Colin: With all these rough road match-ups, is J.T. Barrett the most important QB since Art Schlichter? How hurting are we if he goes down?
Baver: I'm not sure if we have to go all the way back to Schlichter, but JT is pretty damn important. Joe Burrow would bring a different set of tools to the Buckeye offense. I like Burrow’s upside, but I think the offense would have to change too much if they had to make the switch. Compare that to JT replacing Braxton in 2014 where the two QBs had similar strengths that they brought to the table. You didn't have to revamp the offense much to make that switch. Also you mention the road games…JT was a man possessed in overtime at Penn State in 2014. He had a sprained knee, but no one had any luck convincing him to come out of the game, and I think he willed Ohio State to victory in the two overtime periods.
Colin: How would you attack the OSU defense?
Baver: Hard to answer at this point with all the new guys, and with Schiano now making the defensive calls. It will probably be the most athletic defense Ohio State has ever fielded. Prevailing wisdom says: run at the speed, as opposed to away from it, right? Oklahoma has two backs custom built to do just that…..Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon…that’s a 235-pound RB backed up by a 226-pounder. And, Ohio State lacks that 310-pound-plus nose tackle that most teams have now a days.
I tend to think OSU's pass D will be the teams #1 strength, with the key defenders being ready to play right out of the shoot. As good as Baker Mayfield is, I am not sure he wants to test OSU’s secondary too much….especially when you have the Perine/Mixon combo to pound away with.
So, that's at least how I would attack OSU's D if I'm Oklahoma.
Colin: What players do you think will break out on offense?
Baver: I’ll say the #1 breakout guy will be Curtis Samuel, followed by Noah Brown. I’ve seen enough flashes out of Samuel to take him over Noah Brown, a WR that has one catch in his career here. But you know what “they” are saying once again this August….that Brown has been a beast in practice. The other guy that could get there is Corey Smith, but he again seems to found his way into Urban’s dog house….not a place where I would want to hang out for too long.
Colin: How does the OSU-Bowling Green game play out?
Baver: Bowling Green has the best set of LBs in the MAC and may have more success than you might think defending Ohio State's offense. And I think the Buckeyes will replace their defensive stars better than BG will replace their All-MAC departed QB Matt Johnson. If you sync the games over/under (64 1/2) with the 28-point spread , Vegas sees the Bucks winning this one 46-18. Both team totals seem high, and I tend to think OSU will commit some turnovers on offense with 8 new starters. My best guess is Ohio State wins by an approx score of 38-14…so I have BG covering the 28. Probably smart to stay away from this game though if you are a bettor…just too many first-time starters and too many new (key) coaches for both teams.
Colin: What are your best, worse and most realistic case win totals prediction for this year's Ohio State Football team?
Baver: 11-1 tops, 8-4 the worst, and 10-2 the most likely scenario.