CJ Hicks Ohio State Buckeyes Linebacker

50 For 50: Time For Some Young Buckeye Defenders To Step Forward

Welcome to our daily feature that I am calling “50 for 50” where I attempt to get us to Big Ten Media Days — which are 45 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

Michigan State RB Nate Carter vs. Ohio State LB CJ Hicks

Nate Carter rushed for 798 yards last year in his first season with the Spartans after transferring from Connecticut. He only averaged 4.3 yards per carry, but you can expect all of his numbers to increase this year under new head coach Jonathan Smith. While Carter may not put much fear into the hearts of Buckeye fans, this will be Ohio State’s first Big Ten game of the year and a significant step up from their soft non-conference schedule. And it’s on the road. Junior linebacker CJ Hicks is likely eventually going to be splitting snaps with classmate Sonny Styles this season, but if he wants more snaps, a consistent and disciplined performance in this game will go a long way towards making that happen. And lest you think this isn’t a big matchup, I will remind you that past Buckeye teams that were destined for championships have had a hell of a time getting past little ol’ Michigan State.

Most Important Games

Alabama at LSU, Nov. 9

Alabama vs. LSU is normally about the biggest game on CBS’s college football schedule every year, but now that CBS has signed a deal with the Big Ten, they will be able to upgrade their programming for the week of November 9 by showing one of the following matchups instead: Michigan at Indiana, Purdue at Ohio State, Washington at Penn State, Minnesota at Rutgers, or Maryland at Oregon. Congrats on your purchase, CBS. Both Alabama and LSU come into this game off of bye weeks, but both also play difficult opponents before the off week. Alabama hosts Missouri and LSU travels to Texas A&M. This is going to be a tough stretch for both programs. The loser of this one could be very close to playoff elimination.

Something To Look Forward To

Hero Kanu continuing growing into the defensive line rotation.

When Ohio State signed Germany-native and California high school defensive tackle prospect Hero Kanu in the 2022 recruiting class, they knew there would be some developmental time needed. That development started to show itself last year as a redshirt freshman. He played in 12 games and finished with 10 tackles and one sack. With the departure to the NFL of Mike Hall, Kanu is going to be needed this year. He showed last year that business was starting to pick up. This year it looks like business might be pretty good.

National College Football Predictions

Arizona receiver Tetairoa McMillan will win the Biletnikoff Award.

Last year was a difficult year to win the Biletnikoff Award because the talent level of finalists Marvin Harrison, Jr., Malik Nabers, and Rome Odunze was so high. Those three are gone, and so is the media attention that they commanded. Arizona’s Tetairoa McMillan was right there with them all last year in terms of production, finishing with 90 catches for 1,402 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore. He is known far and wide now, especially after closing the door on the transfer portal and staying at Arizona. McMillan and quarterback Noah Fifita might be the best pass-catch combo in the nation this year, which will lead to McMillan winning the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top pass catcher.

Big Ten Predictions

USC will play Notre Dame for a berth in the College Football Playoffs.

Again, I may be going too bold here, but I can’t help it if my blood predicts hot. Most projections have Notre Dame making the College Football Playoffs this year, which isn’t all that bold. I’m not sure if anybody has USC making it, however. With quarterback Caleb Williams out the door, people are tossing USC aside like a drive thru worker when asked for extra ketchup. “Here, take this handful of USC. Like I could give a crap.” Admittedly, USC will be “favored” to open the season with losses to LSU (in Vegas) and at Michigan in their first three games, but they could be favored to win the rest of the way out — until Notre Dame comes to town November 30th. If USC beats the Irish and finishes 10-2, they’ll have their signature win of the season. (Unless Notre Dame comes into the LA Coliseum with a 7-4 record with losses to Purdue and Georgia Tech earlier in the season (spoiler alert on future predictions!).) The Irish play two difficult opponents over their first 11 games — at Texas A&M and at Florida State. If they lose both of those games, this game could be what gets them in.

Ohio State Predictions

The Buckeye defense will pitch two shutouts in the regular season.

The Ohio State defense hasn’t had a shutout since a 42-0 win over Cincinnati in 2019. Last year, the Buckeye defense had five games where they gave up just one score, which means they were just a few plays here and there from getting at least one shutout. This year, I’m expecting those plays to be made — twice. I am predicting two shutouts for the Buckeyes in the regular season for the first time since 2013. Yes, I am aware that they had two shutouts in 2014, but one of those shutouts came in the Big Ten Championship Game. Maybe focus on reading the words first before wanting to point out where you think somebody is wrong. Take a breath. It’s not that serious. Go take a walk and see if a cat is stuck in a tree. That would be real help. Go save a drowning duck or something. But anyway, if we wanted to get really spicy here, I could predict two shutouts of Big Ten opponents for the first time since 1996.

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