SportsRatings 2015 College Football Pre-season Top 128
|Ohio State Buckeyes (Big Ten #1; East #1)|
|AP #1 USA #1||Strength:#2 Success:#1 Overall:#1|
|Record: 14-1||Bowl: Beat Alabama 42-35 (Sugar)
Beat Oregon 42-20 (Championship)
|Picks: AP #1 | USA #1 | Lindy's #1 | Athlon #1 | Steele #1 | ESPN #1
|Record: 12-0||Bowl odds: 99.9% Playoff odds: 78%|
The suspense is over. Our #1 team, far and away, is Ohio State. Just like last year, when the defending national champ was the overwhelming consensus #1. That should at least give hope to other schools.
7 ret. starters
|2014 Scoring Offense: #5 (raw) #3 (adjusted for opposition)|
|2015 Projected Scoring Offense: #2 (adjusted)
There are at least four Heisman trophy candidates on Ohio State's offense, and one of them is going to end up being a 2nd stringer.
|2014 Passing Rank: #53 (raw) #46 (adjusted)||2014 Sacks Allowed (raw): #52|
|2015 Projected Passing Rank: #22 (adjusted)
||2015 Sacks Allowed (proj.): #40|
JT Barrett (2,834 yards, 34 TDs, 10 int) replaced Braxton Miller (2,094 yards, 24 TDs, 7 int in 2013) before the season started, only to be hurt himself. In came Cardale Jones (860 yards, 7 TDs, 2 int) to almost flawlessly lead them to the national title. Facing a triple quarterback controversy, Miller moved to wide receiver and no one knows whether Barrett or Jones will start this year, only that Ohio State might be the deepest at dual-threat quarterback in the history of college football. They're set at receiver, too, despite the loss of #1 Devin Smith (931 yards, 12 TDs). They have #2 Michael Thomas (799 yards, 9 TDs), #3 Jalin Marshall (499, 6) and the #4, 5, 6, and 7 pass catchers back as well as Miller joining the crew. Pass protection was a bit iffy last year (28 sacks) but with four O-Line starters back things should improve. Overall look for a stronger passing game; last year's wasn't overwhelming but this year it should rank in the top 25.
|Rushing||2014 Rushing Rank: #9 (raw) #7 (adjusted)||2015 Projected Rushing Rank: #2 (adj.)
Buckeye sophomore Ezekiel Elliot (1,878 yards, 18 TDs) ran over everybody last year and those he didn't, JT Barrett ran past (938 yards, 11 TDs, 5.5 average). If Barrett doesn't start, Cardale Jones had 296 yards (4.1 average). #3 Curtis Samuel (383) is back, too, but moves to receiver, and of course Braxton Miller topped 1,000 yards rushing in 2013 and those two could be used from the line of scrimmage at times. The offensive line returns starters Jacoby Boren, Taylor Decker, Pat Elflein, and Billy Price. Ohio State should be back to where they were in 2013 when they were #2 in adjusted ground yardage.
|2014 Adjusted Stats:||Rush Defense: #9 Pass Defense per-game: #41 Per-attempt: #11|
7 ret. starters
|'14 Scoring Defense: #23 (raw) #15 (adjusted)||'14 sacks: #12||'14 picks: #6|
|'15 Projected Scoring Defense: #10 (adjusted)
||'15 sacks: #7||'15 picks: #4|
OSU's front four returns two starters, losing Michael Bennett (7 sacks) but returning star Joey Bosa (13.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss). At linebacker starters Joshua Perry (124 tackles) and Darron Lee (7.5 sacks, 9 tackles for loss) are back. Three starter return to the secondary; they lose Doran Grant (5 interceptions) but get Vonn Bell (6 interceptions) and Eli Apple (10 pass breakups) back. Pretty straightforward, and with the team's top four tacklers returning we see the defense improving to reach the top 10.
- Kicking Game: Punter Cameron Johnson (45.1 average) and kicker Sean Nuremberger (13 of 20 field goals) are both back.
- Return Game: Last year's #3 receiver Jalin Marshall is back to field punts again; he had an 11.8 average and one touchdown return. #4 receiver Dontre Wilson averaged 24.0 on kickoffs and is also back.
- Turnovers projection: We end up showing little or no change here.
Coaching Hot Seat Ranking: #127 (COLD)
Urban Meyer is nearly our "coldest" coach, meaning of course farthest away from the hot seat. Three years of 12 or more wins per year, punctuated by winning the first College Football Playoff will do that.
Recruiting 2015 Recruiting Rank: #9 2014 Recruiting Rank: #5
Meyer continues to recruit well, one of the few teams outside the SEC to compete with those teams in year-to-year class ranking. This year's top recruit is linebacker Justin Hilliard from Cincinnati.
Ohio State's Playoff chances took a hit before the season even began when Braxton Miller was lost for the year. JT Barrett started with a 34-17 warm up against Navy, but the Buckeyes lost at home to Virginia Tech 35-21—a real, tangible hit to their Playoff hopes. Trying to recover, they racked up blowout wins over the likes of Kent State (66-0), Cincinnati (50-28), Maryland (52-24), and Rutgers (56-17), but almost blew it all at Penn State, winning 31-24 in double overtime. The important test for the Buckeyes came at Michigan State, and they passed with flying colors, winning 49-37. Even after winning 10 straight Ohio State's odds for making the Playoff were slim, especially after limp showings against Indiana and Michigan. The Wisconsin game changed everything, though. The team lost Barrett, but even without him they beat the Badgers 59-0 in what was certainly the single most impressive win of the college football season. The Committee pushed out the pesky small-time TCU program as the Buckeyes claimed the #4 spot. And in the Sugar Bowl Ohio State again proved resilient and beat #1 seed Alabama 43-35. Ohio State continued to roll behind Cardale Jones and overwhelmed Oregon, 42-20 to win a national title that at many times during the season—and even before it started—seemed a lost dream.
Last year's prediction: Because we had the great "advantage" of revising our previews up to the week before the season started, we ranked Ohio State the lowest of anyone. They were #8 before revising after Braxton Miller's injury and #17 afterward. We projected a 9-3 season and specified losses to Maryland(?) and Michigan State. Neither happened. Instead Ohio State rode a backup quarterback through the regular season at 11-1 and then a third-stringer to the Big Ten and national titles.
Ohio State 2015 schedule & forecast
Straight up: 12-0 Cume: 12-0 Undefeated: 62%
Now this is getting ridiculous. Ohio State is so far ahead of every other team—and in particular, every other team in the Big Ten—that they end up with a greater than 50% chance of going unbeaten.
Their opener against Virginia Tech is judged their toughest game for three reasons. One, Virginia Tech is one of their highest ranked foes; two, it's a road game; and three, they'll be missing several players (DE Joey Bosa, and last year's #3, #4, and #5 receivers) which takes their rating down between 4 and 5 points. It's almost enough to make the game competitive.
But if they win in Blacksburgh it's smooth sailing for the next 9 weeks if they don't get bored and/or overconfident. Hawaii and Northern Illinois barely register a blip of a chance; Western Michigan, Indiana, and Maryland a tiny bit more; then Penn State, Rutgers, and Minnesota have some small measure of hope. Finally Illinois, who lost their coach a week before the season starts, gets their chance. That might be one of the more interesting of OSU's games, like watching a rat try to kill a lion. Who knows, it might end up being one of their closest calls.
The last two games show of modicum of competitiveness. Michigan State is the best team they'll play all year but the game is in Columbus. Then Michigan is on the road and is a rivalry game, but the Wolverines aren't going to be top 25 level yet—we don't think. So both games end up at about the same level of futility.
If Ohio State cruises through the schedule as suggested they'll be in the Big Ten championship game against the West champs (Nebraska? Wisconsin? Minnesota?) but it won't matter at all. They'll be on their way to the College Football Playoff where they'll finally face some proper competition (and by our numbers, by heavily favored to win).
Our projections last year showed Florida State, then the defending national champs, almost as much of a favorite to repeat as Ohio State is this year. The Seminoles did finish 12-0, but they had close calls in half their games and basically weren't even close to being as good as we'd projected. It's possible the same thing could happen with Ohio State; at the very least there will be a few close games to make things interesting. And even if they do cruise untouched into the Playoff, remember the 2006 Ohio State team, that started a consensus #1 and held that ranking all year—only to be blasted by Florida in the BCS title game. The interesting thing about 2015 will be finding teams #2, #3, and #4 to challenge the Buckeyes.
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SportsRatings 2015 College Football Pre-season Top 128