College Football Picks Top Ten Countdown- #4 Ohio State
Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes are certainly not accustomed to losing two games in a row, but that is exactly what happened to them at the end of the 2013 season. The loss in the Big Ten Conference Championship Game to Michigan State really exposed the defense and specifically the secondary. Clemson took advantage of that same group in their thrilling victory over Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.
Ohio State returns five starters on offense and seven on defense. Meyer’s teams generally have little trouble moving the football, though the offensive line is a major concern for this team. Seven returners on the defense will have to elevate their level of play.
The Big Ten as a conference isn’t what it used to be in football, but the Buckeyes aren’t going to have a cake walk to the Big Ten title. They play in East Lansing against Michigan State, and Wisconsin would be a very worthy adversary in the Big Ten title game if they were to reach that point. Ohio State’s schedule isn’t as easy as last year’s, but it isn’t terribly difficult either.
2014 Ohio State Buckeyes Offense
Braxton Miller is one of the Heisman frontrunners. Miller is the main man for this offense, and Ohio State badly needs him to stay healthy. That’s always been an issue for Miller. Without Kenny Guiton backing him up, Ohio State will experience a massive drop off if they are forced to go to the backup quarterback this year. That likely means less designed run plays for Miller in the season ahead. Miller threw for 2,094 yards last year and he rushed for another 1,068. Miller has become a much better passer over the course of the past three years, and he has thrown 52 career touchdown passes vs. only 17 interceptions.
Carlos Hyde was one of the nation’s best running backs last year, and Ohio State is going to miss him in a big way this year. Hyde rushed for an amazing 7.2 yards per carry a year ago. Ezekiel Elliot, Bri’onte Dunn, and Dontre Wilson will likely get most of the carries this year. Elliot is a guy to watch out for as a tailback of the future. Wilson will be wideout on most downs, but because of his playmaking ability, expect Wilson to get his hands on the ball quite a bit. Meyer is very high on his upside potential. Ohio State used to be known for great receivers, but they have been a bit down in that area of late. This year’s group has no stars, but they are deeper than they have been.
The huge question mark for Ohio State’s offense is the offensive front. Last year, the Buckeyes offensive line was one of the top five in the nation. This year, they probably aren’t even one of the top 50 in the nation at least to start the season. Chad Lindsay will start at center after transferring from Alabama, but all four of the other spots are seen as potential liabilities. This line needs to develop quickly.
2014 Ohio State Buckeyes Defense
Chris Ash is Ohio State’s new defensive co-coordinator. He’ll be working with Luke Fickell on this unit. Ash has worked under Bret Bielema the last few years. Ohio State needed some new looks here, and it will be interesting to see what Ash brings to the table. Let’s start with the positive for the Buckeyes defense. The defensive line should be absolutely tremendous. Michael Bennett and Joey Bosa are just about as good as any defensive linemen in the country. Bennett is a horse in the middle of the defense, and Bosa is a freak of an athlete packed into a 6’3 285 pound body. The Buckeyes should be able to get after the quarterback very well this year. It isn’t just these two guys, as Ohio State is loaded with depth on the defensive front line.
The linebacker spot is a concern since leader Ryan Shazier is gone. Curtis Grant will likely start at middle linebacker, but keep an eye on Raekwon McMillan as well. McMillan is seen by many as the best true freshmen linebacker in the country. Ohio State isn’t very experienced here, so he is liable to get a shot early on. The secondary was downright awful last year. They were single-handedly responsible for the team’s two losses at the end of last year. Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell are two sophomores who were very highly touted upon arrival at Ohio State, and they’ll be the safeties. I worry about Armani Reeves and Doran Grant at the corners. This secondary should be better than last year, but they still aren’t very good.
College Football Betting Odds from BetOnline
2014 Ohio State Odds to win National Title: +1,200
Odds to win Big Ten: -105
Odds to win Big Ten East: -300
Ohio State to make 4 team playoff (Yes): +110
Ohio State Season Win Total: 10.5
Ohio State is highly respected by oddsmakers. The Buckeyes play Navy and Virginia Tech (two pretty good teams) in the first two weeks, so we’ll learn quite a bit about them early on. The team has had that game at East Lansing circled for a long time, but it will still be a very tough one. Ohio State will win a lot of games this year, but I’m not sure this is a national title type team because of the big weaknesses at offensive line and in the secondary.
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