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.
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.
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)
- 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
|Date||Opponent||Last yr's result (if played)|
|Sept. 3||Bowling Green|
|Sept. 17||at Oklahoma|
|Oct. 1||Rutgers*||W, 49-7|
|Oct. 8||Indiana*||W, 34-27|
|Oct. 15||at Wisconsin*|
|Oct. 22||at Penn State*||W, 38-10|
|Nov. 12||at Maryland*||W, 49-28|
|Nov. 19||at Michigan State*||L, 17-14|
|Nov. 26||Michigan*||W, 42-13|
|* Big Ten game|
Ohio State: The last 5 years
|2015||12-1 / 7-1||1st / 4th||Fiesta Bowl, W|
|2014||14-1 / 8-0||5th / 1st||CFP title game, W|
|2013||12-2 / 8-0||2nd / 12th||Orange Bowl, L|
|2012||12-0 / 8-0||18th / 3rd||No bowl (NCAA ban)|
|2011||6-7 / 3-5||18th / —||Gator Bowl, L|
|Total||56-11, 34-6||5 bowl games (3-2)|
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. 7: Ohio State
No. 6: Coming Monday. Want a hint? This school has won 14 SEC titles, though only two since 2007.
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)