Some questions for Ohio State, rest of Big Ten

By Jim Naveau -

The Big Ten can do in two days what it takes the SEC four days to do. At least when it comes to preseason football media days.

The Southeastern Conference stretches its media days over four days. The Big Ten wraps things up in only two days.

All 14 Big Ten coaches and three players from each school, including Ohio State’s Parris Campbell, Dre’Mont Jones and Isaiah Prince, will be at the Big Ten’s 2018 version of media days Monday and Tuesday in Chicago.

Here are a few questions for Ohio State and the rest of the Big Ten going into media days:

Question: What should be expected from Dwayne Haskins in his first year as Ohio State’s starting quarterback?

Answer: Elite arm strength. Good touch on his throws. Accuracy. A quick release. More than enough confidence to perform under pressure. And the occasional bad read, bad throw or bad game that will remind you he is a first-year starter playing at the highest level of college football.

Question: Is this the year Ohio State’s receivers finally live up to the expectations for them when they were recruited?

Answer: With the top six wide receivers from last season back for the Buckeyes, that position should not be a question mark, but it still might be.

K.J. Hill (56 catches), Parris Campbell (40 catches), Terry McLaurin (29 catches), Austin Mack (24 catches), Binjimen Victor (23 catches) and Johnnie Dixon (8 touchdowns among his 18 catches) were all four-star recruits coming out of high school.

All of them had their moments last year but few, if any, delivered consistently game after game. Campbell – who had 10 plays of 20 yards or more and touchdown catches of 74, 69 and 57 yards – is explosive. Ohio State hopes he becomes a deep threat similar to Devin Smith or Michael Thomas.

Question: Assuming Ohio State returns to the Big Ten championship game, who will it play?

Answer: It would be a monumental surprise if anyone other than Wisconsin wins the Big Ten West Division.

Question: Can Scott Frost make Nebraska go from wretched to respectable in his first year as the Cornhuskers’ coach the way Purdue did in Jeff Brohm’s first season in West Lafayette last year?

Answer: If Frost could play himself at quarterback the chances of doing that might be better. He passed for more than 1,000 yards and rushed for more than 1,000 on Nebraska’s undefeated 1997 team that shared the national championship with Michigan.

He’s OK at the coaching thing, too. The University of Central Florida didn’t win a game in 2015 the year before he became the head coach there. Two years later it was unbeaten, including a Peach Bowl win over Auburn.

Nebraska was 4-8 last season, including losing six of its last seven games. If 6-6, the same record Purdue had last year, is considered a turnaround, that seems within reach.

Question: Is there a Big Ten coach on the hot seat this year?

Answer: This is one of those rare years where there might not even be an uncomfortably warm seat in the Big Ten.

Almost anywhere else but at Illinois, Lovie Smith would be in trouble. But nobody there cares enough to call for his ouster after only five wins in his two seasons and no Big Ten wins last fall.

And, no, Jim Harbaugh’s chair is not heating up at Michigan. The only way he would be in trouble is if the Wolverines finish behind Indiana or Rutgers in the Big Ten East Division.

Question: Will J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber both rush for more than 1,000 yards this season?

Answer: It’s possible but it’s a stretch.

All of Ohio State’s running backs combined gained 2,496 yards last season, which means the two top backs for the Buckeyes both have a shot at going over 1,000. And there might be more carries available for the running backs this season because Dwayne Haskins probably won’t average 57 yards rushing per game, like J.T. Barrett did last season.

But if OSU’s passing game is as effective as it hopes, it probably won’t have two running backs go over 1,000 yards.

Even teams who build their offenses around the running game don’t get two 1,000-yard rushers that often. Wisconsin has had 23 running backs gain more than 1,000 yards since 1993 but there were only two seasons in that stretch when the Badgers had two 1,000-yard rushers.

Question: Ohio State’s defensive line was called the best or one of the best in the country last season. Can this year’s defensive line come close to that level after the departure of Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes and Tracy Sprinkle?

Answer: They won’t be called the best in the country, maybe not even the best in the Big Ten. But any defensive line that includes Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones, both of whom are probably headed to the NFL after this season, will be among the best in the conference.

Question: Which position is a bigger concern for Ohio State, offensive line or linebacker?

Answer: If Tuf Borland’s Achilles injury sidelines him for any length of time, Ohio State could be looking at replacing all three starters from last year at linebacker.

But the offensive line, where OSU will be replacing a two-year starter at left tackle and a first-round NFL draft choice at center, could be the area that causes the most worries.

Isaiah Prince, who played right tackle last year, and both offensive guards, Michael Jordan and Demetrius Knox, are back. But finding replacements for center Billy Price and left tackle Jamarco Jones is a priority, especially with a first-year starter at quarterback.

Question: What is the most dangerous game on Ohio State’s schedule?

Answer: After they saw Ohio State’s playoff hopes turned into ashes last season by a shocking 55-24 loss to Iowa, the better question might be which game doesn’t make OSU fans nervous.

Question: Who has the toughest schedule in the Big Ten?

Answer: Michigan and Northwestern are the preseason leaders in this category. The Wolverines play Notre Dame, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State. The Wildcats play Michigan and Michigan State back to back weeks early in the season, then play Wisconsin and Notre Dame back to back later in the season. Wisconsin’s non-league schedule isn’t great but it has to play at Iowa, at Michigan, at Northwestern and at Penn State.

Question: What’s a good guess for Ohio State’s record this season?

Answer: As always, remember it’s just a guess, but 11-1, followed by a trip to the Big Ten championship game and a trip to the College Football Playoff.

By Jim Naveau

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau

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