The Ohio State Buckeyes are coming off an 11-2 season where they made the College Football Playoff. But most don’t consider this a success for the Buckeyes after they were trounced 31-0 by the Clemson Tigers in the semifinals.
Despite the convincing loss, there’s reason to believe that Ohio State is a bonafide title contender once again. For starters, they’re ranked #2 in the AP Poll behind Alabama.
But there are several other reasons why Ohio State could win their second national title in the last four years. Let’s continue discussing why OSU is the team to beat this college football season.
1. Urban Meyer Wins Championships after Bowl Losses
Head coach Urban Meyer doesn’t take bowl game losses lightly. Instead, he goes out and wins national championships the following season.
Here are the two examples:
- 2013 – Meyer’s Florida Gators lost 41-35 to the Michigan Wolverines in the 2008 Gator Bowl. Florida came back and beat the Oklahoma Sooners 24-14 in the national title game.
- 2014 – Coming off a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the 2013 Orange Bowl, Ohio State won the 2014 championship over the Oregon Ducks by a score of 42-20.
Obviously this is a hard trend to keep up. But Meyer has won 2 of his 3 championships coming off a bowl loss the year before. Can he make it 3-0 with this trend in 2017?
2. The Defensive Line is Back and Better than Ever
The Buckeyes might very well have the nastiest defensive line in college this season. They return everybody from last year’s D-line, including Tyquan Lewis (8 sacks), Nick Bosa (5 sacks), Sam Hubbard (3.5 sacks), and Jalyn Holmes (2.0 sacks).
Overall, Ohio State brings back 6 of their top defensive players from last year. But it’s the line that continues drawing all of the attention.
According to former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, this is the “most talented group” he’s ever coached at any level.
“We had a great player in Tampa in Gerald McCoy. Tremendous player, but that was one guy,” Schiano told ESPN. “I go back to my days in Miami in ’99 and 2000, and this is clearly a better group.”
Schiano might be right when looking at the pedigrees of these linemen. Lewis and Hubbard are expected to be first-round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Bosa, a sophomore, could very well go in the first round when he leaves OSU as well.
3. Senior J.T. Barrett is Back at QB
He started his sophomore year, until an injury prevented him from playing in the 2014 CPF. Barrett then battled with Cardale Jones for playing time his sophomore year. And he was heavily criticized after throwing for just 127 yards and two interceptions against Clemson last season.
But there’s nobody else that Meyer wants back in the saddle heading into a potential championship season. Barrett is a fifth-year senior who’s won 26 of the 30 games he’s started in his career. Two of these losses are to the Tigers. But Barrett won’t have to worry about Clemson unless they meet in the CPF again.
The key thing to focus on is that Ohio State returns four of their starting offensive linemen, the starting tight end, the top wide receiver, and the top running back.
It’s rare for a college team to return so much on offense without losing some underclassmen to the pros. But Ohio State has this perfect mix coming back. And Barrett will benefit greatly from the familiarity with this group.
4. Ohio State has a Favorable Schedule
Let’s look at the Buckeyes’ schedule for a moment before getting into this point:
- Aug 31 – @ Indiana
- Sept 9 – vs. Oklahoma
- Sept 16 – vs. Army
- Sept 23 – vs. UNLV
- Sept 30 – @ Rutgers
- Oct 7 – vs. Maryland
- Oct 14 – @ Nebraska
- Oct 28 – vs. Penn State
- Nov 4 – @ Iowa
- Nov 11 – vs. Michigan State
- Nov 18 – vs. Illinois
- Nov 25 – @ Michigan
This isn’t an easy schedule by any means. After all, the Buckeyes must play Penn State, Oklahoma, and Michigan – all of which are ranked in the top 11 to start the year. But let’s break this down further.
Ohio State plays the Sooners on September 9, which gives them nine days to prepare after the Indiana game. They play Penn State on October 28, which is coming off a bye week.
The toughest test may be their rivalry game with Michigan at Ann Arbor. But the Wolverines will be coming off a tough game against Wisconsin, whom, by the way, Ohio State doesn’t play this year. The schedule is set for a perfect run – the Buckeyes just need to execute.
5. This Team has Excellent Experience
They return almost all of their offensive starters, the defensive line, and a couple other defensive starters. The one area where Ohio State lacks experience is the secondary. But the good news is that they have a great D-line that will make the young secondary players’ job easier.
It also helps that the Buckeyes don’t face a gauntlet of top-tier quarterbacks. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield will be the best that they face during the regular season. But he’s a fringe top-10 QB.
In any case, Ohio State has enough strengths that they shouldn’t have to fret over their secondary too much. And these strengths should deliver another national title to Columbus.