Ohio State football is showing — eight months pregnant with a Sept. 1 due date — and Buckeye Nation is dying to know will it be a "Boy, what an incredible season!" or "Girl, this can’t be happening."
Ultrasound is of no use. All we have is intuition. So here’s the guess.
Why the Buckeyes will win the Big Ten:
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer points to the 17-16 win against Michigan State in 2012 as the seminal moment the program turned the corner, leaving controversy behind and building toward culture change that resulted in a 12-0 season and set the foundation for the 2014 national championship.
Just as each program can ascend or dive on one play, each individual season can rise and fall in a single moment. Where and when will that twinkling occur for Ohio State in 2018?
Three potential dates and places. Sept. 15 at AT&T Stadium against Texas Christian; Sept. 29 at Penn State; and Nov. 10 at Michigan State.
While TCU should not scare OSU fans, the Horned Frogs are worrisome. They will be playing close to home in Arlington, Texas, are not intimidated by flashy opponents and will defend against quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., who will be making his first ever start on the road. That said, I see the Buckeyes taking care of business. Something in the neighborhood of a 10-point win. The Horned Frogs just don’t have enough defense to pull the upset.
Penn State is a different story. Happy Valley at night is no picnic. Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley is the kind of pest you love when he’s on your team and loathe when he’s not. Still, I see this as a payback game for the Buckeyes, who infamously self-destructed in State College two years ago.
Ohio State will be 9-0 when it visits East Lansing to play Sparty. And the Buckeyes will depart 10-0, largely because of what happened at Penn State six weeks earlier.
Meyer in 2012 after the Buckeyes won that program-changing game at Michigan State to improve to 5-0: "We found out something about our team today, to go on the road in a hostile environment against a quality, quality football team and find a way to win."
Look for similar comments in the afterglow of the Penn State win. Getting the job done against the Nittany Lions will enable the Buckeyes to finish the job against the Spartans and go on to defeat Michigan for the seventh straight time. From there, a win in the Big Ten Championship game, likely against Wisconsin, earns a playoff spot. After that, Ohio State has a legitimate shot at a national title because Alabama can’t win it all again, right? RIGHT?
Why the Buckeyes will wilt like impatiens in a drought:
You know that thing about TCU not having enough defense? True, but the Horned Frogs do have dual-threat quarterback Shawn Robinson, a special talent who can supply enough offense to force the Buckeyes to match points with a team that always finds a way to pull off at least one upset per season. This will be one of those.
As for Penn State, talk about program-altering moments. Nittany Lions coach/car salesman James Franklin had too many unsold vehicles on his lot — not good for job security — when PSU set Franklin’s tenure on an upward path with the freakish 24-21 Whiteout win over the Buckeyes in 2016. Penn State has not been the same since, and this time it won’t need a fluky comeback to kick-start their drive to a Big Ten title.
Ah, yes, Michigan State. Could this be a third loss for Ohio State? It could. Sparty is 1-2 against the Buckeyes in East Lansing since Meyer arrived in 2012, and every game has been close. Plus, Mark Dantonio will have his players especially amped, reminding them of last season’s embarrassing 48-3 loss in Columbus.
So which will it be? Boy, what an amazing season? Or gosh, girl, what a disappointment? Call it a hunch, but I’m feeling the Buckeyes are going to deliver.