Nearly six months removed from college football, everybody is itching to get things back underway. College GameDay, Saturday tailgates, rivalry games, marching bands and even midweek MACtion is tragically absent in the heat of summer.
We are getting close, though. The calendar hit July 1 which means fall sports are right around the corner. Over the next six weeks, we will be taking a look at Ohio State’s 2018 football schedule. Each week will feature two articles for a team on the Buckeyes’ schedule. First up this week is Oregon State.
Buckeyes open as big favorites in battle of OSUs
The reigning Big Ten champions will, in theory, get off to a comfortable start in 2018. Early lines put Ohio State as 38-point favorites over the West Coast OSU.
After going 4-8 in 2016 and returning one of the most experienced teams in the PAC-12, things were looking up in Corvallis. That all went crashing down after an opening week 31-point loss to Colorado State. The Beavers went on to win just one game and finish 1-11 in the basement of the PAC-12. The one win came against 0-11 Portland State—whose closest game was the 35-32 loss to Oregon State.
Nonetheless, the horizon should be brighter for the orange in black in 2018. The athletic department hired Jonathan Smith for his first season as a head coach. Smith played quarterback for the Beavers from 1998-2001.
Strong ground game in 2018
Smith’s team will consist of 15 returning starters from the 1-11 team. Running back Artavis Pierce has been the second leading rusher in Corvallis the past two seasons. Last season, Pierce ran for 323 yards and one touchdown behind top rusher Ryan Nall.
The offensive line is the most experienced unit of this team, returning four of five starters. Gus Lavaka, left guard, has 19 starts in 22 total games at Oregon State. He will be the star of this offensive line, a line that will be key to a successful running game.
The ground game should be the focus of this offense, but quarterback Jake Luton will have good help from the receiving core.
Passing game benefits from experienced receivers
Luton began 2017 as the starting quarterback before fracturing a bone in his spine. In the four games he played, Luton threw for 853 yards on a 62% completion rate.
Replacing Luton for the remaining eight games was Darell Garretson, who threw for nearly 1,500 yards and six touchdowns. After losing Garretson to graduation, Luton should get the start in Columbus.
Oregon State’s two leading receivers in 2017 return this season, which is crucial for Jake Luton.
Noah Togiai, junior tight end, caught 34 passes for 461 yards and two touchdowns last year. Just behind him was receiver Timmy Hernandez, who caught three touchdowns on 357 receiving yards. These two will be big for the Beaver offense, but expect to see a lot of action from Isaiah Hodgins and Trevon Bradford as well.
Eight starters return on defense
On defense, the Beavers lose their top player in Manase Hungalu. Hungalu led the teams in tackles (97), sacks (2.5), pass breakups (4) and interceptions (2). Still, eight returning starters means that this Oregon State defense should be significantly better in 2018. Then again, 2017’s defense gave up the worst points per game in program history.
David Morris is the star of this defense at the safety position. As a freshman, Morris was the second leading tackler in 2017. An off-season injury could hamper his performance this year, but if healthy, Morris will be the top player on this Beaver defense.
Locking it down with Morris at safety will be Jalen Moore. Moore started 11 games last season with 75 tackles and three pass breakups. Without any seniors starting in this Beaver secondary, Moore will be expected to step up as a leader of this Oregon State defense.
Ohio State and Oregon State have previously met twice in Columbus. The Buckeyes won both games. The first with Woody Hayes, 51-10. The second with Earle Bruce, 22-14.
FPI gives Ohio State a 98.8% chance of defeating the Beavers. Oregon State has not had a winning season since 2013, and they have not won a road game since 2014.
Ohio State’s offense will be a force to reckon with. Every receiver came back, Dobbins and Weber are back and three starters return to the offensive line. This is not going to be a fun week for first time head coach Jonathan Smith.
Ohio State 56, Oregon State 10