The Ohio State football season kicks off soon, and the similarities between the 2016 defense and the 2006 unit share some striking similarities.
Go back an even decade to 2006, and the parallels between the 2016 Silver Bullets and the 2006 Buckeye D are very strong. With both teams coming off Fiesta Bowl wins over Notre Dame, there are more similarities than the last win.
Bowl Game Breakout Stars
In 2006, James Laurenitis started the year as a household name. This was before he was a surefire first round pick and an All-American middle linebacker.
Fans around the country knew him as the true freshman that stepped up big time in the previous season’s bowl game to announce his presence on a big stage.
The lacrosse player turned safety turned defensive end showed why Ohio State coaches were so excited about his potential last season. As a full time starter, Hubbard will have to handle the pressure of being one of most important players on a defense that is starting a lot of new faces.
Speaking of New Faces
All but one defensive back made the jump to the NFL. Gone is Joey Bosa, perhaps leaving the biggest shoes to fill. Gone is Adolphus Washington and his unique pass rush skills on the interior. Derron Lee’s sideline to sideline ability is now in New York. Senior leaders like Joshua Perry and Tommy Schutt have graduated.
No one is denying the talent on the 2016 roster. Just like in 2006, newcomers like Jay Richardson, Malcolm Jenkins, Ross Homan, Vernon Gholston, and Laurenitis all were big reasons Ohio State made it to the National Championship Game. This year, the talent recruited to make up such a young squad will have it’s own stars emerge.
Non-Conference Headliner Set the Tone
2006 was the second game in a home and home series against the Texas Longhorns. After a let down loss in 2005 to the eventual National Champion, Ohio State lost once again and still managed to finished ranked fourth overall.
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That game saw Ohio State lose it’s first ever night game at home. While the team recovered, the early loss kept the Buckeyes out of the BCS title game.
This year’s schedule doesn’t begin with Bowling Green, it truly begins with Oklahoma. Baker Mayfield is likely the best quarterback Ohio State will face all season and the ESPN the Magazine feature story personality gets to attack a secondary still trying to piece itself together. A win against the Sooners will silence doubters while a loss will rattle, but not break, an inexperienced team. Either way, the Oklahoma game will be the most important Saturday on the schedule until The Game.
An EPIC Showdown to end the Big Ten Season
2006 will forever be the greatest game ever in the Ohio State Michigan Rivalry. The game was so close and so compelling in a #1 vs #2 matchup that there was a legitimate argument to be made for a rematch in the National Championship, an argument that Florida ultimately settled.
Regardless of the outcome in the Oklahoma game, it is likely The Game that will decide the Big Ten title with the two most talented rosters in the conference playing in that game. It will be a huge test for the inexperience Buckeyes to either prove they belong or show there’s more work to do.