COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio State plays its first game of the season against Indiana in Bloomington, with a 3:30 p.m. kickoff. Quarterback Kyle McCord will get the start for the Buckeyes, who have not lost a season opener in the 21st century.
Ohio State went 11-2 for a second consecutive season, losing to Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinal. Indiana finished 4-8, including a 56-14 beatdown by the Buckeyes.
Here are three things to know about the game.
Two quarterbacks are better than one?
There’s a saying in football: If you have two quarterbacks, you have none. Coach Ryan Day disagrees with that. On Tuesday, Day announced junior Kyle McCord will start for the Buckeyes because of his consistency in the preseason but said backup Devin Brown will also play.
“We have confidence in both of them,” Day said. “What we’re doing is fair based on what we’ve seen this preseason.”
Day added Brown made a strong push to be Ohio State’s starter about 10 days ago, and McCord responded strongly to the competition.
“I think it’s not a sizeable gap [between the two], but it’s enough to be named the starter,” Day said about McCord.
Day pointed to Alabama’s quarterback room a few years ago to disagree with the two-quarterback theory. In 2018, the Crimson Tide had Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts and Mac Jones. All three are now starters in the NFL.
During his time at Ohio State, Day has coached Dwayne Haskins, Justin Fields and C.J. Stroud, who averaged 4,179 passing yards, 45 touchdowns and only six interceptions in their first years.
Receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. played with McCord in at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia but said he trusts both quarterbacks.
“I think they’re both going to do the right thing … make the right reads,” Harrison said. “I think they both definitely have the arm talent to be able to make any throw in the offense that’s asked of them. I don’t think too much will be different.”
Unproven offensive line
For two years in a row, Ohio State has had both of their offensive tackles drafted in the NFL. They even had to move players like Paris Johnson Jr. and Thayer Munford, who are both in the NFL, to offensive guard because they had too many talented tackles. That’s not the case this season. The Buckeyes have two veteran guards in Matthew Jones and Donovan Jackson, but the two players at tackle will be new.
“To make this thing go, the o-line has to be on point,” Jackson said. “Three new guys on the line? It doesn’t really matter. We’ve just got to be able to be on the same page. Five minds working as one and [picking] up what we see in front of us.”
San Diego State transfer Josh Simmons isn’t new to starting, but he is at Ohio State, where he’ll play left tackle protecting the quarterback’s blind side.
“It’s a pretty big [adjustment]. You’re going against the best d-linemen in the world in college football. You gotta really lock in,” Simmons said. “This is like an NFL factory, so I understand the opportunity here was to get developed by [line coach Justin] Frye and the best coaching staff in the country.”
Senior Josh Fryar will get the start at right tackle. He was OSU’s sixth option last season on the five-player offensive line and appeared in all 13 games. He’s appeared in 25 games the last two seasons so he’s not inexperienced, but his competition at the position is. True freshman Luke Montgomery jumped up the depth chart and gave Fryar a run for the starting spot during fall camp. Day said Montgomery will play for the Buckeyes against Indiana, so keep an eye out to see how both players perform against the Hoosiers.
“I think all five [offensive linemen] are clicking,” said Fryar, who’s from Indiana. “In pass [protection] we’re communicating, see who we have and what we got, so I think we’ll work well as an offensive line.”
Finally, sophomore Carson Hinzman will start at center for the Buckeyes. It will be a relatively inexperienced quarterback taking snaps from a green center, so it will take time for McCord and Hinzman to develop the trust C.J. Stroud established with Luke Wypler, who’s playing for the Browns.
Although the quarterback and three offensive linemen are new, most of the other positions are filled by returning starters. Ohio State returns seven starters on offense and seven on defense. Day called it “the most veteran” team he’s had since taking over as coach.
“I like the way that they’re coming in, I like the way that they’re preparing, I like the seriousness of it,” Day said. “There’s some scars there, too, which is great. I think that gives us an edge going into the season.”
Two years ago in the season opener against Minnesota, Ohio State played more than 20 Buckeyes who had never taken a collegiate snap.
“I think there was one or two guys that had ever started a game at Ohio State,” Day said. “That’s so much different this year. You look at Tommy Eichenberg, Steele Chambers, J.T. [Tuimoloau], Denzel [Burke], Josh Proctor, Lathan Ransom, these guys who have played a lot of football.”
On defense, the Buckeyes will have two new safeties in Sonny Styles at nickel and either Ja’Had Carter or Josh Proctor at adjuster, who’s lined up 12-15 yards from the line of scrimmage. But neither player is new. Carter played in 31 games and started 28 for Syracuse before transferring to OSU while Proctor enters his sixth year for the Buckeyes. He’s appeared in 42 games over the past five seasons.
The other new faces on defense aren’t really new, either. Cornerback Jordan Hancock returns after being injured most of last season while Tyleik Williams and Ty Hamilton will complement a now fully healthy Mike Hall on the defensive line.
“I think we’re going to be great,” running back TreVeyon Henderson said. “We’ll see Saturday. We’ve all been putting in the work preparing up to this Saturday and I think we’re ready.”