Coach Urban Meyer Has Work to Do
In Coach Meyer’s first year in Columbus, Ohio State was 12-0 and while that was fantastic, because the Buckeyes were on probation and nobody was completely convinced this was national championship material to begin with, it was a nice story that will look better in the record books.
This past season, despite suspensions and other misgivings, Meyer’s team went through the regular season again 12-0 and while not losing was impressive, they were stuck at No.3 in the BCS poll and were only going to make the title game if Florida State or Auburn were to falter in the conference championship games.
As it turned out, the only squad to lose among the Big 3 was the Buckeyes in the Big Ten title tilt and they failed again in the Orange Bowl in the loss to Clemson.
Coach Meyer has to hope the incoming defensive recruits can make contributions from the start, because last year’s defense was torched for 30 or more points in six games and his best defensive player, linebacker Ryan Shazier, left a year early for the NFL Draft.
The defense will start in the line where all Big-Ten performers, defensive tackle Michael Bennett and defensive end Noah Spence will have to be anchors.
As any college football handicapper can tell you, Ohio State almost always has quality linebackers that are all-conference types, but what Meyer and his staff will be looking for are those with more speed and desire to plug holes in the opponents run game.
Besides losing their final two contests, the Buckeyes were unable to beat the sportsbooks football odds in their final five games. Without a steady pass rush, the secondary malfunctioned time and again against the pass and took bad angles against the run. This is the one area that needs the biggest improvement on defense.
Offense in Good Hands with Braxton Miller
By all accounts, the Buckeyes quarterback made a wise choice in returning for his senior season. It’s not like Miller had a bad year, it’s just another off-season to improve on his accuracy on short to middle-range throws and to possibly tighten up the mechanics in his throwing motion.
Miller will be the most dangerous player on the field no matter whom his team plays and those making college football picks will have to determine his value each time.
Miller will be without two top teammates in running back Carlos Hyde and wide receiver Philly Brown who graduated, however, an explosive runner typically emerges for the Scarlet and Grey and senior pass-catchers Evan Spencer, Devin Smith and tight end Jeff Heuerman should be experienced trustworthy targets.
The offensive line will have to be completely reconstructed, but given Meyer’s history and coaching ability, this unit should be in good shape by the middle of the season.
Scheduled Upgraded, Yet not Necessarily More Difficult
Ohio State will not open at home for the first time since 1999 when they face the Navy in Baltimore. The Midshipmen could cause a few problems, but the strength of the Buckeyes defense will be in the front seven and they should control the Navy.
Virginia Tech, Kent State and Cincinnati are up next, all at Ohio Stadium and the first and last should give Meyer’s squad a test, yet in either case they will be expected to prevail.
Ohio State got the luck of the draw in welcoming (@) Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten, followed by at Penn State and laboring Illinois.
Game 9 should be when the Buckeyes are an underdog for the first time of the season, in a revenge matchup at Michigan State. This will lead to a trip to improving Minnesota and followed up with Indiana and hated Michigan to close the season.
According to Rivals.com, Ohio State landed the No. 3 recruiting class for 2014. Among their haul was 5* recruit Raekwon McMillan at linebacker who should play immediately, 15 4* recruits and seven 3* recruits.
Way Too Early Conclusion
Though the Big Ten is hardly an elite football conference anymore, it is really difficult to imagine Ohio State will go through another regular season unblemished.
The Spartans will provide the biggest challenge and unless answers are determined in the secondary, facing Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg could lead to sadness in Happy Valley for the Buckeyes.
Even a brand name like Ohio State might have to be undefeated to make the new college football final four and that seems unlikely. For those making sports picks 10 or 11 wins seems to be the Buckeyes landing spot.