Ohio State rolls into Big D to face TCU in a battle of young coaching minds

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SEC fans might argue LSU v Auburn is the weekend’s marquee college football matchup. For me, it’s Ohio State’s trip down to AT&T Stadium in Dallas to take on Texas Christian. The territorial clash between the 12th and 7th-ranked Tigers is enticing but the evening game promises all out war even though it’s an interconference battle.

Before I delve into that, I just want to say my thoughts are with the folks in the Carolinas dealing with Hurricane Florence’s impact. I live in South Florida, been there, done that, don’t wish it on anyone. If you live elsewhere and can, please help.

American Red Cross Hurricane Florence relief effort

Thanks.

We’re three weeks into the NCAA season. Both schools have been beating up opponents thus far. TCU handled Southern University 55-14 then put it to SMU 42-12. The 15th-ranked Horned Frogs scored 97 points while surrendering just 26. The #4 Buckeyes are even more devastating. They buried Oregon State’s Beavers 77-31. Eleven touchdowns effectively communicated how they felt about another school daring to refer to itself as OSU. Then they explained to Rutgers that New Jersey hasn’t yet earned the right to be known as Big Ten country, leaving the Scarlet Knights red-faced after a comprehensive 52-3 rout.

Gary Patterson, TCU's defensive guru

With a combined 226 points scored, all the pressure’s on the two defenses in this clash. That probably suits TCU coach Gary Patterson to a tee. He can put his reputation as one of college football’s best defensive minds to the test against Buckeye interim boss Ryan Day.

The 39-year-old has a tiny window to impress. Urban Meyer’s suspension is nearing its end. Failing to understand it’s one thing to figuratively beat up an opponent on the field, another to ignore that an assistant is taking his work home in a literal way doesn’t play well. Meyer’s a great coach. Hopefully, he used the forced hiatus to work on being a better human being.

In the meantime, Day’s done things a little differently. The young coach ignored Meyer’s respect for seniority, electing to go with sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

Ryan Day and Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State

It’s strange to discuss a youth movement in the college game, but the 21-year-old repaid the faith placed in him. After two games, he’s completed 42 of 53 passes (79%) for 546 yards, nine touchdowns and an interception.

Back-up Tate Martell completed 13 of 14 in mop-up duty, with another TD thrown. The Buckeye’s 82% completion rate leads the NCAA.

Opponents are accustomed to losing sleep over Ohio State’s running game. This week, Patterson probably lied awake staring at deep balls stretching the defence on his bedroom ceiling. The TCU headman will need to spare a few nightmares for the Buckeyes’ defence.

Defensive lineman Nick Bosa [yes, Joey’s little bro] is battling Haskins for honours as the team’s most valuable player. Bosa the younger already boasts nine tackles, five for a loss, three on the quarterback and a touchdown following a fumble recovery. Hello.

Nick Bosa zeroes in on Rutgers QB Art Sitkowski

Then there are linebacker Pete Werner’s seven tackles, including a sack, two passes defended and a forced fumble. Nice to meet you.

If Patterson can make the secondary put in a shift, he won’t enjoy the results. Safety Jahsen Wint has eight tackles. Cornerbacks Shaun Wade and Kendall Sheffield each made an interception. Come back to see us soon.

Patterson’s defense is on the small but quick side. The two most dangerous players are Alec Dunham, who can match Bosa’s fumble recovery for a touchdown, Arico Evans and Innis Gaines. Ridwhan Issaku, Garret Wallow and Niko Small made significant contributions, too.

Offensively, TCU is also yardage by committee, with three backs each just over 100 yards. One is starting quarterback Shawn Robinson. The sophomore also posts a 61% completion rate with 328 yards, four touchdowns and an interception thrown. The critical question, however, is whether the Horned Frogs’ defensive line can stand up to the Buckeyes’ front five? It should be fun to find out.

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Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.