Ohio State Buckeyes
Head coach: Urban Meyer
2014 Record: 14-1 overall; 8-0 Big Ten
2014 Bowl: National Championship Winner 42-20 over Oregon.
2015 Returning Starters: 7 offense, 6 defense
Odds to win 2016 CFB Championship: +370
Odds to win 2015 Big Ten Title: -260
Regular Season Wins: Over 11 (-125), Under 11 (-105)
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If anyone was doubting Urban Meyer, the last of those doubts have been removed, after winning a 2014 National Title while starting his third-string quarterback. The Buckeyes bring three talented QBs into the fold again this season along with RB Ezekiel Elliot, which has the Buckeyes the favorite to repeat as National Champions.
The Buckeyes are loaded on the offensive line again, which is where it really all begins for Meyer’s teams. TE Nick Vannett rounds it out as a capable receiver, giving the Buckeyes a dangerous team in the red zone balanced out by a host of quick receivers. Most of all, however, it is Elliot that has this team on the verge of another run: He has a shot at the Heisman this year as well as 2,000-plus yards, and the Buckeyes also have Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber to hand it off to.
At QB, Meyer can choose between Braxton Miller (Last year’s No. 1 option who went down pre-season, Cradle Jones and the season finisher, J.T. Barrett. Miller is probably the best, but Jones has the best arm of the crew when the Buckeyes want to air it out. All three are capable of running the ball, and that is what this team consistently does to win football games. The Buckeyes’ lone loss last year was a 35-21 disappointment in Week 2 to Virginia Tech.
The Buckeyes’ ‘D’ was not as strong as typical last year, but it is still one of the best units at slowing a team down. Buckeyes opponents averaged 5.0 yards per play and 3.9 yards per rush, but converted just one-third of third down plays. The Buckeyes also tallied 45 sacks, which helped it score six defensive touchdowns. OSU can put the pressure on.
The key starters return up front and in the LB group. DE Joey Bosa returns as the Big Ten DPOY. Bosa is a superb pass rusher and causes offenses numerous problems, so he’ll keep this defense on the verge of forcing a lot of turnovers since teams often are forced to double-cover him.
Aldophus Washington can be equally as problematic, and the Buckeyes have a defense that other teams sweat making major plays. Replacing Michael Bennett on the DL is important, but with Joshua Perry coming off a 124-tackle season, there is enough strength to do it. Darren Lee is also a big play maker and Raekwon McMillan is capable of delivering huge hits.
The Buckeyes have the speed in return units to continually be a problem for opposing special teams units. Sean Nuernberger had a good year as placekicker but he is going to be tested a lot more heavily this year most likely. Cameron Johnston is one of the best punters in the Big Ten and the Buckeyes typically do have very good punters.
Overall, last year was supposed to be a tough year for OSU, and it won a national title. What is a rebuild anyway? The Buckeyes have three QBs better than the majority of most teams in the NCAA and Meyer really can do no wrong.
No matter which QB option Urban Meyer chooses, he has a monstrous line to protect him, and the Buckeyes can even begin to just rotate QBs to keep whomever’s legs fresh when it comes time to make a postseason run. Luxury, sums it up well. No one has handed the Buckeyes the title in any way, but on a basis of program strength and talent, it’s hard to say they’re not the early favorites.
Prediction: 13 wins