Today Ohio State plays its first game of the 2016. At noon at Ohio Stadium, a crowd of more than 100,000 will roar as The Best Damn Band In The Land makes its ramp entrance and this year’s version of the Buckeyes sprints onto the field to face the Bowling Green Falcons.
It’s an exciting time in Columbus, the capital city of Buckeye Nation, where following the Men of the Scarlet and Gray is an annual rite and heartfelt passion, and wins and losses can affect the whole city’s mood.
This year’s team is an intriguing one. Most of last year’s starters have ended their college careers, and many have moved on to the NFL. Familiar names like Ezekiel Elliott, Michael Thomas, Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington, and Darron Lee aren’t on the roster any more. In their places are a bunch of new guys. We don’t really know them — yet — but we’re eager to see whether they can fill the big shoes of some of the finest players ever to don the Ohio State uniform.
On offense, virtually all of the skill players are new. The one exception is junior J.T. Barrett, the multi-purpose pass-run threat who already ranks as one of the best quarterbacks in Ohio State history. Head coach Urban Meyer will be counting on Barrett to provide the steady hand and experienced leadership to help his young, newbie offensive teammates to perform up to the high Buckeye standards. On defense, there has been a similar exodus, and junior middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan will be playing the J.T. Barrett role. On both sides of the ball, there is a lot of four- and five-star talent — but how do they perform when big-time college football games are played, crunch time comes, and the game is on the line?
We’ll find out, starting today. Bowling Green has a very solid football team. And in two weeks the Buckeyes will be in Norman, Oklahoma to play the third-ranked Sooners in a clash of two of the best programs in college football history. Later this season, of course, rivalry games against Michigan State, which knocked the Buckeyes out of the college football playoffs last year, and That Team Up North loom.
These young Buckeyes had better grow up fast.