Approximately 95,000 fans will fill Ohio Stadium tomorrow night in a highly anticipated match-up between Marshall and Ohio State. You say, "It's only Marshall", I say it's better than Tennessee-Martin. It could be Heidelberg College and there would still be excitement.
It's the first Thursday night opener since Wyoming came to town in 1997 when the Buckeyes beat the Cowboys 24-10.
Ohio State has a history of struggles against out-of-conference underdogs. Last years' 31-27 victory over Navy was only one of many similar close shaves over the last 20 years. The '08 Ohio game(26-14), the '07 Akron game(20-2), the '04 Marshall game(24-21), the '03 San Diego State game(16-13), and a couple of nail-biters against BGSU(17-6 & 13-10) come to mind.
The Buckeyes enter the season as the number two team in the country. They're favored by 28 points. Take the points!
The Thundering Herd from Huntington, West Virginia have a lot more pride than your average football team. The former FCS/Division1-aa team is usually recognized as the team that went through the worst disaster to ever hit the college football scene. The late night plane crash in the hills of Ceredo will never be forgotten, but the Thundering Herd and Huntington, West Virginia have risen from the ashes and remain passionate about Marshall football. If Ohio State and Marshall have something in common - It's a community that lives and breaths vicariously through their football teams.
Back in Columbus - it's business as usual.
Ohio State broke camp last week, and has spent the better part of the last 10 days concentrating on Marshall.
The players just want to hit somebody that doesn't play for their own team.
Jim Tressel has been dodging questions about 'THE' game, and is trying to put an emphasis on the game at hand.
Tressel and Pryor are bookworms/film-buffs, but they might have more success reading Tolstoy, and heading to the local theater to watch 'Inception'.
Marshall's new coach Doc Holliday and his system are a complete mystery to the Buckeyes. Marshall will have the element of surprise. Doc has coached in wide-open offensive systems - so the thought is that he'll bring in a team that will throw the ball early and often. Tressel is thinking that the apple isn't going to fall far from the tree, and Doc is wondering if he can be Tressel's huckleberry.
Ohio State fans are looking forward to justifying the hype, and returning to a comfort zone of Corn-Hole, Grilled Burgers, and Great Lakes Beer. I'll have an Elliot Ness, thank you.
The other ritual for Buckeye fans is spotting the new contributors. Some will be easier to spot than others because of their size, and their playing time. Here's the not-so-short list of the players that OSU fans will be pointing out:
SS - C.J. Barnett(6'1" 205) #4 on defense
Barnett was a highly-touted in-state recruit. Now, he's the starter at strong safety. This kid is a ball-hawk with an incredible vert.
RB - Jaamal Berry(5'10" 200) #4 on offense
We've been waiting to see what this kid can do. We're about to find out.
DE - Solomon Thomas(6'5" 237) #98
Opportunity knocks with the injury to Williams. Thomas will start at WDE.
DT - Johnathon Hankins(6'3" 330) #52
'Big Hank' will play. After years of asking for it - OSU fans finally have a huge DT with quick feet. Big Hank has solidified one of the biggest question marks for OSU - interior DL depth.
WR - Corey Brown(6' 180) #10
'Philly Brown' as he's known to distinguish him from teammate, CB Corey Brown. 'Philly' has shown incredible speed in camp, and is toggling with rFr.Chris Fields for the #4 WR spot. OSU did not release any names on the depth chart in terms of kick-off or punt-return, but 'Philly' could be out there. My guess is that Saine and Hall will return kick-offs and that Devier Posey OR Corey Brown will return punts.
WR - Chris Fields(6' 180) #80
Fields is a small, but polished receiver with quickness and great hands. Started at WR all 4 yrs of HS - putting up ridiculous numbers. Redshirted last year.
DE - Adam Bellamy(6'4" 292) #93
When Bellamy's name appeared at DE, and in the two-deep, it surprised most fans. Bellamy is big and strong, and had 2 sacks in the Jersey Scrimmage.
TE - Jake Stoneburner(6'5" 238) #11
Stoneburner saw time last year, but this year he's expected to take on a major role as a receiving TE. 6'5" with sub 4.6 speed will cause match-up problems for Marshall's Lb's.
LB Andrew Sweat(6'2" 230) #42
Sweat beat-out Etienne Sabino for the open OLB spot. He played last season, but Buckeye fans will have high expectations for the new starter.
OT Mike Adams(6'7" 305) #75
Adams has played, but not played up to expectations. Word from camp is that a re-dedicated Adams' is ready to dominate in his new role as a starter. Adams has the physical tools to become one of the best OL in the country.
Perhaps the biggest question is whether or not Tressel will unleash his offense. He is a conservative coach. It's the first game of the season. Miami is only 10 days away. The concern for Buckeye fans is that Tressel may close the playbook and create a dust-cloud of expected, highly ineffective run-plays.
Here are some 'surely-to-go-wrong' predictions.
Jake Stoneburner will catch twice as many(4) balls in the opener than he did all of last season(2).
Devin Barclay will miss a relatively easy kick, and freshman Drew Basil will drill a long one.
At the 10 minute mark of the first quarter the fans will start to chant 'save the game'.
They'll shut-up when Marshall makes a play while they chant.
It's been a little while since we've had a streaker - night game, BTN, all-day tail-gating... I think we'll get one.
I think we'll get an interception - let's call for one by back-up safety Aaron Gant in the second half.
Boom Herron will lead the team in rushing.
Zach Boren will score his second career touchdown, and land-blast some poor defender in the process.
Ohio State 34 Marshall 10
Thanks for reading and GO Bucks!