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What We're Looking For From the Buckeyes Against Bowling Green
By Patrick Murphy

COLUMBUS – The first day of the new season always presents questions for a program. Even last year when Ohio State returned the bulk of a national championship team, there were things to be asked heading into the opener at Virginia Tech.

To begin 2016, the Buckeyes open at home with Bowling Green. After multiple winning seasons in a row, the MAC school comes to Columbus with something to prove, but we’re not concerned with the Falcons.

Here is what we’ll be looking for in the first game of 2016 to help answer these questions.

How will the carries work out?

This may be a question we can’t answer for certain until later in the season given the first two opponents, but we should begin to get an idea of how head coach Urban Meyer and running backs coach Tony Alford will use their different weapons out of the backfield.

Meyer announced on Wednesday that redshirt freshman Mike Weber would be the starting tailback for the Scarlet and Gray, but he is listed as a co-starter on the depth chart with Curtis Samuel. Meyer called the junior H-back the No. 1 playmaker on the team, meaning he will want to get him the ball as many ways as possible.

There’s also Dontre Wilson, who has lined up as a running back in the past. He was mentioned by the coaches as someone who will get carries, as well as lining up out wide. True freshman Antonio Williams isn’t featured on the two-deep, but will likely get some carries if for nothing more than experience.

If OSU is up early and builds on that lead, there could be plenty of carries for guys in the second half. But what if the game remains relatively close into the fourth quarter? Who does Meyer lean on to tote the rock in a clutch situation? We’re looking for those answers.

How is the chemistry between J.T. Barrett and the wide receivers?

Throughout fall camp we’ve heard from Urban Meyer and receivers coach Zach Smith about the number of unproven weapons Ohio State has at is disposal. We believe these kids are talented, but with so many to throw to, who did J.T. Barrett develop chemistry with in the offseason?

We know Barrett has experience with Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson from past years, but he will need more than that for this offense to be as balanced as expected. Noah Brown is the primary target out wide, but it’s been nearly two years since Barrett last threw him a ball in a game.

Against Bowling Green, Barrett should get a chance to throw early and begin to show what his playmakers in the receiving game can do. He is expected to be improved and have plenty of weapons. This is the time to start to prove it.

Is the offensive line Code Green?

O-line coach Greg Studrawa has the luxury of returning two veteran players in Pat Elflein and Billy Price, but both are playing a new position. The Buckeyes will also break in three new starters, including true freshman Michael Jordan.

Urban Meyer always says Ohio State’s offense starts at the point of attack and that means the offensive line. While the comparisons of this team to 2014 end well, let’s remember how much that offensive line struggled early in the year.

Against a Bowling Green team that lacks elite talent and speed on the defensive line, the Slobs need to keep J.T. Barrett upright and give whoever is in at running back holes to run through. While this may not be the best test of their ability, it will give each member of the offensive line confidence if they grade out as champions on Monday.

Defensive line rotation

Speaking of the line, how will things go on the other side of scrimmage? Both Urban Meyer and defensive line coach Larry Johnson discussed actually having the depth to rotate six, seven, maybe even eight guys this year.

The advantages of this is the players can go as hard as they can for a few plays, come out and the next guy can go in. Maximum effort from a variety of players leads to more success.

The problem is, we’ve heard that before. Johnson has preached a line rotation since he arrived in Columbus in 2014. Although Buckeye fans saw it some last year with Sam Hubbard and a few others, it was never the rotation the assistant coach spoke of.

Meyer and Johnson claim the talent and depth is present in 2016 and we will see rotation not only on the edges, but in the interior of the line as well. We will keep an eye on how often guys come in and out of the game early because that will be a clearer indicator of the plan than later.

Tackling

Yes, we will simply be watching tackling. Mainly how well this young Buckeye defense does bringing the Falcons attackers to the ground and doing it on the first try.

Gone is defensive coordinator Chris Ash who brought the rugby-style tackling to Ohio State. The players say that the style that helped them win a national championship will continue and Greg Schiano is a very experienced replacement for Ash.

One thing is for sure, an inexperienced defense in its first game combined with a new co-defensive coordinator could lead to some issues. If the Silver Bullets look good tackling in week one, it will be a good sign going forward.

Who looks better opposite Gareon Conley?

Sophomores Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward are listed as co-starters on the Scarlet and Gray depth chart. Both players received high praise from their coaches in the offseason. While there’s talent in each, the Buckeye staff would like to find an established starter.

With the spread offense Bowling Green brings to Ohio Stadium, Lattimore and Ward will be tested. With Conley established on one side, the Falcons will likely look to stay away from the second-year starter, which means whoever is in opposite him should see a heavy doss of passes coming their way.

With an upcoming game against a pass-heavy Oklahoma two weeks down the road, the OSU defensive staff would love to see at least one of their starting cornerbacks step up. So would we.

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And that’s what we’ll be looking for in week one. Any other things we should take note of? Let us know in the comments below.

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