan State and you get some of that real resistance right there and some back and forth, you can get their attention and how important execution is going to be and the details.”
The win over those Spartans capped the first half of the season, and it offered a reminder of the upside this Ohio State team has down the stretch. With no game to predict this week, the Lettermen Row crew expanded the weekly projections to the rest of the regular season, and here’s the latest edition of Bold Predictions.
Austin Ward: Ohio State wins every game by double digits
The clamoring for a test, a measuring stick or a four-quarter battle has almost become a running joke at this point. Even when the Buckeyes welcomed a top-25 team into the Horseshoe last week, they still suffocated Michigan State in a 24-point win that almost felt like it was a letdown for them. That’s what happens when a program is head-and-shoulders better than everybody else in the Big Ten, and even when the schedule gets tougher down the stretch, there really doesn’t appear to be anybody that can challenge Ohio State. Northwestern, Maryland and Rutgers are formalities. Wisconsin doesn’t have enough offensive firepower, and Jonathan Taylor will be bottled up by the Silver Bullets. Penn State and Michigan are the closest competition when it comes to personnel, but those rosters are still outclassed by the Buckeyes. Maybe when the postseason rolls around a real test might emerge — but there won’t be one until then.
Jeremy Birmingham: J.K. Dobbins will be Heisman Finalist
I know, I know — it’s a quarterback award. But for the Buckeyes to be where they want to be, it’s going to be J.K. Dobbins who carries the load for the offense on his back and legs. Justin Fields gets a lot of the attention, and deservedly so. But as the weather turns and the Buckeyes prepare for what will be top-10 contests against Wisconsin, Penn State and potentially Michigan, a run to the the College Football Playoff is going to require Dobbins and the offensive line at their best. In our preseason predictions, I projected that Dobbins would become the school’s first 2,000-yard rusher. For him to hit that, the junior tailback will need to average 170 yards per game from now until the Big Ten title game. I think he does it — and runs himself to New York in the process.
Tim May: Ohio State passing game ready for liftoff
As the first six games of the Ohio State season progressed, the running game picked up more and more steam — to the extent that it steamrolled Michigan State’s elite rush defense before pulling into the station for a break. That station could look more like an air base as the Buckeyes leap into the next phase. Northwestern and Wisconsin will gang up to stop the run. Justin Fields will go to launch mode, which brings Garrett Wilson to mind. The freshman wide receiver played more and more, and earlier and earlier, as the first six games ensued. Like Cris Carter in 1984, he’s proven he belongs in the major plan headed forward. That doesn’t mean more catches, necessarily, what with all the capable hands on deck. But he’ll be considered as go-to as any of the others.
Spencer Holbrook: Garrett Wilson catches at least seven touchdowns
In the limited time he has seen already in his debut season, Garrett Wilson has already made the most impressive catch of the season and scored three touchdowns. Again, that’s in a limited role — and as a freshman. If Saturday night against Michigan State was any indication of what’s to come, Wilson’s role in the offense will only expand. He was on the field for crucial first-half drives and could see an uptick in playing time, meaning more targets. If Wilson is progressing like he seems, grabbing four more touchdowns shouldn’t be an issue over the next six games.
Will Crall: Chase Young will block key field goal
At some point, Ohio State will be in a close game. And when that arrives, count on Chase Young to block an important field goal. It seems like like Young is in the backfield on almost every play — including on special teams.