COLUMBUS — Urban Meyer will be missing from Ohio State’s football opener today but he’s not the only absentee.
There is also a total absence of suspense about how the Buckeyes’ first game against Oregon State is going to turn out.
If OSU wins by fewer than five or six touchdowns interim head coach Ryan Day should consider making the team run Ohio Stadium’s steps for a half hour after the game. And he should join them.
Oregon State’s football program could be described as being in shambles, but that would be an insult to other shambles.
After going 1-11 last season, the Beavers have nowhere to go but up. But that climb isn’t going to start today against Ohio State, where 4-star and 5-star recruits often have to wait their turn to play and where the mood might be just a bit testy after all the controversy and negative attention of the last six weeks.
Oregon State comes into today’s game with a 19-game losing streak in road games. It has not won while wearing its visitors uniforms since the first week of October in 2014.
The last time it was on a football field on game day was last season in its traditional regular-season game against its in-state rival Oregon. They call it the Civil War in Oregon, a state which had the fewest deaths (46) of any state in the real Civil War.
How did that final game of 2017 turn out for the Beavers? Not well. Not well at all. Its 69-10 loss to the Ducks was the worst in the 121 times the two teams have played football against each other.
But that might not have been the most embarrassing thing that happened to Oregon State last season.
Six games into the season coach Gary Andersen resigned. And he apparently wanted out so badly that he told Oregon State it didn’t have to pay him the $12 million that his contract required it to pay him on his way out the door.
So, other than a blowout win, what should Ohio State fans look for this afternoon? What are the on-the-field questions for an Ohio State team, for whom the low end of expectations would probably be 10 wins?
Anytime a highly touted quarterback is making his first start, that is always going to get the most attention.
Dwayne Haskins appears to have significant arm talent, as the analysts like to say. Ohio State’s deep passing game could look better than it has anytime since the national championship season in 2014 if Haskins lives up to expectations. He is question No. 1.
The people immediately in front of Haskins are question No. 2. You don’t remove NFL-worthy starters (Billy Price and Jamarco Jones) at maybe the two most important positions on the offensive line, center and left tackle, without some concerns about how their replacements will play.
The linebackers are another big question. None of today’s listed starters – Baron Browning, Pete Werner and Malik Harrison – were starters last season.
Tuf Borland is a returning starter once he is able to get on the field. He was impressive once he got into the lineup at middle linebacker late last season but is coming back from an Achilles tendon injury during spring practice.
Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said Borland is ahead of schedule and might be ready to play today. Considering who the opponent is this afternoon, it will probably be at least another week before Borland returns to the starting lineup.
The prediction: Ohio State 56, Oregon State 7.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.