Some questions for Ohio State and the Big Ten

The times have been changing rapidly in Big Ten football. And one more indication of that, with this year’s Big Ten Media Days scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in Indianapolis, is that four of the head coaches who were at Big Ten Football Media Days last year no longer work for the schools they did 365 days ago.

Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst and Nebraska’s Scott Frost all were fired. Purdue’s Jeff Brohm left on his own to coach his alma mater Louisville.

Yet another indication of change is that two of the players who will be in Indianapolis doing interviews have never played a game for the teams they will be representing. Wisconsin quarterback Tanner Mordecai and Purdue quarterback Hudson Card landed at their current schools by entering the transfer portal.

Marvin Harrison Jr., J.T. Tuimoloau and Cade Stover are the three Ohio State players who will be at Media Days.

Here are a few questions for Ohio State and the Big Ten as Media Days and the start of the season get closer:

Question: Can Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. win the Heisman Trophy?

Answer: If last year’s winner, USC quarterback Caleb Williams, has a season close to what he had in 2022 when he threw for 4,537 yards and 42 touchdowns, Harrison and everyone else will probably be battling for second place in the Heisman voting.

Harrison is as dominant at what he does as anyone in college football. He could win. But the Heisman race has become a quarterback dominated contest.

Only three wide receivers have ever won the Heisman Trophy – Alabama’s DeVonta Smith in 2020, Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991 and Notre Dame’s Tim Brown in 1987.

Question: What is the most dangerous game on Ohio State’s schedule other than the trip to Michigan on Nov. 25?

Answer: There probably is not another game as dangerous as going to Michigan. Notre Dame and Wisconsin on the road and Penn State at home will all be tough games. But the Michigan game appears to be in a class by itself this season because no one at Ohio State wants to deal with a third straight loss to the Wolverines.

Question: Who is going to be Ohio State’s starting quarterback? And how much does the transfer portal affect the timing of naming the starter?

Answer: Kyle McCord, who started a game while C.J. Stroud rested a sore shoulder during the 2021 season and has been at Ohio State a year longer than Devin Brown, probably would be the starter if the season began today. Brown could make it interesting if he stacks several outstanding days in a row on top of each other when preseason camp begins.

There’s no doubt the transfer portal plays a role in the timing of announcing a starter these days. But Cardale Jones wasn’t announced as the starter over J.T. Barrett in 2015 until the day of the season opener. And in 2007 Todd Boeckman wasn’t publicly designated as the starter until four days before the first game.

Question: What is the biggest question on offense for OSU?

Answer: Maybe the biggest question on either side of the ball is the Buckeyes’ offensive line.

Their wide receivers are probably the best group in all of college football. With TreVeyon Henderson healthy again, he and Miyan Williams lead a deep group of running backs.

Guards Donovan Jackson and Matt Jones are the only returning starters on the offensive line. No clear leader emerged at center or right tackle during spring practice and the projected left tackle Josh Fryar is unproven and has started only one game at OSU.

Question: What is the biggest question on defense for OSU?

Answer: Giving up too many big plays in big games is the No. 1 concern. Michigan scored touchdowns on passes of 45 yards, 69 yards and 75 yards and runs of 75 yards and 85 yards in 45-23 win over the Buckeyes last season. Georgia averaged 8.8 yards per offensive play in a 42-41 Peach Bowl win.

Question: What is the question about OSU almost no one is talking about?

Answer: The kicking game. Noah Ruggles made 37 of 41 field goal attempts in his two seasons as the Buckeyes’ kicker, the highest career percentage by an OSU kicker. He also was 74 of 74 on extra points. Jayden Fielding, a preferred walk-on who has not attempted a field goal at Ohio State, and former USC kicker Parker Lewis will compete for the job.

Lewis was 26 of 35 on field goals in two seasons with the Trojans before entering the transfer portal.

Question: Which players who came to OSU through the transfer portal could have the most immediate impact?

Answer: The transfer player with the best chance to start is long snapper John Ferlmann, who came to Ohio State from Arizona State. Last year’s No. 1 long snapper Bradley Robinson used up his eligibility and last year’s back-up snapper Mason Arnold transferred to Michigan State.

Cornerback Davison Igbinosun, who started 10 games at Ole Miss last season as a freshman, and safety Ja’Had Carter, a three-year starter at Syracuse, also could get on the field. Offensive tackle Josh Simmons, a starter at San Diego State last season, could work his way into the offensive line equation.

Question: Who will average more points per game, Iowa’s offense or Iowa women’s basketball superstar Caitlin Clark?

Answer: Iowa’s offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz is hoping, and possibly praying, that the answer is the Hawkeyes’ offense.

After Iowa ranked No. 130 out of 131 major college football teams in scoring last season, Ferentz’s contract was amended to say that if the Hawkeyes don’t average 25 points a game and win seven games this season he would be out as offensive coordinator.

Iowa averaged 17.7 points a game last season and has averaged 25.9 in Ferentz’s seven seasons as its offensive coordinator.

So, it’s not a slam dunk. On the other hand, 85 of the 131 FBS schools averaged 25 points or more last season. And any defensive and special teams touchdowns Iowa scores will be included in the average.

Question: Which Big Ten coach might be on the hot seat?

Answer: After back-to-back bowl trips in 2019 and 2020 Indiana has gone 6-18 over the last two seasons and has won only two of its last 18 Big Ten games. So Tom Allen might be feeling some heat.

But he could stay in Bloomington for a while because his contract for $4.9 million a year runs through the 2027 season.

Question: Who is the Big Ten coach with the most job security after Pat Fitzgerald’s fall from grace and from the top of that list?

Answer: Supreme Court justices envy the job security of Iowa’ s Kirk Ferentz. Jim Harbaugh has gone from one foot out the door to almost untouchable at Michigan. The loony wing of Ohio State fans says Ryan Day is on the hot seat, but he’s not. Another good answer might be Luke Fickell. He has a 7-year contract and has never lost a game at Wisconsin.

Question: What is the preseason guess for OSU’s record this season?

Answer: There are enough questions about the Buckeyes at this point that a loss or two seems possible. Maybe 11-1 and see where that takes them.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

Jim Naveau
Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.