There are so many storylines this season, but the No. 1 question on most fans’ minds is, “Who is going to start at quarterback this season?” Cardale Jones garnered the love and admiration of the Buckeye faithful for leading the team to three improbable wins to bring home the inaugural College Football Playoff’s National Championship. J.T. Barrett was a top Heisman contender for most of last season until his run came to crashing halt against Michigan with a season-ending injury.
Is there really a right or wrong person to lead this team? Can Urban Meyer successfully use both of them? I think J.T. gets the nod in Blacksburg based on his leadership style and his overall gameplay. I do think Cardale will get an opportunity here or there, and it’s nice to have a reliable option available if the unthinkable happens again.
But back to Virginia Tech…
The Buckeyes come into this game shorthanded, having suspended key players Joey Bosa, Dontre Wilson, Corey Smith and Jalin Marshall. With Noah Brown’s injury last week, the wide receiving corps has been depleted and is in need of a playmaker to play opposite Michael Thomas. Ohio State has a bevy of talent at its disposal, and it’s just a matter of who they can get to step it up in primetime on a big stage.
Obviously, Barrett wants to overcome his lone defeat last year and prove he can compete and win in a big game with a big audience. Last year, the offensive line was young and raw, but this year there are four returning starters with a lot of experience under their belts. I do not see JT being pressured nearly as much as he was last year; however, I do think Bud Foster will bring some different looks in addition to the “Bear” defense he successfully used last year to leave the Horseshoe with a win.
I expect Ohio State to come out with some fire and try to quiet the loud Lane Stadium crowd early. That might prove difficult, however, as Virginia Tech seems to be a different team at home. I see Ezekiel Elliott getting fed the ball early and often, although he may find it difficult to run against the front seven of Virginia Tech. I do think some holes will open up, and he’ll get his 100-plus yards and a couple of touchdowns. I also think the wide receiving core will consist of Michael Thomas, Curtis Samuel, and Johnnie Dixon, with maybe a little Braxton Miller and Terry McLaurin sprinkled in for flavor. Thomas will have a hard time getting the ball, however, with potential first-round draft pick Kendall Fuller draped all over him all evening. He will have to make some of his trademark acrobatic and jump ball catches in order to make a difference in this one.
The defense will be without its do-it-all leader Joey Bosa for this game, but I think it will be just fine. Virginia Tech brings back Michael Brewer at quarterback, and his lone great game last year came at the expense of the Buckeyes. After that, his season was a roller coaster. With veterans like Darron Lee, Eli Apple, Joshua Perry and Adolphus Washington running the defense, I expect Brewer will have a much different experience than last year. I see the Silver Bullets playing lights-out defense against the Virginia Tech offense, holding the Hokies to under 17 points.
The offense will make enough plays, and Zeke and JT will lead the Buckeyes to a 41-17 victory in Blacksburg on Labor Day to get the 2015 season underway. Urban Meyer will have his team prepared and fired up for this game after admittedly not having them ready for Tech last year following a tough opening game against Navy.
If you’ve watched “Scarlet and Gray Days” or seen any interviews this offseason, you know he is not complacent in winning last year. He has moved on to this season and is embracing “The Grind” to lead Ohio State back to the top of college football in 2015.