View From The Fan: The Return Home

Ohio State returns home to begin the season and our view from the stands is literal this week as the Buckeyes will play in Ohio Stadium. If it's anything like the 2003 return, it should be a fun time.

The Buckeyes return home to Columbus and the friendly confines of the Horseshoe to take on the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors this weekend. Now that the question of who will be the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback has been answered, we can move on to the most important aspect of the season: the games. The Buckeyes come in riding high after their under-the-lights affair at Lane Stadium on Monday, but will they be able to keep the momentum going with a short week of preparation against Hawaii’s pass-heavy offense?

Thoughts On Last Week
The Buckeyes started fast and scored two early touchdowns, and the casual observer probably thought the rout was on; however, I’ve been a Buckeye fan for more than 30 years, so I know the game is never over until the clock reaches 0:00 in the fourth quarter. While many of my friends were posting and texting gleeful congratulatory messages, I pointed out it was still the first quarter and a lot could happen, and it did. Tech scored 17 unanswered points to close out the first half and take a lead into the locker room, where a bold proclamation turned into bad karma in the second half. Cameras caught Michael Brewer assuring a teammate he felt fine after taking a hard hit from Adolphus Washington and Tyquan Lewis at the end of the first half.

“It’s going to take a hell of a lot more than that to get me out.”

Those were fateful words. Two plays into the second half, Adolphus Washington hit Brewer right after he released the ball, leaving him writhing in pain on the ground. Broken collarbone, ballgame over. Brenden Motley, Virginia Tech’s backup QB, had been in on situational plays to run the wildcat, but he had yet to throw the ball. When he came on in relief of Brewer, the Buckeyes keyed in on the run and basically shut down the Hokies’ offense until a late touchdown made the final score 42-24. Ohio State’s second-half dominance loosened the knot that was in my stomach at halftime, and Buckeyes fans everywhere breathed a sigh of relief.

Players Of The Game
Braxton Miller – His two great touchdowns, including his now famous Madden-worthy spin move, showed that he is more than capable of being Meyer’s dynamic H-back player and receiver. His speed, elusiveness and sheer athleticism will make him a tough matchup every week.

Raekwon McMillan – He did not stuff the stat sheet, but he was in the middle of the pile all night clogging up the running lanes. He showed he will be a force at that middle linebacker position after replacing Curtis Grant from a year ago.

On To Hawaii
The Buckeyes return home for their first game in the Horseshoe since last year’s win against TTUN. The Rainbow Warriors come to the Horseshoe for their first ever meeting with the Buckeyes. The crowd should be loud and excited to see the defending champions back on their home turf for the first of many games this season. Being at the home opener in 2003 after the Buckeyes won the 2002 national championship against Miami was electric. The crowd got to see their team on the field for the first time since they won, and they revealed the new 2002 banner in the Horseshoe. The first home game of the season is always exciting, and if it is anything like it was in 2003, the Shoe will be loud and energized. This will be also be Cardale Jones’s first start at home, so I imagine he will be excited to get on the field and show the hometown faithful why Urban made the decision to go with him.

This game also marks the return of the four players suspended from the Tech game. After a short adjustment period against Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes didn’t seem to miss a beat without Joey Bosa, Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and Corey Smith. Their return to the team this week should only add to the wealth of talent on both sides of the ball. My concern as a fan is, with so many playmakers on offense, how do you give everyone enough touches to make them happy? You don’t want players getting upset because they aren’t being involved in the offense, but is there enough of the football to go around? While Curtis Samuel, Braxton Miller and Michael Thomas will probably get the start at wideout, look for the returns of Marshall and Wilson to add to that dynamic H-back role for the Buckeyes. Corey Smith should help ease some of the coverage off Thomas to create more one-on-one situations downfield. Cardale should not have to throw as much this week, but I still think he’ll take some shots downfield and work on his intermediate passing game too. Colorado had success running the ball against Hawaii last week, and Ohio State will probably take advantage of that as well. Between Cardale, Ezekiel Elliott and Braxton Miller, I see the Buckeyes rolling up close to 40 rushes and more than 300 yards. Zeke should get more than the 11 carries he had last week, but maybe the coaches are keeping his workload light to save him for another end-of-season run like his explosion during the last three games of the 2014 season.

After Brionte Dunn fumbled on his first carry of 2015, I think Warren Ball will be the backup running back until Mike Weber is cleared to play. I see Zeke getting another couple of touchdowns this week, along with Braxton and Jalin getting in the end zone as well. Even though he makes me crazy with the way he catches the ball, I also hope to see Jalin back to returning punts because I think he brings more to the table back there than Zeke does.

On defense, the return of Joey Bosa will likely relegate Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis to backup roles. Since they both played pretty well against Tech, hopefully we’ll get to see them out there continuing to make plays. I thought the linebackers and defensive backs played well last week against a more run- heavy team, but this week against Hawaii, we will see more passes than we probably will all season. Max Wittek is their quarterback; he’s a senior who transferred from USC two years ago. He has a good arm and can make plays downfield, so the Buckeyes secondary needs to be on lockdown to prevent big plays from happening. I thought Gareon Conley had a great debut opposite Eli Apple last week, and this week he’ll have his hands full with the pass-happy Hawaii offense. Hawaii will score some points, but not nearly enough to make this a game. I see the Buckeyes winning 59-21 in a game that is over by halftime.

A Fan’s Top 4
Each week, I’ll choose my top four teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today.

1.) Ohio State – Defending national champions – enough said

2.) Alabama – Even though their quarterback situation is a bit unsettled, they have a strong defense and Derrick Henry at running back, which makes them a tough team to beat.

3.) UCLA – Freshman quarterback Josh Rosen showed he can play by completing 80 percent of his passes in his debut against Virginia. UCLA has a tough schedule this year, so they might be short-lived here.

4.) Texas A&M – They dominated a good Arizona State team that many had pegged to win the Pac-12. Kyle Allen is a solid quarterback, and he has many weapons to choose from in Christian Kirk, Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil. Their defense is a monster with Myles Garrett rushing on the outside. Another tough schedule, but after last week’s game, I like them at No. 4.

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