“Their D-line is obviously good, we know that,” Hollins said. “But at the same time, we’re just playing football. They put their shoulder pads on just like I put mine on. It’s nothing new to me. It’s just playing football.”
So Ohio State isn’t viewed differently than Southern or SMU?
“No sir,” Hollins said. “Let’s just get to playing football.”
That’s an admirable mindset for Hollins and the rest of the Frogs’ offensive line to have going into Saturday night’s game at AT&T Stadium. Heck, that’s probably been instilled in the players’ minds from the coaching staff.
But the reality is Ohio State is not Southern or SMU. The Buckeyes boast one of the best defensive lines in the country.
Standout pass rusher Nick Bosa is a potential No. 1 overall pick in next spring’s NFL Draft, and defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones is also a first-round caliber talent.
And don’t forget about Ohio State sophomore Chase Young, who has shown early signs of being that type of player too.
Bosa and Young will be a constant challenge for TCU’s tackles -- Lucas Niang has been at right tackle, and Austin Myers and Anthony McKinney have split time at left tackle so far this season -- all night. And Jones is an interior force that Hollins and the guards must contain.
“Big test,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “We’ve got some work. Bosa is probably playing at the highest level he’s played at.”
Bosa has registered three sacks and five tackles for loss in Ohio State’s opening two games against Oregon State and Rutgers. Jones and Young each have two sacks. Oh, and as Patterson said somewhat sarcastically, the Buckeyes’ second- and third-stringers are “Parade All-Americans” too.
This is arguably the single biggest matchup in the game -- how TCU’s offensive line that lost four significant pieces from last season holds up against an elite D-line such as Ohio State.
If the Frogs can’t give quarterback Shawn Robinson time to go through his progressions and there aren’t lanes for the running backs, things will not end well for TCU.
Let’s not forget Ohio State sacked USC quarterback Sam Darnold eight times in last year’s Cotton Bowl played at the same stadium the Buckeyes will be playing at this week.
But Patterson and TCU have hope. The Frogs’ defensive line may not be on the Buckeyes’ level, but it’s a solid front four and provides a great daily test for the offensive line.
TCU has an NFL-caliber defensive end in Ben Banogu; Ty Summers has two sacks in two games since moving to end; and L.J. Collier is a starting-caliber player who has taken a number of reps in practice even though he’s been unavailable the first two games for disciplinary reasons.
“A great defensive line is a great defensive line, no matter if it’s Ohio State or TCU,” Hollins said.
Another factor going in TCU’s favor is Robinson. Patterson has talked about Robinson’s “escapability” all season, and that should benefit in this game.
If the pocket collapses, Robinson has the ability to get out and extend plays. He’s also dangerous with his feet in the open field, scoring three rushing TDs in the first two games.
“Their whole defense, they can all run,” Patterson said. “But we’ll have to do some things without giving away the game plan.”
The game plan could include Robinson sharing more snaps with backup Michael Collins. Patterson hinted at Collins getting more action after Friday’s game against SMU, and didn’t back off the possibility during his news conference on Tuesday.
Patterson mentioned his first season as head coach in 2001 when he used two quarterbacks (Casey Printers and Sean Stilley) at Nebraska. But Patterson reiterated that co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Sonny Cumbie would make the final decision.
Patterson doesn’t want to “play God,” as he spends most of his time focused on defense and special teams and trusts the offensive coaches to handle that side of the ball.
“The bottom line to it is [Collins] has gone in and ran the offense,” Patterson said. “You’ve got 10 games left – you better make sure that next guy coming in is ready to do what he needs to do.”
On Saturday, though, it’s all going to start up front. If the O-line doesn’t do its job, it won’t matter who’s behind center.