Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith raves about coach Ryan Day's emotional intelligence, or "E.Q." The former offensive coordinator is entering his first full season as the Buckeyes' head coach. [Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch]

Football

Our 11th annual Top 25 countdown: It’s a new Day for No. 5 Ohio State … is he ready for this?

Goodbye, Urban Meyer. Hello, Ryan Day. Buckeyes hoope the transition is seamless as former OC assumes control for the first time.

Posted July 23rd, 2019

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We’re 37 days away from the 2019 season opener, but it’s never too early to talk college football. We continue with our 11th annual countdown series of our preseason Top 25 as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s eventual CFP semifinalists ranked first, second, eighth and 13th in our 2018 poll.

Our No. 5 team: Ohio State

The Buckeyes’ best-case scenario:  First-year head coach Ryan Day picks up right where Urban Meyer left off and leads Ohio State to another Big Ten championship and a berth in the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes are the class of the conference and remain that in 2019 behind an energized coaching staff. Georgia quarterback transfer Justin Fields proves why he was a five-star recruit and Ohio State becomes a threat to win the national championship.

And their worst-case scenario: Worst case? Moving into a new era isn’t always easy, even for blue-blood programs — Michigan wins the conference and recruiting momentum slows for the Buckeyes. Meyer was undeniably a successful coach no matter what your personal feelings about him may be. Day isn’t walking into a ready-made situation to run the gauntlet and compete with a championship with an unproven quarterback at his second destination.

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Last year, Ohio State was No. 3 on our preseason poll.

Inside the Buckeyes

Coach: Ryan Day (1st year, 3-0 as interim coach last year)

2018:  13-1, 8-1 in the Big Ten (beat Washington in the Rose Bowl). Day — the 25th head coach in Buckeyes history — played quarterback at New Hampshire for then-offensive coordinator Chip Kelly.

Returning starters: 4 offense, 9 defense

Shoes to fill: HC Urban Meyer (83-9 in seven years); QB Dwayne Haskins (4,831 yards, 50 TDs, Big Ten offensive player of the year); QB Tate Martell (transferred to Miami); WR Parris Campbell (1,063 yards, 12 TDs); LT Isaiah Prince (all-conference); OL Michael Jordan (4th round, Bengals)

Spring cleaning: The defense should return to glory after a down year in 2018 that was plagued by injury to star defensive end Nick Bosa. The Buckeyes return every defensive starter except for Kendall Sheffield and fellow defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones. Ohio State expects big seasons from Chase Young and Jonathan Cooper on the edge, while Davon Hamilton could break out at nose guard.

J.K. Dobbins of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates a win over the Michigan Wolverines, 31-20 on November 25, 2017 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dobbins, from La Grange, is the Buckeyes’ top rusher. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Returning leaders

PASSING: None

RUSHING: J.K. Dobbins (led team), 230-1,053-10

RECEIVING: K.J. Hill (2nd), 70-885-6

TACKLES: S Jordan Fuller (T-1st), 81; LB Malik Harrison (T-1st), 81; LB Tuf Borland (3rd), 67

SACKS: DE Chase Young (1st), 10.5

INTERCEPTIONS: CB Shaun Wade (1st), 3

Returning All-Big Ten (3)

Offense: RB J.K. Dobbins (second team), WR K.J. Hill (third team), OL Thayer Munford (hon. mention)

Defense: None

FYI

DBU-worthy: Ohio State has staked a claim for the title of Defensive Back University in recent years and the 2019 bunch is filled with potential NFL stars despite the loss of Sheffield. Safety Jordan Fuller returns after leading the team in tackles in 2018. Cornerbacks Jeffery Okuda, a former Texan, and Damon Arnette are young NFL prospects.

The Dobbins show: It’s now Dobbins’ running game with the loss of Mike Weber, whom the former La Grange star split carries with during his first two seasons. Dobbins burst onto the scene as a freshman. He’ll be tasked with establishing a consistent running game along with the mobility of Fields at the quarterback position.

The elephant in the locker room: Meyer was a pillar of college football — he won at Utah, then won more at Florida, then the same at Ohio State. Day is in no way walking into a car crash, but it isn’t easy to win conference championships and dominate your top rival on a yearly basis. The expectations are insanely high for Day. Early struggles could begin chatter about his readiness to lead a program the size of Ohio State.

2018 national stat rankings

Scoring: 8th (42.4 ppg)

Total offense: 2nd (535.6 ypg)

Passing: 2nd (364.3 ypg)

Rushing: 63rd (171.3 ypg)

Red zone offense: 115th

Time of possession: 29th (31:56)

Scoring defense: T-51st (25.5 ppg)

Total defense: 72nd (403.4 ypg)

Pass defense: 86th (245.2 ypg)

Rush defense: 56th (158.2 ypg)

Red zone defense: 113th

Turnover margin: 32nd

The schedule

DATEOPPONENTLAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)
Aug. 31Florida Atlantic
Sept. 7Cincinnati
Sept. 14at Indiana*W, 49-26
Sept. 21Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 28at Nebraska*W, 36-31
Oct. 5Michigan State*W, 26-6
Oct. 18at Northwestern*W, 45-24
Oct. 26Wisconsin*
Nov. 9Maryland*W, 52-3
Nov. 16at Rutgers*W, 52-3
Nov. 23Penn State*W, 27-26
Nov. 30at Michigan*W, 62-39
* Big Ten game

The key game? Nov. 30, at Michigan. Arguably the biggest rivalry in college football is always the most important game on the schedule for Ohio State and Michigan. Both coaches enter 2019 with something to prove. A win for either Day or Jim Harbaugh draws first blood in the new rivalry. A win for Ohio State could put the nail in Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan.

The last 5 years

YearW-L/Conf.RankBowl
201414-1 / 8-05th / 1stCFP title game, W
201512-1 / 7-11st / 4thFiesta Bowl, W
201611-2 / 8-16th / 6thFiesta Bowl, L
201713-2 / 9-12nd / 5thCotton Bowl, W
201813-1 / 8-15th / 3rdRose Bowl, W
Total63-7 / 40-46 bowl games (5-1)
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking.

Our Top 25 — so far

No. 25: Stanford will need its experienced defense to lead the way early

No. 24: Can Nebraska carry its end-of-2018 momentum into 2019?

No. 23: Was 2018 a one-time thing, or is Syracuse back as a program?

No. 22: A run to last year’s Big Ten title game has Northwestern wanting more

No. 21: Mike Leach hopes Clemson’s quarterback loss is Washington State’s gain

No. 20: With no proven quarterback, Wisconsin will ride the legs of Jonathan Taylor

No. 19: With Jarret Stidham in the NFL, Auburn must choose a freshman quarterback

No. 18: Army might end up throwing a real wrench into the CFP’s plans this year

No. 17: Iowa State hopes to keep its recent rise moving full steam ahead

No. 16: Central Florida is trying to overcome a pair of serious quarterback injuries

No. 15: Utah casts its eyes on winning the Pac-12 title this year

No. 14: Penn State’s baromoter? Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State (again)

No. 13: Defense may determine Washington’s chances at another Pac-12 title

No. 12: Texas A&M must navigate a scheduled peppered with heavyweights

No. 11: Is Jim Harbaugh’s coaching seat at Michigan getting hotter?

No. 10: If Feleipe Franks continues his rise, Florida can make some noise in the SEC

No. 9: Texas is counting on Ehlinger — Sugar Bowl MVP, coverboy, potential Heisman candidate

No. 8: Oregon’s Justin Herbert may end up as the Ducks’ career passing leader

No. 7: With its schedule, Notre Dame has the chance to impress the CFP selection folks

No. 6: As usual, LSU’s chances go hand in hand with nagivating that SEC slate

No. 5: Ohio State

Our Top 25, by conferences

6 schools:

Big Ten — No. 5 Ohio State, No. 11 Michigan, No. 14 Penn State, No. 20 Wisconsin, No. 22 Northwestern, No. 24 Nebraska

5 schools:

Pac-12 — No. 8 Oregon, No. 13 Washington, No. 15 Utah, No. 21 Washington State, No. 25 Stanford

4 schools:

SEC — No. 6 LSU, No. 10 Florida, No. 12 Texas A&M, No. 19 Auburn

2 schools:

Independents — No. 7 Notre Dame, No. 18 Army

Big 12 — No. 9 Texas, No. 17 Iowa State

1 school:

AAC — No. 16 Central Florida

ACC — No. 23 Syracuse

Coming tomorrow: Our No. 4 team

Want a hint?

This school’s quarterback is a Texan who has gone 26-2 as a starter.

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