After one of the most unusual preseasons in memory, the 129th regular season of Ohio State football begins Saturday.
A high noon showdown with (likely overmatched) Oregon State starts the fifth-ranked Buckeyes’ pursuit of a third College Football Playoff appearance in five seasons.
Here are five things to know about the season opener
1. Oregon State is under new management.
Jonathan Smith will make his debut as a head coach Saturday. He is back at his alma mater after making a name for himself as an assistant at Boise State and Washington under highly regarded head coach Chris Petersen.
In his college days, Smith threw more than a few passes to players who will be familiar to Cincinnati Bengals fans — Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
“He’s a player who competed at Oregon State and who cares about the university, but on the flip side, he was a player at Oregon State when we were at an all-time high,” Houshmandzadeh said when Smith was hired. “He knows what it takes to get there because he was there, he did it, and he was a part of it.”
2. The Beavers were one of the worst teams in the country last season, and they are expected to be one of the worst teams in the country this season.
Oregon State has not beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision team since topping rival Oregon in the annual Civil War in the 2016 season finale.
Last season the Beavers’ only win was against a Portland State team from the Football Championship Subdivision that went 0-11.
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The Beavers return a majority of starters from last season, but advanced statistics from FootballOutsiders.com project them to be the No. 110 team in the country.
3. The Buckeyes probably won’t over look Oregon State.
Ohio State’s captains said training camp wasn’t that unusual despite the absence of head coach Urban Meyer, who was given a six-week suspension and will miss the first three games of the season after an independent investigation found he mismanaged former assistant Zach Smith.
However, there is no doubt the Buckeyes are anxious to hit someone in a different-colored jersey.
The coaching staff also typically does a good job of making opponents look formidable with creative editing of film.
“That’s the first time I’m hearing they were 1-11,” safety Jordan Fuller said Tuesday when asked about the Beavers. “That’s not really in our minds at all. We’re just competing against ourselves every day and we’ll handle our business.
“I definitely see some players (on film). They’ve got speed. They’ve got everything from a skill position standpoint. We’re focused on us and being 1-0.”
4. There is some familiarity between the two OSUs.
Oregon State’s new defensive coordinator is Tim Tibesar, who spent the last three seasons at Wisconsin. That means he should know a thing or two about how to game-plan for the Buckeyes’ offense.
“Obviously they have a great system,” Ohio State interim coach Ryan Day said this week. “So they’re going to be instituting that Wisconsin system of some three down (linemen), some four down, and they’re very, very aggressive and obviously been one of the best defenses in the country year and year out.”
Conversely, Oregon State’s plan on offense is something of a mystery. Smith ran a multiple pro-style offense at Washington, but his new offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren favored a spread attack at Colorado.
Beavers tight end coach Brian Wozniak is a native of Loveland, Ohio, who played tight end at Wisconsin.
5. Ohio State has seven players from the area on its roster.
Representing the Cox Media Group Ohio coverage area are junior defensive tackle Robert Landers (Wayne), junior tight end Derrick Malone (Thurgood Marshall), freshman defensive tackle Zaid Hamdan (Mason), redshirt freshman offensive lineman Josh Myers (Miamisburg), freshman linebacker Ben Schmiesing (Piqua), freshman receiver L’Christian “Blue” Smith (Wayne) and senior offensive lineman Demetrius Knox (Springfield native, graduated from All Saints Episcopal High School in Texas).
Landers has been a member of deep defensive line rotations the last two seasons and should be a starter this season.
Knox is a returning starter at right guard while Myers is listed as one of the backup centers.
Smith was a four-star prospect in the class of 2018 but joins a talented, veteran receivers group so early playing time could be hard to come by.
Ohio State has had at least one former Wayne Warrior on the roster every season since 2000.