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Ohio State season preview: Oregon State begins rebuild in Columbus

  • Ohio-St-Indiana-Football-9

    Ohio State wide receiver Johnnie Dixon runs for a touchdown in the 2017 season opener, during which the Buckeyes beat Indiana 49-21.

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  • USC-Notre-Dame-Football-6

    Former Southern California running back Ronald Jones II runs against an Oregon State defense that allowed 40 points seven times last season.

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COLUMBUS — Ohio State’s 2018 season opens with an opponent it has not met in a generation. The Buckeyes will play host to Oregon State, a team they have not played since Mike Tomczak led them to victory against the Beavers in the first game of the 1984 season.

Here’s what to know about Game No. 1 for the Buckeyes this season.

Oregon State at Ohio State

Sept 1. (Noon, ABC)

Last year: Oregon State had a ruinous 2017 season by finishing 1-11 and going winless in the Pac-12. The Beavers took a 59-point beating to rival Oregon. There was a compelling argument to be made that the Beavers were the worst Power Five team in the country last season, during which coach Gary Andersen grew so frustrated that he walked away from more than $12 million remaining on his contract.

Coach: Jonathan Smith, first year

What's to know?: Oregon State hired Smith, a former Beavers quarterback who most recently was co-offensive coordinator at Washington. The hire made sense in many ways, but the reality is that Oregon State is still miles away from contending in a major conference.

USC-Notre-Dame-Football-6

Former Southern California running back Ronald Jones II runs against an Oregon State defense that allowed 40 points seven times last season.

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The Beavers allowed 40 or more points seven times last year. Their lone win was a 45-42 shootout against Portland State, which finished 0-11 in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Starting quarterback Jake Luton is on track to return from a frightening spine injury, and the former junior college All-American should help if he’s healthy. But the Beavers are installing a new offense and will be inexperienced at skill positions. In addition to their inexperience at skill positions, their defense likely will be a liability again.

For the Buckeyes: Ohio State officially will install quarterback Dwayne Haskins as a full-time starter. This is the Haskins show until further notice, as Joe Burrow is now at LSU after transferring. The Buckeyes saw a brief – albeit very promising – amount of Haskins in the Michigan game last season, and the sophomore’s first start (against a bad defense, no less) should be a preview of what is to come in 2018.

Stat That Matters: 53.2 percent. That was the third-down conversion rate against the Beavers’ defense last season, the worst mark in the Bowl Subdivision by more than a full percentage point. The Beavers’ defense made its way off the field in fewer than half of its third-down chances, and it’s in for another long year if that number doesn’t see a significant improvement.

Prognosis: Oregon State has a Power Five logo but a mid-major punch. The Buckeyes will be a massive favorite in their opener, and deservedly so. The Beavers are starting a total rebuild, playing a national title contender on the road, traveling across the country, and playing at 9 a.m. Pacific time to boot.

Unless this breaks out into a baseball game between the two schools, an Ohio State runaway is the likely outcome.

Contact Nicholas Piotrowicz at npiotrowicz@theblade.com, 419-724-6110 or on Twitter @NickPiotrowicz

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