Guard Billy Price sat in the hot tub at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Sunday, soothing tired muscles. Then he saw offensive line coach Greg Studrawa carrying a binder with a scouting report on Bowling Green.
After three weeks of preseason practices, all the Ohio State Buckeyes coaches have shifted from camp mode to game mode in preparation for the season opener at noon Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
“The coaches’ minds change from developing players to ‘let’s go win a game,’” Price said.
Ohio State is a 27½-point favorite, and it hasn’t lost to an in-state team since 1921, 7-6 to Oberlin. It has won 40 straight games against Ohio colleges since tying Wooster in 1924.
Ohio State is 4-0 all time against the Bowling Green. There’s little chance the Falcons score an upset Saturday. The big question for coach Urban Meyer is how his many new starters react to playing in front of more than 100,000 fans for the first time.
Most of the players have at least seen action in the spring game or stood on the sideline in the regular season. Playing in the real deal is a different matter.
“Our fans are going to be riled up,” defensive end Tyquan Lewis said. “The whole Buckeye nation is going to be riled up. There’s going to be a lot of nervous guys on the field, but after the first couple plays, you’re playing the game you love.”
Ohio State returns six starters. Three of the players expected to start Saturday have never played in a college game: redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber; true freshman guard Michael Jordan; and placekicker Tyler Durbin, who will fill in for injured starter Sean Nuernberger.
Numerous other players will earn their first start: Corey Smith and Noah Brown are likely starters at wide receiver; offensive tackle Isaiah Prince; safeties Damon Webb and Malik Hooker; defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle; linebacker Dante Booker; and cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward, one of whom will start opposite Gareon Conley.
Others have started only one or two games in their carers: defensive end Sam Hubbard; linebacker Chris Worley; defensive tackle Michael Hill; and hybrid back Curtis Samuel.
The Buckeyes had a similarly inexperienced team in 2014 and won the national championship. Price thinks it’s too early to tell if this team is capable of that.
“Football makes you mature really fast,” he said. “You have to handle your business, or you’ll have a meltdown as a player, and that’s not what we want to see here. There are similar traits (to 2014). It’s been a work camp. That’s what the goal was: to make sure we develop players and get them ready to play in front of 108,000.”