The Ohio State Buckeyes at No. 6 in the CFN 2016 preseason rankings. Here are five things that matter heading into Buckeyes’ 2016 season.
You don’t get better by losing a ton of NFL talent
It’s not a positive for this year’s team that the program had a historic run of players taken in the 2016 NFL Draft, but considering last year’s loaded squad didn’t get to the College Football Playoff, this season could turn out to be better.
By head coach Urban Meyer’s own admission, the depth isn’t there, and the experience is missing, but there’s enough talent in place to be better than just about everyone on the schedule based on skill alone. The expectations aren’t going to drop, the comparisons to past great teams under Meyer will be made, and it’ll be a massive disappointment if there isn’t a trip to the CFP at the end of the rainbow. It’s just going to take some growing pains to get there.
The J.T. Barrett show
The Ohio State quarterback situation was the biggest national story of the 2015 offseason, but now it’s not even on the radar – this season it’s J.T. Barrett or bust. The veteran quarterback took over the reins over the second half of last season and started to make the offense move, but this year he’ll have to do even more making all the new starters around him even better. The coaching staff will put the ball in his hands and make him run the better-tempo – not high-speed, up-tempo, though – attack that spreads the wealth around.
The defense will be frothing at the mouth
Not that you lost sleep worrying about the Ohio State defense retooling, but there’s no reason to think the Buckeyes won’t be anything less than amazing again. It’s not an experienced group overall, but the athletes are there across the board around pass rushing terrors Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard on the line, and Raekwon McMillan at linebacker. It should all come together quickly under new defensive coordinator Greg Schiano – he’s as good a hire as it gets for the position.
Are the running backs in place to make this work?
The season might hinge on Barrett staying healthy and being amazing, but the Buckeyes need the ground game to rumble and control games week after week. There might be a little bit of a tweak – the short-range passing game will serve as the running attack from time to time – but Mike Weber needs to be the real deal in place of Ezekiel Elliott. With Barrett and the D that’s in place, run well, and the CFP is a reachable goal.
What’s going to happen?
No, this year’s team won’t be as good as last year’s, but the results will be stronger. 11-1 didn’t get the Buckeyes to the Big Ten title game last season, but it will this year, overcoming a loss at Wisconsin to beat Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan to get to Indy, avenge the loss to Bucky, and get back to the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years.