COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 26: J.T. Barrett #16 of the Ohio State Buckeyes leaves the field after defeating the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Sports Today: 7 football facts for Friday

This may be July, but it’s never too early to start talking football around here. 

To help pass the time before baseball finally returns to our lives, here are seven random football things to know for a Friday: 

1. The first Bengals training camp practice is two weeks from today. 

Are you ready for some football? 

Stupid question, I know. 

RELATED: 4 Bengals thoughts to ponder between now and training camp

This is shaping up to be a make-or-break season in Cincinnati, where coach Marvin Lewis is on the last year of his contract and quarterback Andy Dalton’s deal allows for him to be released with minimal financial penalties. 

Moving on from both might seem extreme, but nobody ever accused the NFL of being predictable. 

John Ross happy to be back

2. Of course, there’s a good chance Cincinnati has a bounce-back year, too. 

A simulation from gave the Bengals the second-best chance to win the AFC North, but Pro Football Focus has predicted they will improve only slightly from last year’s 6-9-1 disappointment. 

I am going with the optimistic view at this point. 

3. Seven weeks from now, we will be taking stock of the first Ohio State football game of the season. 

The Buckeyes open the season Aug. 31 at Indiana, a game with added intrigue because the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator was the Hoosiers’ head coach last season. 

Indiana brings back 16 starters while Ohio State has 15 returning. This game probably won’t be that close though… 

New Ohio State offense of coordinator Kevin Wilson spent a good chunk of time in Oxford as an assistant at Miami University before moving on to Northwestern, Oklahoma and Indiana.

4. An area star could play a major role in one of the biggest games of the opening weekend. 

Malik Zaire left Notre Dame after last season and ended up at Florida. Could the Alter graduate be quarterbacking the Gators when they take on Michigan?  

The Wolverines were decimated by graduation, but they might actually be more talented this season as the first Jim Harbaugh recruiting classes move up the depth chart. 

5. Michigan only returns one starter on defense — but he is a familiar face. 

Linebacker Mike McCray Jr. enjoyed a breakout 2016 season after injuries sidetracked his early years in Ann Arbor. Defensive coordinator Don Brown will have to earn his lucrative contract this fall, but McCray, Maurice Hurst and Rashan Gary are nice pieces to build around. 

Tyree Kinnell, junior from Wayne, could earn a starting role in the secondary

6. The Wolverines are chasing not only Ohio State but also Penn State in the Big Ten East. 

The Nittany Lions return 16 starters from their surprising Big Ten title run of a year ago. That includes star running back Saquon Barkley and opportunistic quarterback Trace McSorely, but the All Hail Mary Offense will have to find a new deep threat with Chris Godwin having gone to the NFL. 

7. Who is the best player in Troy football history

Marc Pendleton’s awesome series looking at some of the top players from programs around the area continued yesterday with a look at the Trojans, who have been playing football for more than a century in Miami County (Don’t worry, Piqua, your time is coming soon). 

This list includes one of Ohio State’s greatest players — and at least one name that will make Buckeye fans wince. 

RELATED: The best Xenia Buccaneers of all time

Keep an eye out for more of these features from Marc while I am looking forward to checking out some of the schools in the area that have new head coaches. 

Yesterday that meant a trip to Urbana. 

Of course we’re always keeping an eye on the recruiting trail, too. 

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