Ohio State was rightly left out of the College Football Playoff from a resume perspective, but most computers (and Vegas) agreed that the Buckeyes were one of the four best teams in the country following their impressive performances down the stretch, beating Michigan in the season finale and Northwestern in the conference title game by a combined score of 107-63.
Ryan Day now takes the reigns after Urban Meyer’s retirement, as the Buckeyes embark on a new journey after winning 11 or more games every year under Meyer. Nick Bosa and Dwayne Haskins are gone among others, but I’m not sure I see that streak ending quite yet.
Dwayne Haskins was incredible last year at the quarterback spot, but with him off to the NFL, Day brought in five-star Georgia transfer Justin Fields to command the offense. Gunner Hoak and Chris Chugunov are two other power five transfers that actually have starting experience, but between his youth and potential, Fields seems like the guy.
KJ Hill is back on the outside after a 2nd team All-Conference season, and he’s joined by seniors Austin Mack (who was injured for part of last season) and Binjimen Victor. On the line, just one starter returns but the Buckeyes have recruited well enough that they should still be solid.
There are a lot of question marks on this offense, but the one sure thing is RB JK Dobbins, who racked up over 2,450 yards his first two years with the Buckeyes. Backup Mike Weber is gone, but four-star redshirt freshman Jaelen Gill will step up to fill a big role. With so many holes outside of the RB spot, the offense will take a step back.
The defense wasn’t quite up to Ohio State standards last year, playing a much younger rotation, but with nine starters back they should be back to one of the best in the country this year.
The defensive line should be excellent, with Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton plugging the middle and Chase Young (10.5 sacks) providing pressure off the edge.
All three starters are back in the linebacking corps and some interesting recruits come in. Pretty much everyone returns in the secondary as well in a group led by Jordan Fuller. I feel very confident about the defense.
The Buckeye defense will be world-class, but whether or not this team is a national title contender will come down to the offense. I like to bet on talent, so I will pick the Buckeyes to win the Big Ten, but with Michigan on the road this year, OSU might want a two-game lead in the division heading into the final weekend to feel safe.
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Average Projected Record: 9.8 wins, 2.2 losses (7.1 wins, 1.9 losses)