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Ohio State Football Kicks Off 'Year Of Mystery'

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields throws a pass during pre-season practice.
Jay LaPrete
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields throws a pass during pre-season practice.

The Ohio State football team kicks off the 2019 season this weekend inside Ohio Stadium, and it’s a year of firsts for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State’s season starts at noon Saturday when they take on Florida Atlantic University. The Buckeyes are two-time defending Big 10 champions, but many experts still see them as something of an underdog when it comes to winning the conference this season.

That’s largely because of an unproven head coach and starting quarterback.

Head coach Ryan Day took over one of the nation’s most prestigious college football programs in January following the retirement of Urban Meyer. Day fared well filling in for Meyer during last season’s three game suspension, leading the team to a 3-0 record, but taking the helm full-time is still a big step for the former offensive coordinator.

Columbus Dispatch columnist Rob Oller says he wasn’t shocked that Ohio State gave Day the job, but he was surprised they did so without a nationwide search.

“But as they explain it, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Oller says. “Everything you hear, everything you see, Ryan Day is a good pick and should be successful.”

Oller still calls the season ahead “a year of mystery,” mostly because of new starting quarterback Justin Fields.

Fields was the top high school football player in the nation following his senior year. He committed to the University of Georgia, but transferred to Ohio State after just one season following a lack of playing time and a racist incident involving a Georgia baseball player.

Fields has all the physical tools needed to lead the Buckeyes back to the College Football Playoff, but he’s still an unknown commodity at the college level.

“I can’t remember a season where a guy went in as a (starting) quarterback and you really didn’t know what he was going to be,” Oller says.

That’s a big reason why many experts expect Michigan to beat Ohio State for the first time in 2011 and win the Big Ten championship. Oller says those picking the Wolverines might be getting ahead of themselves, though.

 “I understand the hype, but I think Ohio State has too much talent, even though the game is in Ann Arbor this year," he says.

Beyond the rivalry game, Oller says the Buckeyes have the talent to reach the postseason playoff. What actually happens, Oller says, depends on the play of Fields.