GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31: Craig Fada #38 of the Ohio State Buckeyes warms up prior to the start of the 2016 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl against the Clemson Tigers at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

BEVO BEAT Football

The American-Statesman’s Top 25 countdown: No. 2 Ohio State

The Buckeyes are being picked to win the Big Ten East — again. But will they also end up in the CFP — again?

Posted July 28th, 2017

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Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 2, 7 and 17 on our 2016 list.

Today’s team: No. 2 Ohio State (Related coverage: A strong start for J.T. Barrett is essential for the Buckeyes)

Best-case scenario: Senior QB J.T. Barrett goes out with a bang, and the Buckeyes win their second national championship in four years. For all the great accomplishments — 100 career TDs, a 26-4 record — the former Wichita Falls Rider star has regressed in completion percentage and quarterback rating each year. The Buckeyes hope quicker decision-making, improved footwork and a better coaching staff brings out the best in Barrett.

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Worst-case scenario: The offensive line, plundered for 28 sacks last year, shows no improvement, especially in big games where the unit was abused in 2016. The other area to watch is the secondary, which for the second year in a row departed early en masse to the NFL. The new faces are hot-shot recruits, but they have precious few college starts.

The key game: Sept. 9, Oklahoma. Thought we’d say Michigan, right? The Game will always be the tipping point, but pummeling the Sooners last year vaulted the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff. Baker Mayfield vs. OSU’s new secondary, Big 12’s best vs. Big Ten power. This is the one.

 

INSIDE THE BUCKEYES

Coach: Urban Meyer (sixth year, 61-6; 165-29 overall at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State)

2016: 11-2, 8-1 in Big Ten (lost to Clemson 31-0 in the CFP semifinals)

Returning starters: 8 offense, 7 defense

Goodbye: CB Marshon Lattimore (Saints, 1st round), S Malik Hooker (Colts, 1st); CB Gareon Conley (Raiders, 1st); WR Curtis Samuel (Panthers, 2nd); MLB Raekwon McMillan (Dolphins, 2nd); C Pat Elflein (Vikings, 3rd); WR Noah Brown (Cowboys, 7th)

Spring cleaning: Much to Buckeyes fans’ delight, embattled co-offensive coordinators Tim Beck (Texas’ OC) and Ed Warinner (Minnesota’s OL coach) are gone. Stepping in are Kevin Wilson, a Bob Stoops’ protégé and ex-Indiana HC, and Chip Kelly student Ryan Day to coach the QBs. … Billy Price, with 41 consecutive starts at guard, has moved to center. … Chris Worley moves from OLB inside to replace Raekwon McMillan at MLB. … DE Darius Slade is transferring, probably to Arizona State.

GLENDALE, AZ – DECEMBER 31: Quarterback J.T. Barrett #16 of the Ohio State Buckeyes snaps the football during the Playstation Fiesta Bowl against the Clemson Tigers at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Tigers defeated the Buckeyes 31-0. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: J.T. Barrett, 233-379-2,555, 24/7

Rushing: Mike Weber, 182-1,096-9 (1st); QB J.T. Barrett, 205-845-9 (2nd)

Receiving: TE Marcus Baugh, 24-269-2 (4th); RB Mike Weber, 23-91-0 (5th)

Tackles: LB Jerome Baker, 83 (2nd)

Sacks: DL Tyquan Lewis, 8 (1st)

 

RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS (6)

Offense: QB J.T. Barrett (1st team), G Billy Price (1st), RB Mike Weber (2nd), T Jamarco Jones (2nd)

Defense: DL Tyquan Lewis (1st), RET Parris Campbell (3rd)

GLENDALE, AZ – DECEMBER 31: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes takes the field during the second half against the Clemson Tigers during the 2016 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

OHIO STATE: FYI

Ruling the East: Though the Buckeyes made the CFP last year, they were one of the least experienced teams in the country and were always thought to be pointing toward 2017. So here we are. Of 38 beat writers in a Big Ten poll, 32 picked OSU to win the Big Ten East despite the presence of two other teams that went to New Years Six bowls. And 29 selected the Buckeyes to win the conference title game. “Ohio State has raised the bar in the Big Ten,” Nebraska coach Mike Riley said. “I saw that happen with Pete Carroll in the Pac-10. When USC started going, you better get better, or you’ll get left way in the dust.”

A show of hands: J.T. Barrett’s targets remain a bit elusive as camp opens. Parris Campbell, one of the few receivers with experience, moves to Urban Meyer’s favorite hybrid H-back position. The Buckeyes need a couple from this group to make major strides — Terry McLaurin, Austin Mack, K.J. Hill, Johnnie Dixon and Binjimen Victor.

Recruitin’ em up: Only Nick Saban out-recruits Urban Meyer. The 247Sports composite team rankings for his five recruiting classes on campus — No. 2 (2013), No. 3 (2014), No. 7 (2015), No. 4 (2016) and No. 2 (2017). “Coming from the SEC to here, they look like the teams down there from an athletic and physical perspective,” said Indiana coach Tom Allen, who coached linebackers at Ole Miss from 2012-14. Two of the five consensus five-star freshmen are Texans already working out with the second team (South Grand Prairie DB Jeffrey Okudah and Kennedale DB Baron Browing). La Grange RB J.K. Dobbins, a high-end four-star, appears to be the first choice to back up Mike Weber.

Ohio State's schedule

DATEOPPONENTLAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)
Aug. 31at Indiana*W, 38-17
Sept. 9OklahomaW, 45-24
Sept. 16Army
Sept. 23UNLV
Sept. 30at Rutgers*W, 58-0
Oct. 7Maryland*W, 62-3
Oct. 14at Nebraska*W, 62-3
Oct. 28Penn State*L, 24-21
Nov. 4at Iowa*
Nov. 11Michigan State*W, 17-16
Nov. 18Illinois*
Nov. 25at Michigan*W, 30-27
* Big Ten game

The last 5 years

YEARW-L (CONF.)RANKINGBOWL GAME
TOTAL61-6 (39-2)3-2 in bowls
201212-0 (8-0)18th/3rdNo bowl
201312-2 (8-0)2nd/12thL Orange
201414-1 (8-0)5th/1stW CFP title game
201512-1 (7-1)1st/4thW Fiesta
201611-2 (8-1)6th/6thL CFP semifinal

Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking

 

2016 NATIONAL STAT RANKS

Scoring: 13th (39.4 ppg)

Points allowed: 3rd (15.5 ppg)

Passing: 81st (213.9 ypg)

Rushing: 11th (245.2 ypg)

Total off.: 31st (459.2 ypg)

Total def.: 6th (296.8 ypg)

 

OUR TOP 25 SO FAR

No. 25: Boise State

No. 24: Oregon

No. 23: Tennessee

No. 22: Texas

No. 21: Kansas State

No. 20: Miami

No. 19: West Virginia

No. 18: South Florida

No. 17: Florida

No. 16: Stanford

No. 15: Louisville

No. 14: Georgia

No. 13: Wisconsin

No. 12: LSU

No. 11: Auburn

No. 10: Michigan

No. 9: Oklahoma State

No. 8: Washington

No. 7: Oklahoma

No. 6: Penn State

No. 5: Clemson

No. 4: Florida State

No. 3: USC

No. 2: Ohio State

No. 1: Coming Saturday. Want a hint? This school starts and ends with the letter A. And there’s two more As in between.

 

BY CONFERENCE

5 schools:

Big 12 (No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 19 West Virginia, No. 21 Kansas State, No. 22 Texas)

SEC (No. 11 Auburn, No. 12 LSU, No. 14 Georgia, No. 17 Florida, No. 23 Tennessee)

4 schools

ACC (No. 4 Florida State, No. 5 Clemson, No. 15 Louisville, No. 20 Miami)

Big Ten (No. 2 Ohio State, No. 6 Penn State, No. 10 Michigan, No. 13 Wisconsin)

Pac-12 (No. 3 USC, No. 8 Washington, No. 16 Stanford, No. 24 Oregon)

1 school:

AAC (No. 18 South Florida)

Mountain West (No. 25 Boise State)

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