COLUMBUS — The time for talk about what Ohio State and Ryan Day might do is finally almost over.
Now it’s time for the Buckeyes to actually get down to business.
The season opener has arrived, and Day has seemingly been in complete command for the program all week, showing no signs of nerves, uncertainty or lack of confidence as he officially takes over in the Horseshoe.
“Yeah, [it’s hitting] a little bit,” Day said on Thursday. “But you go on a journey with a bunch of guys, bunch of coaches, staff members and then players. And it’s fun, because when you go lock arms together and you go play somebody, it’s about all the work you’ve put in to that point.
“If you trust the training, if you trust everything you’ve done in the offseason, if you trust everything you’ve done in preseason, if you trust all the preparation you’ve done in meetings, then you have confidence. You can go play with speed and toughness.”
How much of that will the Buckeyes show this season? What’s going to happen in the first year of the Ryan Day Era? How high is the ceiling for Ohio State? Lettermen Row has five bold predictions from our contributors ahead of the opener against Florida Atlantic, and here’s what our staff is is expecting to see this season.
Austin Ward: Chase Young will break single-season sack record
Even on two bum ankles, Chase Young still finished with enough sacks a year ago to check in with the seventh-best season in school history in that category. Now fully healthy with another year of physical development under his belt and what appears to be more help around him on the Ohio State defensive line, everything is pointing to an epic, record-breaking campaign for Young before he inevitably skips off to the NFL. The number Young is chasing is Vernon Gholston’s 14 sacks from the 2007 season, and the junior is primed to run it down and terrorize every quarterback the Buckeyes face this season.
Birm: J.K. Dobbins will set new rushing mark at Ohio State
Move over Eddie George, J.K. Dobbins is coming to take the crown.That’s right, Dobbins, who already sits atop the school’s list of all-time rushing yards by a freshman, is going to put together the first 2,000-yard year in Ohio State history. In his first two seasons, Dobbins split carries with Mike Weber and still collected almost 2,500 yards on the ground, and now that he’s the unquestioned bell-cow tailback for the Buckeyes, there’s only one thing left to do: Win the whole darn thing. Dobbins averaged a ridiculous 7.2 yards per carry as a freshman, and in his self-proclaimed failure of a sophomore season, he still averaged 4.6 behind an offensive line that seemed more comfortable in pass-protection than run blocking. That’s not going to be the case this season, and Dobbins is going to be seeing a major increase in workload. Give him 300-plus carries, then sit back and watch him run all the way to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Tim May: Binjimen Victor will lead Ohio State receiving corps
Think back to last year and the one offensive play – the seminal moment, really – for Ohio State’s 13-1 season. In this quarter at least, it was the catch-and-run touchdown by Binjimen Victor which flipped the script in the come-from-behind win at Penn State. Now think back on the college career to date of Victor, take that play out of the mix, and suddenly it’s tough to conjure many others. His touchdown catch with 40 seconds left that tied the score and led to the overtime rally victory at Maryland last year – yes, there’s one. But for a player whom former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said had as high an upside as any receiver he’d been around, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound, long-armed Victor has come up short for the most part. So far. This year the senior has the chance to step forward, much as the Three Amigos (Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, Johnnie Dixon) did last season, and lead a receiving corps eager to get on with the Justin Fields era. Perhaps by season’s end, the song you’ll be singing is “Hail to Ben Victor valiant.”
Spencer Holbrook: Ryan Day will win Big Ten Coach of the Year
I think I hear this stat every year during August, but it never gets any less strange. Ohio State has two national titles — not Big Ten titles — national titles since the last time a Buckeyes coach won Big Ten coach of the Year. Earle Bruce won it when the Buckeyes went 11-1 in 1979, and if Ryan Day mirrors that record, he should win it. I get it, the Buckeyes have the same lofty expectations every year, so it’s just expected that Day rarely loses. But if he follows Urban Meyer by posting an 11-1 record, beating Michigan and getting to the College Football Playoff? That’s almost too good for Coach of the Year voters to ignore.
Will Crall: Ohio State will have best defense in Big Ten
The Silver Bullet defense will return to form after their worst season in history. Last year’s Greg Schiano-led Ohio State defense ranked 105th in pass defense, 76th in rushing defense, 93rd in total defense and gave up 49 points to Purdue. After an overhaul of the defensive staff, including the addition of Jeff Hafley, Greg Mattison, Al Washington and Matt Barnes, it appears the Buckeyes have their swagger back. Everything we’ve heard and seen is that the scheme has been simplified to let Ohio State’s superior talent make plays. Look for big seasons from Pete Werner, Jeffrey Okudah and Malik Harrison. I’m not forgetting the defensive line, which was the only bright spot on last year’s defensive unit. Larry Johnson will have the Rushmen playing at an elite level per usual.