Southern Football Report Preseason Poll: #1 Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State LogoWhen star quarterback Braxton Miller went down with a shoulder injury just two weeks before the 2014 season opener, most people (including me) wrote Ohio State off as a team who had their chance to makes something special happen but were the victim of the injury bug. Redshirt freshman quarterback JT Barrett had some growing pains early against Navy and Virginia Tech and even lost to the Hokies but the Barrett and the Buckeyes bounced back to put at least 50 points on the board in the next five games. In the end, Barrett was injured in the Big Ten Championship Game and then entered Cardale Jones, a sophomore the size of Lebron James with an arm just as big. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t think that the Buckeyes deserved their national championship last season.

Ohio State Junior Running Back Ezekiel Elliott
Ohio State Junior Running Back Ezekiel Elliott

This year, it’s a whole new ball game but the Buckeyes are loaded all over the field except for the wide receiver position where injuries have plagues the guys on the outside. Quarterback Braxton Miller changed positions to become a wide receiver and help the ailing group so we’ll see how it turns out. Head Coach Urban Meyer has yet to inform the public who will be the quarterback in Monday’s opener but I would put my money on JT Barrett getting the nod. With that being said, don’t think that every time Barrett tosses an incompletion that the cameras won’t instantly dart over to Jones on the sidelines. Even with all of the focus on the quarterback competition, there is no question that Ezekiel Elliot is the top tailback after rushing for over 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Elliott came on strong down the stretch and had some of his best games late in the season and in games where it really mattered. All of these skill players are great but it won’t matter if the offensive line isn’t very good which it is and has four returning starters including senior center Jacoby Boren and Senior left tackle Taylor Decker. There won’t be many defenses able to slow down this train.

Ohio State Junior Defensive End Joey Bosa
Ohio State Junior Defensive End Joey Bosa

Defensively, the Buckeyes have a lot of really good parts and in 2014, they were good but in 2015 the sum of all of those great parts will most likely make this one of the top defensive units in the country. Led by All-American defensive end Joey Bosa (who will be suspended along with three other Buckeyes for the opener), the defensive line will be breaking in some new guys like sophomore Tyquan Lewis and defensive tackle Adolphus Washington who accounted for 6 tackles for loss last season. At linebacker, senior Joshua Perry led the team in tackles last season with 124 and also chimed in with 3 sacks. He’ll be flanked by sophomore middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan, from Hinesville, Georgia, who finished the season as one of the top backups on the team with 49 tackles. On the other side it will be Darron Lee, another sophomore, who was third on the team in tackles with 81 and 7.5 sacks. The Buckeyes do boast one of, if not the, best tandem of safeties in the nation with juniors Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell who combined for 168 tackles and 6 interceptions in 2014. Ohio State will be breaking in a new corner back in redshirt freshman Marshon Lattimore but Eli Apple on the other side won’t be tested much, at least from the smart quarterbacks.

Ohio State Buckeye Head Coach Urban Meyer
Ohio State Buckeye Head Coach Urban Meyer

The Ohio State Buckeyes are the returning national champions and don’t have a schedule that will cause much resistance for them to repeat in 2015. They’ll open the season on the road at Virginia Tech on Labor Day, the only team that defeated them last season. They return home for the next three weeks against non-conference opponents Hawai’i, Northern Illinois and Western Illinois and the latter of the three are expected to be a lot better out of the MAC but won’t have the fire power on either side of the ball to contend with the Buckeyes. October begins on the road against Indiana who Ohio State has won 20 consecutive games against. It’s back to ‘The Horseshoe’ for back-to-back home games against still-considered-Big Ten-newbie Maryland followed by the Penn State Nittany Lions who took Ohio State into double overtime in 2014. The final game in October will be the grand state of New Jersey against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights who will probably be asking Governor Christie to close the tunnel again. Ohio State will enjoy a Halloween bye week before a home date against a much-improved Minnesota team who made a pretty good go of it last season when the Buckeyes visited TCF Bank Stadium in the middle of a legitimate blizzard. The Buckeyes will then travel to Champaign, Illinois, to face off against the in-complete-disarray Illinois Fighting Illini before heading home for the final two games of the regular season which will also be the most important two games of the season. First up will be the Michigan State Spartans who are ranked in the top ten and have a returning senior quarterback who threw for almost 400 yards against the Buckeyes last season. Then, the final game of the season in Ann Arbor, Michigan, against the hated Wolverines led by Urban Meyer antithesis Jim Harbaugh. Ohio State hasn’t lost to Michigan since the 2011 season but nothing would make the maize & blue faithful happier than to wreck the season for the Buckeyes at the very end.

Ohio State has a legitimate chance to finish the season undefeated and will most likely still make it into the College Football Playoff with a loss if it’s to the right team. Offensively, they will need a couple play makers from the receivers group to step up but riding the Ezekiel Elliott train will be the main course served to opposing defenses. Defensively, they won’t see an offense capable of moving the ball with any consistency but two or three times in the season. This is a loaded football team that deserves the number one ranking but now the work has to be done. Let’s see if they can handle the pressure.

Ohio Stadium, aka 'The Horseshoe' - Capacity: 104,944
Ohio Stadium, aka ‘The Horseshoe’ – Capacity: 104,944

2015 Ohio State Buckeyes Schedule

Sept 7th            at Virginia Tech
Sept 12th          Hawai’i
Sept 19th          Northern Illinois
Sept 26th         Western Michigan
Oct 3rd             at Indiana
Oct 10th           Maryland
Oct 17th           Penn State
Oct 24th          at Rutgers
Oct 31st            BYE WEEK
Nov 7th            Minnesota
Nov 14th          at Illinois
Nov 21st          Michigan State
Nov 28th         at Michigan

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