Star running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) is now a Dallas Cowboy, but Ohio State's roster has been stocked by highly-regarded recruiting classes. One of those recruits -- center Pat Elflein (65) -- was the lowest-rated prospect signed by Urban Meyer in 2012, but has developed into a potential first-round pick for the 2017 draft. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Football

The American-Statesman’s Top 25: No. 7 Ohio State

Posted July 24th, 2016

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Sure, it’s just July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our eighth annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last season’s four College Football Playoff semifinalists were rated Nos. 3, 6, 13 and 24 on our 2015 list.

Today’s team: No. 7 Ohio State (Related coverage: With Dunn dismissed, Ohio State’s running back depth takes a hit)

The Buckeyes will contend if … they reload rather than rebuild. Ohio State returns six starters, the fewest of all 128 FBS teams. But one of those is J.T. Barrett, the slick junior quarterback who knows how to operate Urban Meyer’s quick-tempo offense. Don’t weep for the Buckeyes; new stars are poised to emerge on a roster that’s been stacked by one great recruiting class after another.

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INSIDE THE BUCKEYES

Coach: Urban Meyer (fifth year, 50-4; overall, 154-27 at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State)

2015: 12-1, 7-1 in the Big Ten; beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, 44-28

Returning starters: 3 offense, 3 defense

The key game: Nov. 26, Michigan

Hello: DE Nick Bosa, RB Michael Weber, WR Noah Brown, OT Michael Jordan, WR Austin Mack, co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano

Goodbye: RB Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas Cowboys), DE Joey Bosa (San Diego Chargers), HB Braxton Miller (Houston Texans), OT Taylor Decker (Detroit Lions), LB Darron Lee (N.Y. Jets), CB Eli Apple (N.Y. Giants)

Spring cleaning: The Buckeyes smashed an NFL draft record with 12 selections in the first four rounds. Nine players declared early for the draft, two shy of LSU’s 2013 record. … The Bucks dismissed senior RB Bri’onte Dunn last week after a domestic abuse allegation. … The spring game, while encouraging in many ways, also showed rough spots with 16 new starters. … The catch of the offseason was co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, the former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Bucs head coach. … The Buckeyes received 27 of 39 first-place votes in the Big 12 preseason media poll, and are the No. 5 choice in Vegas to win the national title, bet down from 10-to-1 to 8-to-1.

J.T. Barrett (16), shown passing against Notre Dame in last year's Fiesta Bowl, will guide the Buckeyes' quick-tempo offense in 2016. Barrett was the Buckeyes' second-leading passer and rusher last year. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
J.T. Barrett (16), shown passing against Notre Dame in last year’s Fiesta Bowl, will guide the Buckeyes’ quick-tempo offense in 2016. Barrett was the Buckeyes’ second-leading passer and rusher last year. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: J.T. Barrett, 93-147-992 yards, 11/4 (2nd)

Rushing: QB J.T. Barrett, 115-682-11 (2nd); RB Curtis Samuel, 17-132-1 (5th)

Receiving: RB Curtis Samuel, 22-289-2 (5th); WR Corey Smith, 5-62-0 (8th)

Tackles: LB Raekwon McMillan, 119 (1st)

Sacks: DL Tyquan Lewis, 8 (1st); DE Sam Hubbard, 6.5 (2nd)

RETURNING ALL CONFERENCE (3)

Offense: OG Pat Elflein (1st team)

Defense: LB Raekwon McMillan (2nd), P Cameron Johnston (2nd)

FYI …

  • Quarterback J.T. Barrett is a polished product, but who will be his playmakers? Redshirt freshman Mike Weber is the new starting RB. He’s more bull-dozing Carlos Hyde than explosive Zeke Elliott. HB Curtis Samuel will catch and run. At WR, there are tons of candidates, but no obvious answers. Noah Brown and Corey Smith return from broken legs. Speedy Texan Dontre Wilson will scrap with freshman Austin Mack and sophomore Parris Campbell for reps.
  • The defense, led by thunderous MLB Raekwon McMillan, is set to unleash several new difference-makers, including S Malik Hooker, OLBs Chris Worley and Dante Booker, and CBs Gareon Conley and Denzel Ward, reportedly the fastest player on a fast team.
  • You can’t preview Urban Meyer’s team without talking about recruiting. Since he arrived in Columbus, Meyer’s classes have ranked No. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 by 247Sports’ composite rankings. The 2016 class, topped by 5-star DE Nick Bosa (the Next Bosa Up), was fourth. The 2017 group is No. 1, already with three 5-stars among 14 players. And Meyer also can pluck a diamond in the rough; Pat Elflein, an All-Big Ten center and a potential first-round NFL pick, was the lowest-rated of 26 recruits in Meyer’s first class in 2012.

Ohio State's 2016 schedule

DateOpponentLast yr's result (if played)
Sept. 3Bowling Green
Sept. 10Tulsa
Sept. 17at Oklahoma
Oct. 1Rutgers*W, 49-7
Oct. 8Indiana*W, 34-27
Oct. 15at Wisconsin*
Oct. 22at Penn State*W, 38-10
Oct. 29Northwestern*
Nov. 5Nebraska*
Nov. 12at Maryland*W, 49-28
Nov. 19at Michigan State*L, 17-14
Nov. 26Michigan*W, 42-13
* Big Ten game

Ohio State: The last 5 years

YearW-L/Conf.RankBowl
201512-1 / 7-11st / 4thFiesta Bowl, W
201414-1 / 8-05th / 1stCFP title game, W
201312-2 / 8-02nd / 12thOrange Bowl, L
201212-0 / 8-018th / 3rdNo bowl (NCAA ban)
20116-7 / 3-518th / —Gator Bowl, L
Total56-11, 34-65 bowl games (3-2)
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking.

 

2015 NATIONAL RANKS

Scoring: 28th (35.7 ppg)

Scoring defense: 2nd (15.1 ppg)

Passing yards: 100th (188.8 ypg)

Rushing yards: 11th (245.2 ypg)

TOP 25 SO FAR …

No. 25: Washington State

No. 24: Boise State

No. 23: Louisville

No. 22: Oklahoma State

No. 21: Oregon

No. 20: North Carolina

No. 19: Baylor

No. 18: Iowa

No. 17: Washington

No. 16: Georgia

No. 15: Michigan State

No. 14: USC

No. 13: TCU

No. 12: Ole Miss

No. 11: Houston

No. 10: Notre Dame

No. 9: Tennessee

No. 8: Stanford

No. 7: Ohio State

No. 6: Coming Monday. Want a hint? This school has won 14 SEC titles, though only two since 2007.

BY CONFERENCE

5 schools: Pac-12 (8-Stanford, 14-USC, 17-Washington, 21-Oregon, 25-Washington State)

3 schools: Big Ten (7-Ohio State, 15-Michigan State, 18-Iowa); Big 12 (13-TCU, 19-Baylor, 22-Oklahoma State); SEC (9-Tennessee, 12-Ole Miss, 16-Georgia)

2 schools: ACC (20-North Carolina, 23-Louisville)

1 school: AAC (11-Houston); Mountain West (24-Boise State); Independents (10-Notre Dame)

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