Chip Kelly Hired as UCLA Coach – How Successful will He be?

chip-kelly-uclaThis past week, former Oregon Ducks coach Chip Kelly was the hottest commodity on the college coaching market. And both Florida and UCLA were trying to snag him. The 54-year-old turned down the Gators in favor of the Bruins.

UCLA fired coach Jim Mora after a 4-8 campaign. Mora had success in his first five seasons, but faltered this year.

Kelly compiled a 46-7 record at Oregon and took the Ducks to a BCS National Championship appearance in 2010. He also coached the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, going 28-35 in four combined NFL seasons.

Kelly Brings His Genius to UCLA

While Jim Mora had solid teams in Westwood, UCLA never won the Pac-12 nor made a serious run at the College Football Playoff. This is where the Bruin faithful hope that Kelly can succeed where Mora failed.

chip-kelly-oregon-spread-offenseKelly took over a team in Oregon nine years ago that was winning 8-9 games per season. He then lifted them to the next level with an up-tempo spread offense that changed college football.

Winning 11-12 games a year with the Ducks was an impressive accomplishment, given that they don’t have the national recruiting clout as traditional college powerhouses.

“I think it was one of the most profound changes in college football that’s happened in a long time,” said Cal offensive line coach Steve Greatwood, who spent four seasons coaching under Kelly.

“Early on, people didn’t know how to handle it. Defenses couldn’t get lined up. Adding the quarterback as part of the true run game without being an option team, being a zone team but having that element of the quarterback run and being able to spread the field and utilize all 53.5 yards of the field was pretty revolutionary. We really caught the defensive world of college football off-guard.”

Kelly’s teams took opponents by surprise and revolutionized how many programs ran their offense. These days, college defensive coordinators are much better at stopping the up-tempo spread. And officials give defenses a better chance to substitute defensive players to combat the up-tempo offense.

UCLA can Do Better in Recruiting

Chip Kelly has never been a huge fan of recruiting. He doesn’t like the time it demands, nor does he enjoy smooth-talking 17-year-olds to his program.

chip-kelly-recruiting“Chip is very good at evaluating,” said Nick Aliotti, a Pac-12 Networks analyst who was Kelly’s defensive coordinator. “We spent a lot of time in evaluation. What Chip is not good at is the tweeting and the schmoozing. He can do a nice job on the home visit. That’s just his social makeup.”

Greatwood added, “He wasn’t the kind of guy who was just a bird dog on a recruit, calling a recruit all season long. I mean, you got him in front of people, he’s impressive, the way he carries himself.

“I think he didn’t like the whole process of taking a kid from early January and recruiting him all through the following February to signing date. I think that kind of took its toll on him.”

Kelly may not be the used car salesman of football recruiting, but he’s still really good at it. Case in point, he was able to sell plenty of solid recruits to Eugene. A great example of Kelly’s recruiting prowess is when he convinced running back De’Anthony Thomas to switch from USC to Oregon on signing day in 2011.

But the good news for Kelly is that he no longer has to sell elite players on coming to the Pacific Northwest. In fact, He’ll be running into four-star recruits on a regular basis in the Los Angeles area. Furthermore, he won’t need somebody like Willie Lyles, whose recruiting efforts put Oregon on probation.

Another thing worth mentioning is that Kelly does very well with California recruiting. 41 of his 93 signees came from the Golden State. It should be even easier for Chip to sell Californians on their home state.

UCLA is Attractive because Kelly can Blend In

ucla-campusChip Kelly definitely isn’t somebody who seeks celebrity status. In fact, he’s an introvert who thinks that watching film footage is the most “fun part of the job.” This is one reason why he turned down the Florida job because he’d be the biggest celebrity in Gainesville.

Westwood, on the other hand, gives Kelly a chance to blend in with the famous crowd. He’s far from the biggest name in Hollywood, which suits him just fine.

This is especially the case when considering that Kelly struggled to deal with the media in Oregon. Now, that media attention will be spread out.

Another aspect to consider is that UCLA is a on a lower rung in the LA sports hierarchy. The LA Lakers command the most attention, followed by the LA Dodgers and LA Clippers. The Bruins aren’t even the most famous college team in their city because this honor belongs to USC.

Kelly will be just fine with this since he can work under the radar. And while he does have a high profile, he won’t be bothered with the same celebrity attention as if he lived in a smaller college town.

UCLA Outlook for 2018

The problem for Kelly is that he’s walking onto a team that just finished four games below .500. This is a different situation than when he took over an already successful Oregon program.

I could easily see Kelly going 5-7 or 6-7 in his first season. After all, there’s a lot to be repaired after a 4-8 campaign.

But on the flip side, Kelly could quickly catch fire on the recruiting scene thanks to his profile. Assuming he can get some five and four-star recruits to Westwood, then things could turn around for this Bruins team in a hurry.

A 10-win season may still be out of the question. But it wouldn’t be a shock to see Kelly and the Bruins finish somewhere around 8-5 if things go well.

Auburn’s Win over Alabama Muddles CFP Picture

auburn-beats-alabamaThe No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide and No. 6 Auburn Tigers played the biggest game during rivalry weekend. And the Tigers pulled off the upset in their home stadium, winning 26-14.

This means that only two undefeated teams remain in college football, including Wisconsin and Central Florida. It also throws the College Football Playoff picture into chaos with three SEC teams still in the running.

Auburn will take on the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC championship game in two weeks. The winner will likely earn a spot in the CFP. The Tigers destroyed Georgia at home two weeks ago, knocking the then-No. 1 Bulldogs from the nation’s top ranking. That said, Georgia will likely have revenge on their minds come December 2.

Alabama had a chance to come back when they were down 20-14. But self-inflicted mistakes prevented them from coming back in the final quarter.

One included a snap that quarterback Jalen Hurts wasn’t expecting. The Crimson Tide had yet another unexpected snap on fourth down, but they were bailed out because the Tigers had 12 men on the field.

Another mistake occurred when Alabama was trying to convert a 4th-and-3. But receiver Robert Foster ran a 2-yard crossing route, then failed to immediately turn upfield when he caught the ball and was tackled short of a first down.

Alabama also had a situation where running back Damien Harris jumped offside when Auburn was punting. This gave the Tigers a first down and allowed them to run two more minutes off the clock late in the fourth quarter.

kerryon-johnson-vs-alabamaOne more gaffe included holder JK Scott fumbling a snap during a field goal attempt. Alabama was forced to scramble and throw a pass, which fell incomplete. This left the Tide down by six points, when they had a chance to cut the lead to 20-17.

Auburn, meanwhile, grabbed a 20-14 lead after a 69-yard run that was capped off by a Kerryon Johnson TD run. The Tigers were able to pick up yardage all night thanks to strong inside running and perimeter passing.

Johnson was the team’s MVP, rushing for 104 yards and even throwing a touchdown pass. Johnson had to leave the game in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury. But he’d done enough to help Auburn pull off the mini-upset.

Auburn Has a Strong Chance at the CFP

College football analysts have been debating back and forth who will be the four teams selected for the CFP. A lot has still yet to be decided with conference championship games coming up. But it appears that the Tigers now control their destiny, even with two losses.

Again, they play Georgia in the SEC championship game. And given how they beat the bulldogs by 23 points last time out, they have to like their chances.

Alabama will Likely Get into CFP

nick-saban-alabama-1Alabama is in a strange position this year because they won’t be playing for the SEC title. Normally this would drastically hurt a team’s chances of making the playoffs. But Alabama still has a very good shot at getting into the mix.

They’re in a similar situation to Ohio State last year. The Buckeyes were also 11-1, but they didn’t get to play in the Big Ten Championship due to a loss at Penn State. Despite not even winning their division, Ohio State still earned one of the four CFP spots.

The Tide aren’t an automatic shoe-in at 11-1. Plus they won’t get to impress the selection committee in a conference championship game.

But it’s import to remember that the Big Ten is the only Power 5 conference with an undefeated team. The Pac 10 probably won’t get anybody into the CFP. This means that an ACC or Big 12 champion could be kept out of the playoffs if Alabama gets a nod.

Who Else Has Strong CFP Chances?

The Wisconsin Badgers finished out the regular season with a perfect 12-0 record. They’ll now face the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship game. A win here will put the undefeated Badgers into the CFP.

kelly-bryant-clemson-starterThe Clemson Tigers are likely to get in as well if they can beat the Miami Hurricanes in the ACC title game. Miami, meanwhile, has a tougher road because their rivalry-game loss to Pittsburgh puts them in a difficult position. Even a win over Clemson may not be enough to vault them over Alabama.

The Big 12 has a lot of questions to answer as well. Oklahoma will likely be a playoff team if they beat TCU In the conference championship game. But if the two-loss Horned Frogs win, the Big 12 probably won’t get a CFP bid.

With conference title games coming up in two weeks, the playoff picture will finally become clear. But we certainly can’t count the Tide out of the mix, even though they won’t be able to defend their SEC championship.

Will Jim Harbaugh Bolt Michigan for Bears or Colts?

jim-harbaugh-michigan-bears-coltsThe Michigan Wolverines’ season began promisingly, with a 4-0 start and wins over Florida and Air Force. It was beginning to look like coach Jim Harbaugh was turning Michigan back into a storied program.

The Wolverines have since stumbled, though, with losses to Penn State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. Following a 24-10 loss to the Badgers, they sit at 8-3 going into a rivalry game with Ohio State.

The truth is that Michigan is a good team. Good enough to dominate the likes of Cincinnati, Maryland, Purdue, and Rutgers. But they’re just not on the same par as elite Big Ten teams.

This much was evident from last Saturday’s game against Wisconsin. The Wolverines played well for about 30 minutes, keeping the game locked at 7-7.

But then the Badgers finally started putting points on the board. The Wolverines fell behind 21-10 at one point and never had a chance to catch up from there.

This is just the latest big game that Michigan has failed to win. And it has many wondering if Harbaugh has his eyes on other jobs since things aren’t coming together at Michigan.

Harbaugh’s 4-Year Rule

jim-harbaugh-stanfordLooking back at Harbaugh’s other stints, he stays at a gig for four years before moving on. I doubt this is by design – it’s just his coaching history.

The San Francisco 49ers, Stanford Cardinals, and University of San Diego are all jobs where Harbaugh stayed for four years. He’s now in his third year with the Wolverines, meaning it won’t be a surprise if he leaves soon.

The 53-year-old coach never ended any of his previous jobs with a bad record. Even when he was forced out of the Niners job, his team finished a respectable 8-8. His tenure there only ended because of a contentious relationship with the front office.

But so far, his time at Michigan has been a disappointment due to a lack of defining victories. Wolverine faithful were hoping for the second coming of Bo Schembechler 2.0. But they haven’t gotten Lloyd Carr up to this point.

“This is Michigan football right now,” writes the Detroit Free Press’ Nick Baumgardner. “A team that’s not ready to sit at the big table. A coaching staff that has a lot of questions to answer. A program that’s got a long way to go.”

Will Harbaugh be Fired at Michigan?

Michigan is as passionate about football as any major program. And they expect to be in the conversation for the national championship every year.

Unfortunately, they haven’t been on the national radar since the 2006 season, when Carr guided the program to an 11-2 finish. The aftermath has seen Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke fail to keep the school’s winning tradition.

Harbaugh has been better than his two predecessors, finishing with a 10-3 record in each of his first two seasons. But at 8-3 with Ohio State coming up, the needle isn’t moving in the right direction. If Harbaugh loses to the Buckeyes this Saturday, he’ll be 1-5 against the school’s rivals.

Would Michigan would ever fire their coach if he can’t beat rivals? The answer is likely no, as long as he keeps winning 9-10 games a year.

However, the reality is that Harbaugh is still in demand in NFL circles. It seems more likely that he’ll simply walk to a new job while he’s still a hot commodity than get fired.

Chicago Bears are a Possible Destination

jim-harbaugh-bearsThe Chicago Bears were never expected to do well this season. But they started off as a feel-good story, going 3-4 with a largely untalented roster.

Chicago has since fallen to 3-7 amid a three-game losing streak. And it’s very possible that the team will fire head coach John Fox, who’s 12-30 with the team so far.

If the Bears job opens up, it would definitely tempt Harbaugh, who quarterbacked Chicago throughout the late 1980s and early 90s.

He’d start a rebuilding process with a highly touted young quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky. And the Chicago fan base would likely be patient after several years of losing.

Chicago Tribune columnist Bernie Lincicome wrote about how having Harbaugh as the coach carries more appeal than just potential wins:

“While there is no indication Harbaugh would leave his alma mater for the Bears or any other pro job, his name always appears on any wish list, whether it is a columnist’s or an owner’s.

“That is the benefit, or the curse, of being interesting, something John Fox certainly is not. Nor are most coaches in the NFL. The Bears have not had a conversation piece as coach since Mike Ditka.

“Harbaugh turns the volume up wherever he goes, and the noise around the Bears has been something between a whisper and lullaby.

“Not that it matters, but there is also the real benefit that Harbaugh actually can coach, that he has a way with quarterbacks, having been a half-decent one himself.”

The Colts are Another Possibility

Harbaugh could also find himself going to another former NFL team that he played for in the Indianapolis Colts. This has just as much to do with reuniting Harbaugh and Andrew Luck as it does previous coaching accomplishments.

The two formed a very successful pairing at the University of Standard. And as long as Harbaugh can put up with bungling Colts owner Jim Irsay, everything would be golden if Luck returns from a lingering shoulder injury.

Staying in Michigan?

harbaugh-michiganThe one thing that might prevent Harbaugh from leaving Michigan early is that it’s his alma mater. This, and the fact that he has unfinished business at Ann Arbor are good reasons to stay.

One more important point here is that Jim Harbaugh is football’s highest-paid coach at $9 million. No college or NFL coach is within $1 million of this amount.

However, it’s hard to overlook the fact that he’s still a candidate for multiple NFL jobs. And he may start his 4-year leaving tradition one year early if/when the Bears and Colts come calling. Fox will likely be fired in Chicago, while Indianapolis will probably do the same with coach Chuck Pagano.

These talks will only intensify if Harbaugh loses to the Buckeyes a third straight time. According to our GTBets line, Michigan is an 11.5-point underdog at home. And Ohio State has plenty to play for because they still have an outside shot at the College Football Playoff.

We’ll probably learn far more on this situation within the coming weeks.

Ohio State in Big Ten’s CFP Driver Seat after Penn State Win

ohio-state-over-penn-stateOhio State football is now in command of the Big Ten East following a 39-38 comeback victory over the No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions. This is revenge for the No. 3 Buckeyes after their 24-21 upset loss in Happy Valley last season.

The visitors jumped out to a quick lead after Penn State’s star running back Saquon Barkley returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The Nittany Lions added another first-quarter TD to take a 14-0 lead.

Ohio State battled back, but found themselves down by at least 10 points at three different junctures of the game. Penn State still led with over 2 minutes left in the fourth quarter. But Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett gave Ohio State the lead for good with a 16-yard TD pass to Marcus Baugh. This helped the Buckeyes outscore the Nittany Lions 19-3 in the last stanza.

“You got to give Ohio State, the crowd, the environment, the stadium, Coach (Urban) Meyer, his team credit,” said Penn State coach James Franklin. “They’re obviously a very, very good football team, (and) it’s a tough place to come and get a win.”

“In no way shape or form should anyone have their head down,” tight end Mike Gesicki said following the game. “Obviously, we didn’t have the outcome we wanted, but playing on the road in this kind of atmosphere, to come up that short, we can fix the mistakes, we’ll bounce back.”

Biggest Comeback by an Urban Meyer Team

ohio-state-saquon-barkleyOhio State faced an 18-point deficit at two different points in this game. Their victory over Penn state marks the biggest-ever comeback by an Urban Meyer-coached team.

Barrett is one of the biggest reasons why the Buckeyes never gave up in this game. He was 33-for-39 passing with 328 yards and four touchdowns. Ohio State’s defense also did an excellent job of containing Barkley’s rushing prowess.

One more key factor in their victory included a blocked punt with 11:39 left in the fourth. This is fitting because it was a blocked punt that turned the tide of last year’s contest between these two teams.

“The margin of error is very small when you play these types of games,” said Franklin. “I thought the blocked punt was a huge play in the game.”

The Buckeye’s improving secondary locked down Nittany Lions receivers and helped the team be more aggressive against Penn State QB Trent McSorley. They sacked McSorely twice and stuffed the team’s read-option on the edges.

“They did a good job,” said McSorley. “Especially with that opportunity we had to ice it. They made the plays and we didn’t.”

mcsorley-penn-stateMcSorely was referring to a 10-play, 64-yard drive that resulted in a field goal with 5:42 left. Penn State was driving with momentum and seemed like they’d get into the end zone.

“They did some different stuff,” said Barkley after scoring two touchdowns on 172 all-purpose yards. “They blitzed us a lot more than they usually did, they stopped the run – we just gotta find a way to run the ball.”

Barkley, one of the leading Heisman candidates, tallied 80 yards from scrimmage. But 36 of these yards came on his lone rushing touchdown.

Ohio State Controls Destiny in CFP Race

Things looked gloomy for Ohio State following the early season lost to Oklahoma. However, they’ve put themselves back in control of their College Football Playoff destiny by winning this big showdown.

The Nittany Lions essentially dominated this game for the first three quarters. But this is when Barrett came to life, going 13-for-13 and delivering two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Perhaps this game wouldn’t have come down to the wire if not for a controversial third-quarter call. McSorley threw a pass into the end zone, where Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward and Penn State receiver DeAndre Thompkins battled for the ball.

penn-state-ohio-state-passOfficials reviewed the play for 5 minutes before determining that the players had joint possession, resulting in a Penn State touchdown. The call gave the Nittany Lions a 15-point lead and seemingly deflated the Buckeyes’ chances.

“What happened, the offensive receiver had full possession of the ball, brought the ball down and completed the process of a catch,” said referee John O’Neill. “He then rolled over and at that point, the Ohio State defender came on him. By rule, joint possession belongs to the offense.”

O’Neill added, “The Penn State receiver had the ball first. He brought the ball down, completed the process of a catch, rolled over at which point the Ohio State defender came down on him.”

Facing even longer odds with 22 minutes left, Ohio State was still able to come back and win the game.

This victory by no means puts Ohio State in the CFP. They still play some good teams down the stretch, including Michigan State (6-2), Iowa (5-3), and Michigan (6-2).

Ohio State will also have to play undefeated Wisconsin (8-0) if the latter wins the Big Ten West. But on paper, No. 2 Penn State is the toughest test that the Buckeyes will face in their conference.

Provided they win out, Ohio State will face the Big Ten West winner in the conference championship with a CFP spot on the line.

Barrett Vaults into Heisman Contention

jt-barrett-heismanBarkley was leading the Heisman race up until this point. But as mentioned before, he struggled most of this game, finishing with 44 rushing yards on 21 carries. Outside of 36-yard touchdown run, he had 8 rushing yards on 20 carries.

Barkley’s struggles were especially noticeable in the fourth quarter, when he couldn’t pick up yardage to run out the clock.

Meanwhile, Barrett shined where Barkley faltered by passing for four touchdowns. This gives Barrett 24 touchdown passes against just one interception on the season. And it makes the Oklahoma game where he struggled so badly seem like a distant memory.

As for Barkley, he’s not totally out of the Heisman race. After all, he did turn in 172 all-purpose yards, and the opening kickoff touchdown. But Ohio State held him well under his average of 211 yards per game.

In the end, Barkley only had to shining moments, including the 97-yard kickoff return and the 36-yard rushing touchdown, where he shed a tackle from lineman Tyquan Lewis.

There’s still a lot of football left to be played, and there are other legitimate Heisman candidates. But right now, it seems like Barrett has a slight lead in the race.

Are the Washington State Cougars Real CFP Contenders?

Washington State hasn’t been on the national college football radar since 2002, when they went 10-3 and made a Rose Bowl appearance. But suddenly the Cougars are drawling national attention after beating No. 5 USC 30-27 on Friday night.

Washington State has now started the season 5-0. That said, they’re contenders for the Pac-12 title and also have a shot at earning a College Football Playoff (CFP) spot.

Of course, we’re only five weeks through the 2017-18 season. And this begs the question of whether or not the Cougars are a serious contender.

Let’s discuss this matter below by analyzing the USC victory along with the challenges that Washington State will face as the season moves on.

First Major Win in the Mike Leach Era

Topping the Trojans is not only Washington State’s biggest win of the year, but it’s also the most-important victory in the 5-year Mike Leach era.

washington-state-cfp-2Some say that USC simply didn’t deserve to win this game. But the Cougars must be given credit for standing in with a highly talented team for 60 minutes. Washington State did what USC’s last 13 opponents couldn’t do by winning.

“These are once-in-a-lifetime moments,” WSU quarterback Luke Falk told the Seattle Times. “I’m definitely going to enjoy it with teammates tonight. Couldn’t be more proud.”

Prior to Friday, the 16th-ranked Cougers had never notched a marquee win under Leach. And they’ve certainly had their chances since he took over the program in 2012. Washington State has:

  • Lost to Oregon three straight times when the Ducks were No. 2 overall.
  • Been beaten by Stanford when they were ranked No. 5 and No. 8.
  • Lost to a No. 10 Colorado Buffaloes team.
  • Were defeated by the No. 5 Washington Huskies last year.

What’s even more painful is that some of these losses were close heartbreaks. The best example is when they missed a last-second field goal to beat Stanford in 2015.

But this past week was different because the Cougars played with a mental and physical toughness that they haven’t exhibited in the past.

For starters, they did a good job of containing USC quarterback Sam Darnold, who’s projected as the top NFL quarterback prospect.

washington-state-cfp-3Granted, this wasn’t Darnold’s finest performance as he finished with 15-of-29 passing for no touchowns and one interception. But the Washington State defensive line was dominant and played a large role in his struggles.

Darnold was able to limit Washington State to two sacks thanks to his elusiveness. But this is misleading because the Cougars constantly pressured him throughout the game. This includes when linebacker Jahad Woods ended the game with a strip-sack on Darnold late in the fourth quarter.

Moving to offense, Falk and running back Jamal Morrow both had strong games. Falk passed for 340 yards while completing 34-of-51 passes. Morrow rushed for 91 yards on just six carries.

Perhaps more impressive than the stats is how resilient Washington State was throughout the game. Here are some examples of what the Cougars had to deal with:

  • USC running back Ronald Jones ran for an 86-yard touchdown to give USC a 14-10 lead.
  • Falk was intercepted on Washington State’s own 3-yard-line (Cougars held them to a field goal).
  • Falk converted on a fourth-and-two play to lead a late touchdown drive.
  • Converting on fourth-and-13 to eventually get a go-ahead field goal (30-27 score).

These examples show that Washington State is not only talented, but also able to deal with pressure-packed moments.

Washington State Gains National Relevance

washington-state-winThis is the first time in the last 15 years that WSU has defeated the Trojans in Pullman. And it’s the first time in the last 25 years that they’ve beaten a top-5 team.

That said, it’s no surprise fans rushed the field following the upset victory over USC.

Now the question is where Washington State will rank in the AP top 25 poll. Most expect them to leap into the top 10 and become a talking point in the CFP race.

Let’s look ahead at Washington State’s remaining schedule before discussing their CFP chances:

Sat, Oct 7 @ Oregon (4-1)
Fri, Oct 13 @ Cal (3-2)
Sat, Oct 21 vs Colorado (3-2)
Sat, Oct 28 @ Arizona (2-2)
Sat, Nov 4 vs Stanford (3-2)
Sat, Nov 11 @ #20 Utah (4-0)
Sat, Nov 25 @ #6 Washington (5-0)

Mike Leach won’t want his squad celebrating too long. After all, they have some tough remaining games. And they’ll likely need to win every one if they’re going take the Pac-12 title and earn a CFP spot.

First off, they must travel to Eugene to face Oregon. The Ducks lost at Arizona State, but they’re still a tough team.

Washington State finishes with a gauntlet to end their Pac-12 season, including games vs. Stanford, at Utah, and at Washington.

The Huskies will present the biggest test because they’re in the national title picture. And the Cougars will certainly be an underdog in this contest.

Stanford will be a difficult game because they feature Brice Love, one of the nation’s best running backs. Love is currently on a blazing pace with 1,088 rushing yards on only 98 carries (11.1 YPC).

Utah is going to provide one more hurdle. The undefeated Utes own road wins over BYU and Arizona, and could make some noise in the Pac-12.

Realistically, though, Washington State could win all of their games leading up to the Washington contest. I think that the Huskies have a good chance to win at home. But the Cougars have proven that they’re capable of beating talented teams thanks to the USC victory.

This being said, don’t be surprised if they run the table and land their first-ever CFP bid.

Why Ohio State will Win the 2017 College Football Championship

ohio-state-football-odds-2017The 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

jt-barrett-playoffsOhio State quarterback J.T. Barrett has had an up-and-down career at Ohio State.

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

ohio-state-football-oddsLast year didn’t end how OSU wanted it to. But this is a group with plenty of juniors and seniors who are coming off a CPF appearance.

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.