The AP football rankings came out today, and like the Amway Coaches poll, it ranked Ohio State No.2 behind Alabama. I can see why after watching their spring game and studying their team.
Urban Meyer said the strongest group on this team is the defensive line, and he's right. There's a lot to like about that group. Junior defensive end Sam Hubbard, 6'5", 265, leads the way on the front. He's the leader of the defense. Tyquan Lewis, a redshirt senior, 6'4", 265, is the other bookend. Both players should be dominant this year. Sophomore defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones, 6'3", 295, and senior Tracy Sprinkle, 6'3", 293, make up the interior of the Buckeyes' 4 man front. They aren't massive guys in the middle, but they're very effective disruptors. And there is plenty of depth. Nick Bosa is the younger brother of former All American Joey Bosa , who had a stellar career in Colimbus and was the 3rd overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft by the then San Diego and now Los Angeles Chargers, where he has already made his mark as a dominant player in the NFL. Nick looks like he can be just as dominant as his older brother. Bosa is a 6'4", 270 defensive end. He was a highly ranked 5 star out of high school in 2016.
Linebacker is solid led by stud senior middle linebacker Chris Worley, 6'2", 230. The secondary is a bit of a question mark as the unit lost 2 first round draft picks in cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who was the 11th overall pick in the draft by the New Orleans Saints, and safety Malik Hooker, who was the 15th overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts. Hooker took three ints back to the house last year, and finished with 7 interceptions, while Lattimore posted 4 interceptions and took 1 of them back to the crib. They'll have some young, in experience, guys to fill the holes, but they were highly recruited players, so defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and his staff will be tasked to have them ready for week 1 at Indiana on Thursday, Aug. 31st at 7 PM CT on ESPN.
The offense is explosive with J.T. Barrett back at quarterback. Barrett completed 233-of-379 passes, 61.5%, for 2,555 yards, 24 TDs and 7 ints. He's good, but I thought he had some accuracy issues last year and Clemson made him and his whole team look laughable in a 31-0 blasting in the semifinal playoff game last year. So Barrett has a lot to prove. The backups are very capable. Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins both look like good passers and Haskins can run well. Both are still battling for the backup job. Haskins looked as good as Barrett in the spring game and Burrow was good, too. Mike Weber is back at running back. The 5'10", 214 pound sophomore ran for 1,096 yards and 9 TDs last season. Demario McCall is a capable backup. The Buckeyes also have some dynamic players at wide receiver. Benjamin Victor, 6'4", 195, Johnnie Dixon, 5'11", 195, Terry McLaurin, 6'1", 204, and K. J. HIll, 6'0", 198 are big play, take it to the house guys. The offensive line returns 4 of 5 starters who have each played over 900 snaps. Center Billy Price, 6'5", 310, right tackle Isaiah Prince, 6'7", 310, left guard Michael Jordan, 6'7", 310, and left tackle Jamarco Jones, 6'5", 310, are a talented foursome. They have candidates for the right guard spot, and are working towards solidifying that position. Depth is talented but unproven. Tight end is a very strong position. A.J. Alexander looked exceptional in the spring game. He's 6'6", 250. Marcus Baugh, 6'5", 250, and Jake Hausman, 6'4", 252, are outstanding also.
Kicker is being determined between veteran Sean Nuernberger and true freshman Blake Haubell. Demario McCall, another explosive player on the perimeter, is tops on the depth chart at punt returner. He's explosive. Parris Campbell, a lightning fast player at H-back, and K.J. Hill, are slated as the starters as kick returners.
As mentioned earlier, the Buckeyes open at Indiana on Aug. 31st, a Thursday, at 7 PM CT on ESPN. Interestingly, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson was fired by Indiana last year from head coach, so he'll be charged up for this game. His offense looks prepared to break out. Oklahoma comes to Columbus for week 2, Saturday, Sept. 9th. a 6:30 PM CT kickoff on ABC. Should be a blockbuster with young, unproven 33 year old LIncoln Riley now in charge of the Sooners taking over from Stoops, who got blasted by the Buckeyes in Norman last year, 45-24. This will be hard for Riley and his team, though they are expected to have a good team. Army is at home next at 3:30 PM CT on FOX on Saturday, Sept. 16th. Sept. 23rd, the Buckeyes host UNLV. That's a wide open team offensively that plays no defense. Zero. So there should be a lot of points put up, mainly by Ohio State. The Buckeyes are @ Rutgers Sept. 30th, home vs Maryland Oct. 7th, @ Nebraska on Oct. 14th in what should be a key Big Ten game, though I'm not sure the Cornhuskers can hang with the Buckeyes. They're off on Oct. 21st, then face the Nittany Lions of Penn State on Oct. 28th at home. Penn State upset the Buckeyes 24-21 last year and it was pretty controversial that Ohio State made the playoff and the NIttany LIons didn't after beating Ohio State and winning the Big Ten championship. I don't know if Penn State would have had a better chance to beat Clemson, but probably so. They were better than Ohio State by the end of the season. Urb got pretty lucky there, though he did get dominated embarrassingly in the playoff game.
Then at Iowa on Nov.4th, Michigan State at home on Nov. 11th, Illinois at home on Nov. 18th, and @ the Big House to face Jim and the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday Nov. 25th at 11 AM CT on FOX. That will be very interesting with Big Ten and national implications on the line. Harbaugh still hasn't gotten over what I would also call some robbery calls they got against Ohio State on the road last season in an Ohio State 30-27 double overtime victory. I don't blame Harbaugh. There were missed pass interference calls on Ohio State and a first down by Barrett which was very controversial on 4th and 1 in overtime. If Michigan had stopped them the game was over. Looked like they had. It was extremely close. There was no doubt about the multiple pass interferences that were not called. So that'll be extremely compelling as well. The Big Ten Championship game will be Saturday, Dec. 2nd @ Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis at 7 PM CT on FOX. Wisconsin has a good chance of coming out of the west, though Nebraska, Northwestern and Iowa will have a say in that, and Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan should be battling for the east title.
The Buckeyes have talent galore on both sides of the ball. The questions for me are their offensive line, is there enough depth, and their secondary, can those players step up. They are good enough to win it all, but Penn State and Michigan will certainly be tough outs. If Urb can pull it off in the regular season and get by Wisconsin or whomever out of the west he faces, he's got a shot in the playoff though he could very well face Alabama at some point and I don't see the Buckeyes as physical a team as the Crimson Tide. But we'll see. A lot of football to be played before that scenario could take place and a lot could happen that is surprising in both the Big Ten and the SEC.
There are a lot of outstanding teams nationally, and the Big Ten will be challenging enough. But the Buckeyes certainly have a shot of going the distance with the talent Urb has assembled and developed in Columbus.