Ohio State Buckeyes
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
2013 Record: 12-2 overall, 8-0 Big Ten Leaders Division
2013 Bowl Result: Lost to Clemson 40-35 in the Orange Bowl
2014 Returning Starters: 5 offense, 7 defense
Odds to Win 2015 College Football Championship: 12/1
Odds to Win 2014 Big Ten championship Game: 10/11
Odds to Win Big Ten East Division: 2/5
Regular Season Wins: over 10.5 -130 / under 10.5 Even
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The Ohio State Buckeyes completed their second straight undefeated regular season last year and were one win away from playing in the BCS Championship game after being ineligible for post-season play in 2012. However, they lost to Michigan State 34-24 in the Big Ten Championship game. The Buckeyes had to settle for an Orange Bowl berth against Clemson and the Tigers pulled off the 40-35 upset.
Still, Ohio State looks to build on two straight 12 win seasons under coach Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes are a heavy favorite to win both the new East division and Big Ten Championship game. With 12 starters returning and a ton of talent on both sides, Ohio State even has a good shot of grabbing one of the four spots in the new College Football playoff which begins this season.
Last year, Ohio State averaged 512 yards per game on offense including the fifth leading rushing attack at 309 yards per game. The Buckeyes were third in scoring nationally at 46 points per game.
Quarterback Braxton Miller returns to run the offense. He completed 63.5% of his passes for 2,094 yards with 24 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, along with 171 carries, 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns. He put up these numbers despite being injured early against San Diego State and then missing the next two games. If Miller stays healthy for the whole season, he could be a Heisman contender. The explosive offense did not miss a beat with back-up Kenny Guiton at the helm, but Guiton has graduated. If something happens to Miller, Cardale Jones is the back-up.
Ohio State must replace running back Carlos Hyde now with the San Francisco 49ers. Hyde had 208 carries for 1,521 yards with 15 touchdowns, along with 16 catches for 147 yards and 3 touchdowns. Back-up Jordan Hall is also in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had 81 carries, 536 yards and 8 touchdowns, along with 12 catches for 53 yards. Ezekial Elliot (30 carries, 262 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus a touchdown catch) and Dontre Wilson (31 carries, 250 yards and a touchdown, plus 22 catches, 210 yards and 2 touchdowns) will get the majority of the carries. True freshmen Curtis Samuel and Johnnie Dixon will get significant carries as well.
Wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown is now with the Carolina Panthers. Brown had 63 catches, 771 yards and 10 touchdowns. Receiver Devin Smith does return after making 44 catches for 660 yards and 8 touchdowns. Tight end Jeff Heuerman is also back and he made 26 catches, 466 yards and 4 touchdowns. Evan Spencer made 22 catches, 216 and 3 touchdowns.
The offensive line must replace 4 starters including left tackle Jack Mewhort. Taylor Decker will take over from Mewhort at tackle. Pat Elflein will play guard. Alabama transfer Chad Lindsay will take over at center.
Ohio State gave up 377 yards per game on defense and 23 points per game in 2013. The defense was shredded by both Michigan State and Clemson in the two losses to end the season. Seven starters return from that unit.
The Buckeyes could have the best defensive line in college football. Tackles Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington, along with ends Joey Bosa and Noah Spence will create havoc in opposing backfields.
The linebackers must replace leading tackler Ryan Shazier who is now in the NFL. Still Joshua Perry, Darron lee and Curtis Grant return to anchor a strong unit. True freshman Raekwon McMillan has star potential.
Senior corner Doran Grant could be among the best in the nation. Armani Reeves and Gareon Conley will platoon at the other corner. The safeties Tyvis Powell, Vonn Bell and Cam Burrows are very athletic and improved their tackling skills in spring practice. Still, the secondary must improve from last year as the Buckeyes struggled against the pass at times last year.
Freshman Sean Neurnberger takes over as the kicker. Sophomore punter Cameron Johnston is already among the best in the Big Ten. Dontre Wilson will likely return kicks again after averaging 24.3 yards per return last year. They do need a new punt returner though as Brown handled that job last year.
Ohio State has a tough non conference schedule with games at Navy and home games against Virginia Tech, Kent State and Cincinnati. In Big Ten play, Ohio State has road games at Maryland, Penn State, Michigan State and Minnesota. Ohio State has home games against Rutgers, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. The toughest game on the schedule is against Michigan State on the road. Still Ohio State should win the division and Big Ten Championship. I think Ohio State makes the national semifinals.
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