Head Coach: Urban Meyer
2016 Record: 11-2 (8-1 Big Ten)
Over 10.5 wins (-165); Under 10.5 wins (+135)
Odds to win Big Ten Champi0onship Game: -120
Odds to win 2017 Title: +701
Futures odds c/o Bookmaker
The Ohio State Buckeyes return starting quarterback T.J. Barrett and seven other offensive starters. Building momentum should prove easy for Urban Meyer’s club, even if some improvements from 2016 are absolutely requisite. Atop that list is improving Barrett’s effectiveness, especially in the slot.
Meyer hired former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson to work on this aspect, and Ryan Day was hired as a quarterback coach. Day is a former QB coach of the San Francisco 49ers, and he should be able to bring the best out of Barrett. His top receivers will be Binjimen Victor and Terry McLaurin, as well as tight end Marcus Baugh. His most effective playmaker from last season, Curtis Samuel, is departed.
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The Buckeyes also benefit from returning redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and should only improve on that as he lines up his NFL draft prospects in his sophomore season. Weber should have improved depth behind him, starting with freshman J.K. Dobbins. The OL also returns four starters, including Jamarco Jones and Billy Price. Price slides from right guard to the center spot, following in the footsteps of Pat Elflein who made the same adjustment a year ago.
The Buckeyes have one of the nation’s best defensive lineups on paper, starting with one of the best defensive lines seen in quite a while. OSU returns all four starters up front. Tyquan Lewis was the Big Ten DL player of the year, and Sam Hubbard, Dre’Mont Jones and Michael Hill will team up with him to form an air-tight quartet of talent. Jayln Holmes and Nick Bosa will also be in the rotation. Nick is the younger brother of standout Joey Bosa, who is now in the NFL.
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The outside linebacking spots also feature two strong playmakers in Jerome Baker and Dante Booker. Booker had a season-ending injury last season, but he should be good to go this year. The only potential weak spot for the defense is in the secondary, as three first-round picks were removed from it.
Even so, there are six talented Buckeyes eager to replace them. Denzel Ward got plenty of experience a year ago, so he will be more than ready to step in as a full-time starter. Kendall Sheffield is also a former five-star prospect and JUCO transfer Damon Arnette had a strong spring.
The only returning starter in the secondary is at safety in Damon Webb, while Jordan Fuller and Erick Smith should be featured strongly in the rotation with him.
Sheffield is a former five-star prospect from the 2015 class, and he clearly regrets his choice to go to Alabama over OSU. No matter. He chose to transfer and now he can cash in on his high potential with a clear path to playing time right before him.
Sheffield was buried at Bama, and while there is no “do over” on his first choice in programs, Meyer should be able to get the elite production from Sheffield that he was not even given the chance to display while playing for the Rolling Tide.
In the special teams, the Buckeyes do need a new kicker and punter. Sean Nuernberger is the likely choice at kicker, but he has a history of injuries. Freshman Blake Haubeil will be the punter.
Urban Meyer teams are expected to be the cream of the crop, and expectations are much the same this year in 2017. His recruiting ensures that the turnover in prospects is never a disaster, and the Buckeyes still made the National Semifinals last season in what was considered something of a down year.
Barrett is going to have to rediscover his “freshman mojo” and the Buckeyes made the requisite hirings to help ensure that. Should OSU get top-notch production from Barrett’s passing options, there is no reason that the Buckeyes cannot contend for a National title.
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