October 24th – Circle the Date
Should we play or should we go now? Clash fans will get the 80’s musical reference but the Big Ten’s medical subcommittee and the 14 presidents and chancellors would determine whether football would commence amidst the global pandemic. On August 11th they voted 11-3 against playing but the decision drew a blizzard of criticism from fans, politicians, boosters, and anyone else who had skin in the game.
Due to the hysteria, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren created a task force whose job was to assess the feasibility of launching a season sooner than later. A little over a month later it was announced that, yes, Big Ten football would go forth starting on October 24th and there was joy, not only in Happy Valley but throughout the universities which make the Big Ten so special.
"For me, it wasn't about political pressure, it wasn't about money, it wasn't about lawsuits and it wasn't about what everybody else is doing," said Northwestern President Morton Schapiro, chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C). "It was the unanimous opinion of our medical experts."
We are now only a few weeks away from kickoff and if all goes according to plan there will be an eight-game season plus a "champions week" on December 19th that will go uninterrupted. The regular season slate will consist of conference games only and the granddaddy of them all, Ohio State vs. Michigan, will take center stage on December 12th, the final Saturday of the regular season.
Buckeyes Remain the Gold Standard
Ohio State hasn’t won this season’s Big Ten title but if recent history is any indication, it appears to be more of a coronation rather than a competition. In fact, the odds on NCAAF games are widely available and if we take a look at what the different betting sites are dealing on the Big Ten, we see that the Buckeyes are prohibitive favorites (-500) to win the conference crown for the fourth consecutive year.
If indeed that does come to fruition, it would be the 39th conference championship that the Ohio State football team has claimed in its storied history, second only to Michigan’s 42 titles. The Buckeyes are loaded yet again this season and they will welcome the return of one of the preseason Heisman favorites, junior quarterback Justin Fields, who tossed for 3273 yards, 41 touchdown passes and was picked off just three times in 354 attempts.
Perhaps the only area of concern entering this season was a skill position where the Buckeyes are normally stacked – running back. J.K. Dobbins was the feature back last season but he took his skills to the NFL and is currently playing for the Baltimore Ravens.
However, it is not all doom and gloom as Ohio State has a talented redshirt sophomore, Master Teague, returning from an Achilles injury he suffered early in spring practice. The additional time has allowed Teague to fully heal and he will look to build upon his role as Dobbin’s backup when he rushed for 789 yards and four touchdowns on 135 carries.
The Buckeyes could have also struck paydirt in the form of Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon, who rushed for 2076 yards and 22 touchdowns during his Sooners career. A few nagging injuries and a struggle to stay atop the depth chart led him to transfer to Ohio State where he saw an opportunity to get plenty of playing time and perhaps, a crack at the NFL.
At 6’1” Sermon is a powerful runner with a surprising burst of speed when he gets into open space. He understands how important his role could be whether he wins the starting job or platoons with Teague at the tailback position.
Running backs coach, Tony Alford, knows Sermon well as he recruited him out of Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia. He’s got all the tools to make noise this year but his lone deficiency is running too tall. Sermon is a long strider who often neglects to lower his torso for maximum stability. But it is something he is working on in practice.
“It’s been going pretty good, especially since we’ve been able to put back on pads and everything, that’s kind of been more the focus point,” Sermon said. “I am a taller running back, and I kind of knew that. Throughout my career, I’ve always tried to just lower my pad level upon contact. I feel like I’m definitely getting better at it.”