SportsRatings 2014 College Football Pre-season Top 128
|Ohio State Buckeyes (Big Ten #2; East #2)|
|AP #12 USA #10||Strength:#8 Success:#17 Overall:#12|
|Record: 12-2||Bowl: Lost to Clemson 40-35 (Orange)
|Picks: AP #5 | USA #6 | Lindy's #5 | Athlon #3 | Steele #7|
|Record: 9-3||Bowl odds: 98% Playoff odds: 8%|
By waiting to make our rankings until August (and updating them up until the first kickoff) we have the advantage of seeing things happen like, say, Braxton Miller injuring his shoulder and being out for the season. Prior to this event, we ranked the Buckeyes #8, still lower than anyone else but not by much.
4 ret. starters
|2013 Scoring Offense: #3 (raw) #5 (adjusted for opposition)|
|2014 Projected Scoring Offense: #30 (adjusted)
The offense was set for a decline even before Braxton Miller went out, but not one of this magnitude.
|2013 Passing Rank: #92 (raw) #97 (adjusted)||2013 Sacks Allowed (adj.): #37|
|2014 Projected Passing Rank: #115 (adjusted)
||2014 Sacks Allowed (proj.): #54|
Even with Braxton Miller (2,094 yards, 24 TDs, 7 int) the passing game wasn't that productive. It was efficient, however, and moreso with backup Kenny Guiton (749 yards, 14 TDs, 2 int) available. Guyton graduated and Miller is out for the year, leaving redshirt freshman JT Barrett behind center. Top target Corey Brown (771 yards, 10 TDs) is gone but the next four are back including Devin Smith (660, 8). The offensive line is probably a lot weaker than last year (4 starters are gone) when it allowed 22 sacks. In short, this is a tough situation for Barrett but a great opportunity, and who knows, he might increase the passing yardage. But more likely Ohio State shells up into the running game that Urban Meyer loves so much.
|Rushing||2013 Rushing Rank: #6 (raw) #2 (adjusted)||2014 Projected Rushing Rank: #20 (adj.)
Ohio State was a running machine last year, and led the nation most of the year (adjusted figures) until Auburn overtook them. They had eight players top 100 yards but the top four are gone: Carlos Hyde (1,521 yards, 15 TDs), Braxton Miller (1,068 yards, 12 TDs), Jordan Hall (536, 8), and Kenny Guiton (330). Ezekiel Elliot (262 yards) is the leading returnee and now even more pressure will be on the sophomore to be the engine of the offense. The offensive line returns just one starter from last year, Taylor Decker. They do get Chad Lindsay, a part-time starter at Alabama last year, and three defensive linemen come over to help out including Joe Hale who started 9 games at nose tackle. Regardless, this won't be last year's offensive line. But Elliot averaged 8.7 yards per carry and OSU's QBs can all run the ball so they should still have a powerful rushing attack, but not like last season.
|2013 Adjusted Stats:||Rush Defense: #12 Pass Defense per-game: #109 Per-attempt: #55|
6 ret. starters
|'13 Scoring Defense: #32 (raw) #37 (adjusted)||'13 sacks: #10||'13 picks: #48|
|'14 Projected Scoring Defense: #40 (adjusted)
||'14 sacks: #3||'14 picks: #53|
The Buckeye defensive line looks to be in good shape with Noah Spense (8 sacks), Joey Bosa (7.5 sacks), and Michael Bennett (7 sacks) all returning; it's no shock that we see their top ten pass rush poised to leap into the top five. Two starters are back at linebacker but they lose Ryan Shazier (143 tackles, 6 sacks, plus 16.5 tackles for loss), who was their #1 tackler by 61. The secondary was their weak spot last year and it doesn't help that three starters are gone including Bradley Roby (13 pass breakups). They have Doran Grant (10 pass breakups) back but reserve Jamal Marcus transferred out over the summer. The defensive line looks great but the losses in the secondary, plus Shazier, make the D look slightly weaker.
- Kicking Game: Punter Cameron Johnston (44.0 average) is back but not kicker Drew Basil (9 of 10 FG).
- Return Game: Dontre Wilson averaged 24.9 yards per kickoff return; he's back but Corey Brown (7.8 on punts) is not.
- Turnovers projection: Miller and especially Guiton threw very few interceptions, and we can't expect that of the underclassmen that will be replacing them.
- Injury correction: The offense benefitted from a very low injury rate last year, and as we can already see, that doesn't remain constant year to year.
Coaching/Recruiting 2014 Recruiting Rank: #5 2013 Recruiting Rank: #7
As usual, Ohio State is in the top 10 in recruiting, and ranks #1 in the Big Ten pretty easily. They have a consensus 5-star player in Raekwon McMillan, a linebacker from Georgia. Urban Meyer is 24-0 here in strictly regular-season games so far; if he can keep that streak going after Miller's injury, he deserves kudos.
Ohio State looked like they could do it again—go 12-0—and they did. It wasn't always pretty, like the 40-20 opener vs. Buffalo, the 52-34 win at Cal, or, for other reasons, the 76-0 blanking of Florida A&M. Though close calls continued vs. Northwestern and Iowa (10 point wins each) the wins kept coming, and soon became dominant: they beat Penn State 63-0, Purdue 56-0, and Indiana 42-14. Against Michigan they were taken to the wire but the Wolverines went for 2 and the win, and lost. The Buckeyes were 12-0 again. But this time they played in the Big Ten championship and a much hungrier Michigan State team battered them 34-24. The Buckeyes were a good match for Clemson but the Tigers came out on top 40-35.
Last year's prediction: Last year Ohio State was a unanimous #2, but we put them #7 and projected a 10-2 season while still favoring them in every game (Michigan was the only close game at 56%).
Ohio State 2014 schedule & forecast
Straight up: 10-2 Cume: 9-3 Bowl eligible: 98%
Ohio State should still have a good year. We favor them in 10 games, with one tossup; a few weeks ago we favored them in 11 games, with one tossup. The Michigan State game was the tossup and now that favors the Spartans in East Lansing. Maryland on the road is now a tossup when it was a clear Ohio State win before.
Other than those games, we see lots of wins for the Buckeyes. The opener at Navy could be one of their tougher tests, both because Navy is good this year, it's on the road, and it will be the new quarterback's first start. Virginia Tech at home won't be easy, either. Yet we favor OSU in both.
Kent State and Cincinnati at home should be a bit easier. After Maryland they have Rutgers, Penn State, and Illinois in a row and all three should be victories. They close with three tough games: Minnesota on the road, and Indiana and Michigan at home. The odds actually favor the Buckeyes going 2-1 there, thus the cumulative projection of 9-3.
We should take some time to remember what happened the last time Ohio State's star quarterback was surprisingly lost over the summer. Prior to the 2011 season Terrelle Pryor was suspended 5 games and decided to go pro instead, and the team went 6-7 that year. The conditions are a bit different; that year a number of other key players were suspended early, too, and coach Jim Tressel was fired, leaving DC Luke Fickell to coach the uninspired team. We don't see that scenario repeating under Urban Meyer.
Ohio State was one of the favorites to make the College Football Playoff this year before losing Miller. Their path is still pretty clear but now, we have the Buckeyes #2 in the East division to Michigan State. The race is still tight so we give Ohio State an 8% chance. It was a lot higher a few weeks ago.
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SportsRatings 2014 College Football Pre-season Top 128