Mid-July is the time of year for the watch list.
Just about every position on the field is represented by a list of players – usually just about any returning starter, potential starter and even some top backups on the more powerful teams – who could win the trophy for the best player at their position in college football, and the various clubs and trusts that award those trophies spend this time of year trying to pump up those honors while making some news.
Meanwhile, the collective response from college football fanbases seems to be … well, meh.
A recent Twitter poll of Ohio State fans done by BSB editor Jeff Svoboda resulted in most fans saying that they appreciate the small morsels of college football talk this time of year but don’t really have a whole lot of vested interest in the lists.
So why not talk about some things people might actually want to, you know, watch?
With that in mind, BSB is making its own “watch list” – things we want to watch when the football season finally begins in August.
We’re breaking it into two parts and polling Svoboda, writer Ari Wasserman, writer/designer Matthew Hager and intern Pat Brennan on their thoughts about what they are most looking forward to seeing this year for Urban Meyer’s second Ohio State team.
Game To Watch (Other Than Michigan, Obviously)
Ari Wasserman: Any talk about Ohio State’s schedule is usually regarding how favorable the slate turned out, but there is one game that is been particularly intriguing to me even if it is overlooked by most. That game is Ohio State’s road contest at California on Sept. 14. Though the Golden Bears aren’t nearly as good as they were when OSU added them to the schedule, it is still a tricky game. Not only do the Buckeyes have to travel clear across the country to play it, California also boasts the first BCS roster the team faces in the season and the game lands in the middle of a relatively tame non-conference schedule. Watch out for Cal’s head coach Sonny Dykes, too. He is a spread offensive guru that knows how to put points on the board. I think this game is tougher than a lot of people are giving it credit for.
Matthew Hager: After a pair of home games against Buffalo and San Diego State to start the season, Ohio State hits the road for the first time for a prime-time game at Cal. Now, I don’t think the Buckeyes will necessarily lose that game, but people seem to forget that the Golden Bears gained 512 yards in a 35-28 loss in Columbus last season. Ohio State did improve as the season progressed, but because it’s OSU’s first road test of the season, I’m interested to see how the Buckeyes fare in recently renovated Memorial Stadium in Berkeley.
Pat Brennan: Ohio State’s early-October visit to Northwestern could spell trouble. Not only are the Buckeyes the marquee game on the Wildcats’ home slate in 2013, it’s also homecoming weekend in Evanston. The game is scheduled to be televised nationally, providing the more than 47,100 that will pack into Ryan Field extra time to “drink in” the day’s festivities. The Buckeyes could encounter noise and hostility that you don’t normally expect from Northwestern fans. As for on-field matters, the Wildcats are coming off a 2012 campaign that saw them post their first 10-win season since 1995. Senior running back Venric Mark could do serious damage – Mark rushed for 12 touchdowns and more than 1,300 yards while also adding 637 yards as a kick and punt returner to go with two punt-return scores.
Jeff Svoboda: I’ll go off the board for this one: How about the Indiana game at the end of the year? First of all, I really like what Kevin Wilson is doing with the Hoosiers, and the team should have an explosive offense considering it returns three capable quarterbacks and a plethora of play-making wide receivers. On top of that, the Buckeyes might be distracted – there could be a 22-game winning streak on the line and a game at Michigan looming ahead. Just throwing that one out there.
New Starter To Watch
Ari Wasserman: The guy I am most looking forward to watching in fall camp is Chris Fields, a wide receiver that enters his senior season poised to finally find a role. Meyer named him a starter after the spring game – which means he’ll be at least in the mix if not actually on the field for the first snap – and it is always intriguing to me when a player finally steps onto the field after being an afterthought for the three or more years of their career. Fields has shown he has the gifts to be a productive receiver for the Buckeyes in practice during his entire career, but it will be interesting to see what it looks like after Meyer said he’s finally put it all together.
Matthew Hager: Everyone is excited to see Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence emerge as starters on the defensive line, but as spring progressed I noticed how often coaches and teammates would mention Joel Hale’s name. D-line coach Mike Vrabel talked about Hale’s improvement in the middle of the line and called him the unit’s leader in the weight room, meeting room and on the field. If Washington and Spence are to have big years, Hale is going to have to do the dirty work, the unsung stuff in the middle.
Pat Brennan: Taylor Decker lost out on the starting right tackle position prior to the 2012 campaign when senior and converted tight end Reid Fragel won the job. After seeing limited time last year as a result, Decker took the majority of the first-team reps during spring practice. Meyer also said that Decker’s progress was ahead of schedule compared to Fragel’s development during spring practice in 2012. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that Decker is the greenest member of an offensive line with four returning starters (Jack Mewhort, Marcus Hall, Andrew Norwell and Corey Linsley). Let’s not forget that this is an offensive line with considerable assets to protect, including junior quarterback and preseason Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller and redshirt senior running back Jordan Hall, both of whom dealt with injuries of varying severity during 2012. Decker will have a big say with the line’s cohesiveness and therefore its ability to protect those assets.
Jeff Svoboda: I’m going to go with an obvious choice, junior linebacker Curtis Grant. He left spring as the man in the middle for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes need him to continue that development into the fall. Grant is athletic, big and can hit hard, but his instincts haven’t really come to the fore in his first two seasons at Ohio State, as Grant seemed to get lost in the play too often in practices in ’11 and ’12. He looked more improved in that regard in the spring, but the Buckeyes need him to be ready to play alongside potential All-American Ryan Shazier or the position will fall into younger hands.
Come back tomorrow for more things the BSB writers want to watch.