Over/under: 12 TDs for Chris Olave?
One of the great shames of the 2020 Ohio State football season is the potentially all-time great statistical year that Chris Olave –– and Garrett Wilson too, for that matter –– did not get to put up.
Olave averaged better than 100 yards per game and hauled in a touchdown pass for every appearance he made in 2020. Now imagine that pace, even with the possibility of a lull or two, stretched over 15 games instead of seven.
So with Olave, a potential mid-first-round pick in next year’s draft, returning to Ohio State for a full slate of games, we may very well see some video games numbers tallied by the California native in 2021.
Or will we?
In the second edition of our over/under series, we’re examining whether or not Olave will surpass the 12-touchdown mark this season.
Why 12, you ask? That’s Olave’s season-high touchdown total set during his 2019 true sophomore campaign. Also, given his 22 career receiving touchdowns to this point, it means that any more than 12 would put him above David Boston for the all-time program record in that category.
Why it could happen
At the rate he was going in 2020 (50 catches, 729 yards and seven TDs in seven games), Olave would almost certainly have surpassed this mark last year if given a regular season, and one would only expect him to improve even further with another full offseason under his belt.
As a former three-star recruit, Olave has always had a chip on his shoulder, and the fact that he came back to Ohio State after such a standout campaign only highlights the fact that he is gunning for the status of No. 1 receiver in his class.
To do that, Olave will likely need another monster season, and scoring more than 12 touchdowns would almost certainly put such a year in that category.
In the past 22 games in which Olave has caught a pass for Ohio State dating back to 2018, the Mission Hills High School alum has hauled in exactly 22 touchdown passes. By that metric, the math is simple: if Olave plays in at least 13 games in 2021, he will pass the aforementioned mark.
However, we all know football is never that simple.
Why it might not
The single most important factor in deciding whether or not Olave surpasses the 12-TD mark this season, aside from his own performance, is the play of whoever ends up passing the ball to him for the Buckeyes.
We all know that the chemistry between Justin Fields and Olave on the field was second-to-none (the final play of the 2019 Fiesta Bowl notwithstanding), but Fields is off to the NFL, and his replacement at Ohio State will not have thrown a single collegiate pass before Week One.
If we’re to assume that C.J. Stroud is the man for the job, the redshirt freshman has done nothing to dissuade spectators from the belief that he will be just fine operating Ryan Day’s offense this season. However, we won’t truly know until Stroud, or even Jack Miller or Kyle McCord, finally receives a baptism by fire.
Even if one of the young Buckeye QBs does emerge as another elite national talent on the level of Fields and Dwayne Haskins, it’s possible that they won’t have quite the same connection with Olave as they might with Wilson or another Buckeye wideout.
Program receptions leader K.J. Hill, for example, saw his statistical production slide a bit in a number of areas between 2018 and ‘19 amid the switch from Haskins to Fields, and the same thing could occur for Olave.
The final factor to consider is the embarrassment of riches that Ohio State possesses at the wide receiver position, with Jaxon Smith-Njigba likely entering the fold as a starter this season, and true freshmen like Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. already stealing headlines. Oh, and what about Julian Fleming?
Of course, Olave’s touches aren’t likely to be swallowed up whole by the up-and-coming talent in 2021, but a slight dip is certainly not impossible.
So, my list of reasons why it might not happen ended up being quite a bit longer than the opposite. But that’s because the most important factor of all, and the one that trumps all else in my opinion, is that Olave is so special a player that even a quarterback change and considerable other receiving options will not stop him from surpassing the 12-touchdown mark, even if it is only by a hair.