Caleb Downs and Lathan Ransom Ohio State Buckeyes Safety

50 For 50: Caleb Downs On The Oregon Trail

Welcome to a new feature that I am calling “50 for 50” where I attempt to get us to Big Ten Media Days — which are 48 days away — with a daily sampling of what we can look forward to this upcoming college football season.

We will do this via the following categories: the 50 biggest individual matchups for the Buckeyes this season, the 50 most important college football games this season, 50 Buckeye things to look forward to this season, 50 national predictions, 50 Big Ten predictions, and 50 predictions involving the Buckeyes.

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Biggest Buckeye Matchups

Ohio State safety Caleb Downs vs. Oregon quarterback Dillon Gabriel

The two deepest receiving rooms in the nation will be playing in this game, which means that Ohio State safety Caleb Downs will at least have had a chance to practice against a very high level of talent in preparation, but Oregon quarterback Dillon Gabriel has the kind of experience that is difficult to prepare for. By the time the Ducks and Buckeyes meet in Eugene on October 12, Gabriel will be the No. 4 passer all-time in FBS history. With his receiving corps, he’ll have the ability to get the ball anywhere on the field — and Downs will have to be ready for all of it. Gabriel doesn’t have a big arm, but he was one of the nation’s leaders in big gainers last year. Caleb Downs is going to be a busy man in this one.

Most Important Games

Texas Longhorns at Michigan Wolverines, Sept. 7 (12:00 pm FOX)

We won’t have to wait long to see one of the biggest games of the season. Michigan has some doubters right now because of the offensive turnover from last year and the lack of any kind of productive experience at quarterback. The line on this one opened at Texas -2.5, but it’s now up to Texas -3.5. The Longhorns are one of the favorites nationally to contend for a national title. If the Wolverines can get the win in this one, they will quickly change any kind of doubting narrative surrounding their 2024 team. If they lose, they’re going to have to beat one of Ohio State or Oregon to keep their playoff hopes off of life support.

Something To Look Forward To

Seeing if Brandon Inniss can maintain his 58-yard-per-catch average.

As a true freshman last season, Ohio State receiver Brandon Inniss averaged 58 yards per catch. Of course, he only had one catch, but it was a beaut, Clark. He joined former Buckeye great David Boston as the last two Ohio State receivers with a 58-yard touchdown catch as their first collegiate receptions. Nobody is actually expecting him to keep up that average, but with more opportunities this year, it’s going to be fun to see what else he’s got in store.

The reactions are always the best parts of plays like this.

National College Football Predictions

Clemson will go 8-0 in the ACC but 0-2 against the SEC.

Clemson travels to Florida State on October 5, which is their most likely conference loss of the season. Unfortunately for the Seminoles, we haven’t actually seen them be a significant threat to anybody when they don’t have Jordan Travis at quarterback. Since 2020, FSU amassed a record of 28-9 with Travis starting at quarterback. They were 3-8 in the 11 games he didn’t start. New Noles QB DJ Uiagalelei is going to be motivated to beat his former team, but the same can also be said of his former team. If the Tigers get by this game, they’ve got a pretty easy road the rest of the way out. But they open the season against Georgia in Atlanta and then end it against South Carolina. They shouldn’t lose to the Gamecocks, but predicting them to win is not much of a prediction.

Big Ten Predictions

Iowa will surpass last year’s offensive TD total by the end of October.

Iowa scored a whopping 20 offensive touchdowns last season. Michigan running back Blake Corum (28), Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon (22), and Kentucky running back Ray Davis (21) all scored more touchdowns than the Hawkeye offense did last season. But this is a new year and a new era under new offensive coordinator Tim Lester. Iowa plays eight games before the end of October, which means they just need three offensive touchdowns per game to beat last year’s overall total. Honestly, they should beat last year’s number by the middle of October, but I didn’t want to go crazy here. By the way, Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels accounted for 50 touchdowns by himself last year.

Ohio State Predictions

Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles will win the Broyles Award.

The Broyles Award goes annually to the top assistant coach in the nation. Past Buckeye winners include defensive coordinator Jim Heacock in 2007 and offensive coordinator Tom Herman in 2014. Current Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles was a semifinalist for the award last year, and one of five finalists in 2021 at Oklahoma State. Past Buckeye defensive coordinators who were finalists include Fred Pagac (1998), Mark Dantonio (2002), and Jeff Hafley (2019). The Buckeyes are expected to have one of the best defenses in the nation this year, which is going to put Knowles in the spotlight all season long.

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