One Key Player on Each Opponent That Will Have Ohio State's Attention
Ohio State has much bigger aspirations this season than beating teams the caliber of Illinois, Maryland and Rutgers. However, the Buckeyes have to defeat every opponent the next eight weeks to get where they want to go — the Big Ten Championship Game and eventually, a return to the College Football Playoff.
The Buckeyes have a target on their back as the team to beat in the Big Ten. Each time OSU suits up on Saturday, they will be getting their opponent’s best game.
Throughout the course of this season, Ohio State will face several players on the opposing sideline that will be the key to defeating the reigning conference champions. Here is one key player from each opponent this season that will certainly have Ohio State’s attention.
Week 1 vs. Nebraska: CB Dicaprio Bootle (Senior)
It is certainly going to take more than one player to slow down the Ohio State passing attack this year, but Dicaprio Bootle has the experience to keep the Buckeyes honest Week 1.
Bootle was All-Big Ten third team as a sophomore when he had career-highs in tackles (39) and passes defended (15) in 2018. Even though Bootle’s individual statistics went down last year, the Cornhusker passing defense was much improved from 2018 to 2019.
In 2018, Nebraska surrendered 237 yards in the air per game which finished No. 78 in FBS. Last year, they climbed all the way up to No. 30 at only 200 yards surrendered on average. Bootle was an All-Conference honorable mention last season, as selected by the media.
Week 2 at Penn State: QB Sean Clifford (Redshirt Junior)
It seems obvious, but the Nittany Lions are going to need their starting quarterback to be lights out against Heisman finalist Justin Fields.
Last year against Ohio State was a performance to forget for Sean Clifford. Midway through the third quarter, Clifford was knocked out of the game, which forced backup Will Levis into action. Levis engineered 17 unanswered points, but the Buckeyes held on to win 28-17.
Penn State will need a much better performance out of Clifford than his 8-of-15 showing for 53 yards that he put together in the first half of last year’s matchup. The Nittany Lions are No. 9 in the AP Poll and will need Clifford to lead them to a win over OSU if they want to make its first-ever CFP appearance.
Week 3 vs. Rutgers: LB Tyshon Fogg (Senior)
If Rutgers stands any chance of slowing down the OSU offense this year, it will be with Tyshon Fogg leading the way.
Upon arriving at Rutgers, Fogg was a four-star recruit and No. 15 outside linebacker from the class of 2017. He is now the heart and soul of the defense as a captain who started all 12 games last year during an All-Big Ten honorable mention campaign.
Last season against the Buckeyes, Fogg registered 11 tackles in a 56-21 loss. The Scarlet Knights will need Fogg to power the defense on Nov. 7 to keep Ohio State from putting up at least 50 points like they did in 2019.
Week 4 at Maryland: DB Nick Cross (Sophomore)
In 2019 as a freshman, Nick Cross emerged for the Terps with an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection by the coaches. With second team All-Conference defensive back Antoine Brooks moving onto the NFL (sixth round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers), Maryland will need Cross to lead the passing defense against Fields and the Buckeyes.
Against Ohio State in 2019, Cross recorded a career-high nine tackles (including six solo stops). However, the Buckeyes still hung 73 points on Maryland.
Cross collected his first career interception against Penn State and also picked off talented Nebraska passer Adrian Martinez in the end zone later in the season. Cross will probably need to add something special to his resume if Maryland wants to hang around against the Buckeyes.
Week 5 vs. Indiana: RB Stevie Scott III (Junior)
There’s no better recipe to beat a great quarterback than to keep him off the field – and that’s exactly what Indiana did best last season.
The Hoosiers finished No. 7 in the nation in time of possession. With a running back the caliber of Stevie Scott III, it is no surprise they kept the ball away from opposing offenses.
Scott was named to the 2020 Maxwell Award (player of the year) and Doak Walker Award (top running back) watch lists this season after rushing for 1,137 yards as a sophomore.
Last season, Scott only carried the ball six times for nine yards against Ohio State; Indiana lost 51-10. Scott will need to carry significant weight for the Hoosiers to upset the Buckeyes in 2020.
Week 6 at Illinois: QB Brandon Peters (Senior)
The Fighting Illini had one of the worst offenses in college football last year, ranking near the bottom of the leaderboard in first downs, passing offense and total offense.
At the helm of the offense was starting passer Brandon Peters, a transfer from Michigan. Peters threw for 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while averaging 6.9 yards per attempt and completing 55% of his passes.
Peters and the Illinois offense will need to show much improvement from last year to go toe-to-toe with the Buckeyes. Peters was named to the Maxwell Award and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (outstanding senior quarterback) watch lists.
Week 7 at Michigan State: WR Tre Mosley (Sophomore)
The Spartans lost their top three pass catchers from last season. That means Tre Mosley is going to have to make a big-time leap for MSU.
As a freshman last year, Mosley caught 21 receptions for 216 yards. Michigan State has yet to name a starting quarterback, but whether it’s Payton Thorne, Rocky Lombardi or Theo Day, they’ll need Mosley to become their go-to receiver.
Michigan State is undergoing a rebuild under new head coach Mel Tucker. It will be up to guys like Mosley to expedite that rebuild and a big game against the Buckeyes would be one giant step in the right direction.
Week 8 vs. Michigan: Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
No, it’s not a player for Michigan. It’s Jim Harbaugh.
Since being hired by Michigan, Harbaugh and the Wolverines have been outscored by Ohio State 221-126. No matter the players that Michigan puts on the field on Dec. 12, all eyes are on Harbaugh to create a game plan to finally beat the Buckeyes.
Ohio State has won the last eight matchups overall against Michigan and has a chance to make that the most consecutive wins of all-time in that series with nine. Harbaugh’s seat against Michigan is getting warm and a win against OSU could make it ice cold.