A day short of a year from the original date, Ohio State and Oregon on Saturday finally will play for the first time since the 2015 national championship game.
The Ducks initially were to host the Buckeyes in Eugene on Sept. 12, 2020, but the game was canceled due the revised shortened schedules for the Big Ten and Pac-12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was an anticipated matchup then and will be the same in Columbus this year.
Both teams had scares in their openers last week. The No. 12 Ducks defeated Fresno State 31-24 and third-ranked Ohio State overcame a four-point halftime deficit to win 45-31 at Minnesota.
The victory for the Ducks might be costly, however. Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux sprained his left ankle and coach Mario Cristobal said Monday he will know later in the week if the projected high pick in the 2022 NFL Draft will be available.
“He’s improving, so it’ll be a day-to-day thing,” Cristobal said. “Playing is going to be dependent on a guy being able to practice. If a guy can’t practice, I don’t think it’s in his best interest and the team’s best interest to put a guy out there that hasn’t been able to rep.”
Thibodeaux would be critical in applying pressure on Ohio State redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud, who had a shaky opening in his first career start vs. Minnesota. He rallied to throw touchdown passes of 38, 56, 70 and 61 yards in the second half and finished 13 of 22 for 294 yards and an interception.
“Now you can say you have done it before,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “It’s one thing to be a first-time starter. It’s another to do everything for the first time. Any time those things are new like that, there’s a toll that’s taken.”
Cristobal is familiar with Stroud, having tried to woo the four-star recruit from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
“Poise, accuracy, can improvise, can make plays with his arm and with his feet,” the coach said. “He can make every throw, he’s really smart.”
Oregon could make history. The Ducks are 0-9 against the Buckeyes, including a 42-20 loss in the inaugural College Football Playoff title game on Jan. 12, 2015.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were still 10,000 tickets available in Ohio Stadium (102,329) for the first game with fans there since the 2019 season.
“I hope by Friday or Saturday that won’t be the case,” Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said Tuesday. “But the reality is there are probably some people who have apprehension. We will just deal with that and by Saturday we will be full.”
No matter the attendance, Day made a plea.
“We need Buckeye Nation in this game. This is a very big game for our program,” he said. “We need the fans to be loud. The louder and the more we can feel this crowd, the better we’re going to play.”
By the way, the next scheduled games in the series are Sept. 11, 2032, in Eugene and Sept. 10, 2033, in Columbus.
–Field Level Media