Jeremy Birmingham/Landof10
Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa

Ohio State can’t handle the Spartans, new Buckeyes kicks available and more

Jeremy Birmingham

We hope you’ll start your day with us here at Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know — Monday through Friday — around the world of Ohio State sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, wrestling, hockey, baseball or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.

Today is Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, and this is your Ohio State Wake-Up Call.


Buckeyes battle — kind of — in East Lansing

The Ohio State basketball team gave it all it had Tuesday night in East Lansing and, as it has done most of the year, fell short 74-66 in what was a pretty huge game for both the Buckeyes and Michigan State. The loss drops Ohio State to 5-9 in the Big Ten and, barring an unexpected league tournament championship, all but eliminates the Buckeyes from any chance of making the NCAA Tournament.

Per usual in East Lansing, the officials did a great job putting the Buckeyes in a precarious position in the first half. Both Trevor Thompson and Jae’Sean Tate — Ohio State’s best defense against the big-bodied Spartans — collected three first-half fouls and played a combined 22 minutes before halftime. But the Buckeyes battled hard and trailed only by six heading into the break.

Michigan State doubled its lead 1 minute, 37 seconds into the second half, stretching it to 12. Ohio State fought back, cutting the deficit to 47-46 on a layup by Micah Potter with 14 minutes to play. It was 52-49 Michigan State at the under-12 minute timeout. It was back, and it was forth.

Then in a blink Ohio State was back down eight, 59-51, at the 9-minute mark. The Buckeyes, as they’ve done all year, just couldn’t finish. The team has no one capable of taking a game on his shoulders and that’s exactly what Michigan State, Purdue, Michigan, Wisconsin and the rest of the Big Ten’s “good” teams have.

I may sound like a broken record if you read this space, but the truth is that there’s a thin line between good and bad, and right now the Buckeyes are on the wrong side of it. There’s talent, there’s good coaching, but there’s a leadership vacuum among the players, especially when Tate is absent like he was most of Tuesday night. There’s potential in Columbus, but it’s not being met this season — and that’s been the case for the last two seasons, as well.

In the end, moral victories mean nothing, but don’t think for a moment these Buckeyes don’t fight. You just have to wonder how much longer Thad Matta will get the chance to lead the fight.

 High Expectation for 2017 recruiting class

When you sign a recruiting class that may be the best in your program’s history, it comes with lofty expectations. Potentially unrealistic, even.

That’s the scenario Ohio State is facing as it prepares for spring football in 2017. Nine of the Buckeyes’ 21 new players have been on the Ohio State campus since January, working their way into the program and hopefully into the lineup. Of course, a lot of the pressure and expectations that are coming are a result of the success the Buckeyes’ 2013 class found in Columbus. Those Buckeyes, led by Ezekiel Elliott and Joey Bosa, were vital in securing the 2014 national championship.

Now all the hype that comes with the 2017 class has some thinking about what those players could do when they get their turn to play significant minutes.

From Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com:

In 2014, Ohio State won the National Championship with seven sophomore starters, including Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott and Eli Apple, and two more players who were nearly starters, in Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson.

Is the Class of 2017 next?

If the answer is yes, that means a National Championship for Ohio State in 2018. And maybe a little heartbreak after. But start the clock on when the 2017 class will make its presence felt.

“I can’t say what we’re going to do,” freshman linebacker Baron Browning said. “I don’t want to speak of the future. But if we stick to the plan they have here, great things are going to happen.”

The truth is no one has any idea what’s going to happen, including the always affable Browning. He’s one of the early-enrolled freshmen most likely to get some serious playing time next season, and that makes him a contender to be a starter by Year 2. In fact, Lesmerises thinks 10 members of the 2017 signing class will be in starting roles by that time.

It’s a trap!

It’s never too early to look ahead to the football season. In fact, you could say it’s always the right time to do just that. On Monday, ESPN released its first FPI rankings for 2017 and it has — believe it or not — the Buckeyes as the country’s top-ranked team. Now freshly anointed as the best team in America, it’s time to start playing the games, mentally.

In one of college football’s toughest conferences, nothing is given and everything is earned (I just made that up, I swear). And that means you’re going to run into a potential buzz saw week in and week out. However, with a roster full of potential superstars, Ohio State may head into its (first) biggest game of the year with a lot on the line. That’s why ESPN.com’s Austin Ward says the Ohio State-Penn State game on Oct. 28 is definitely a must-win game.

The Nittany Lions pulled off a huge upset of the Buckeyes last season that helped unexpectedly springboard them on to the (Big Ten) title. But this time, both sides will come in with no shortage of hype and expectations. Few matchups in the country will boast the star power on display at the Horseshoe on Oct. 28, and the outcome figures to have national title implications.

So, after the Buckeyes extract revenge on the Nittany Lions they’ll be able to exhale before they host Michigan a month later. Right?

Nope. That’s when Ward hits you again, this time with what he considers Ohio State’s “trap game” for 2017, a week later at Iowa.

Look back at what happened to the Wolverines when they visited Iowa last year, when a Big Ten title was still well within Jim Harbaugh’s reach. The Hawkeyes are going to be a bit off the radar again this offseason and have some key questions to answer on the roster, but they’re annually one of the league’s most fundamentally sound programs, and they won’t be welcoming hosts for Meyer and the Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes have only played at Iowa once since 2006 — in a 2010 game that was vacated — and it’s a unique place to play. That game is sure to be at night at Kinnick Stadium and does have all the makings of a trap game.

Good thing we’re prepared for it now.

Get some fresh new Ohio State shoes 

Do you like Ohio State? Do you like shoes that you can wear and tell people you’re going to the gym but really you’re just driving to Chipotle for a “healthy” lunch?

If you do, then I’ve got just the pair of sneakers for you. Or Fanatics.com does, anyway.

The Ohio State Buckeyes Metcon Repper Shoes, which is a terrible name, retail for $109.99 and are available now.

Nike has made a couple of really nice pairs of Buckeyes-inspired shoes over the last few years, but for my money these are not their best effort. There’s some scarlet, sure, but black and tan? These are Ohio State shoes, folks. Let’s mix in a little gray on those bad boys, huh?

B1G Happenings

• Jim Harbaugh is working a coaches clinic in Alabama — and that will probably upset some SEC coaches

• Iowa officially announces new coaching hires

• There is a lot of bad stuff happening in the Michigan State athletic department and it’s not just football

• Targeting is being targeted for a rule change and it can’t happen soon enough

• Does a heavier Lovie Smith influence mean more wins for the Illini? That and more questions for the Big Ten West

• How much Demario McCall may we see in the Buckeyes lineup this fall?