The 2014-15 college football season ended with Ohio State pulling a minor upset of Oregon to give the Big Ten its first national title since the 2002 season. Will the Buckeyes repeat? Here are three predictions with Bovada NCAA football futures.
Ohio State Will Return to College Football Playoff
Barring something unforeseen in terms of injury, transfer or eligibility questions -- or Urban Meyer retiring again -- Ohio State will be either No. 1 or No. 2 in the preseason polls when they are released in August. TCU also is likely to be in the mix for the top spot. Currently Ohio State is the +600 favorite on Bovada's college football odds to repeat as the national champion (with the Frogs next at +750). I'm not ready to go that far yet, but I do see this team reaching the College Football Playoff. The two semifinals next season will be held on New Year's Eve in the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl. The national title game is Jan. 11, 2016, at University of Phoenix Stadium in suburban Phoenix.
OSU will be a big favorite to win the Big Ten title again with the return of star running back Ezekiel Elliott, among others. Clearly some quarterback questions have to be answered with Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller. Jones won his first three career starts in leading the Buckeyes to the national championship. He played well enough that there's talk Jones might even go pro as a redshirt sophomore. Barrett was a record-setter as a redshirt freshman until getting injured in the regular-season finale. Miller was a preseason Heisman favorite before he was hurt in August and missed the season. It's hard to imagine all three guys are back. Miller has been rumored in looking at transferring. He also could switch positions for his final season as the NFL sees Miller as a running back or receiver prospect. OSU will be a favorite at sportsbooks in every regular-season game. The toughest figure to be the opener at Virginia Tech, at home Nov. 21 against Michigan State and Nov. 28 at Michigan in the first Meyer-Jim Harbaugh game.
Quarterback Transfers Could Shape Title Race
I mentioned Ohio State's Miller above and he would be eligible anywhere if he transferred because Miller has graduated. He wouldn't commit to returning to Columbus next season. Meyer has said all season he thinks Miller will come back. The other big-name quarterback potentially on the move is Notre Dame's Everett Golson, who also would be eligible next season. Golson started strong in 2014, as did the Irish, but he faded and ended up turning the ball over 22 times in the regular season's final nine games. Redshirt freshman Malik Zaire started the Music City Bowl win over LSU and played very well; Coach Brian Kelly says it's an open competition in camp, but the writing seems to be on the wall that it's Zaire's job to lose. Oregon, Florida State, LSU are three national title contenders with openings that might be fits for Miller or Golson. As for Notre Dame, it is +2000 on NCAA football odds to win next season's playoff.
Running Back Will Break Quarterback Hold on Heisman
College football is losing four of its biggest stars and Heisman contenders in quarterbacks Marcus Mariota of Oregon (the 2014 winner), Jameis Winston of Florida State (2013 winner), Bryce Petty of Baylor and Brett Hundley of UCLA. A quarterback has won the Heisman Trophy every year this century but in 2009 when Alabama running back Mark Ingram did. Could 2015 be the season a running back wins again? The returning talent is excellent, led by the Buckeyes' Elliott, the Offensive MVP of the Rose Bowl and national championship game. Elliott totaled 696 yards and eight touchdowns in OSU's final three games. In my opinion, he should be the opening betting favorite at sportsbooks for the 2015 Heisman.
You also have Florida State's Dalvin Cook coming back. He really emerged late in the season and finished with three straight 100-yard games and 1,008 yards and eight scores on 170 carries as a freshman. There's Georgia's Nick Chubb, who took over when Todd Gurley was hurt/suspended and rushed 219 times for 1,547 yards and 14 TDs as a freshman. Or Oklahoma's Samaje Perine, who set an FBS record with 427 yards in a game vs. Kansas and finished with 1,713 yards and 21 scores as a freshman. There are still some very good QBs returning in 2015, such as Ohio State's potential trio, USC's Cody Kessler and TCU's Trevone Boykin, but it's a stacked group of running backs to compete for the Heisman.