Following Alabama’s win over Clemon in the College Football playoff title game, ESPN released its “Way Too Early” rankings, and the Ohio State football team is not ranked in the top 10, and rightly so.
Ohio State football–the No. 12 team in the country?
That’s what the ESPN “Way Too Early” rankings project for 2016–and while the sports giant had a big swing and a miss when they put TCU ahead of the Buckeyes following OSU’s title win over Oregon last January, ESPN is right on the mark this time around.
The fact of the matter is the Buckeyes are losing a ton of talent to the 2016 NFL Draft, as Urban Meyer will return just four starters on offense and defense.
The bigger drop-off should be on a defense, because Meyer is losing a treasure trove of blue-chip prospects, led by the early departure of defensive end Joey Bosa. The loss of linebackers Darron Lee and Joshua Perry, in addition to defensive backs Eli Apple, Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell will be noticeable and tough to overcome, as the Buckeyes face a tough non-conference opponent in Oklahoma, as well as improved Big Ten squads such as Michigan.
The untested new crop of Buckeyes will also have to play at Michigan State, at Penn State, and at Wisconsin. These games are winnable, but a tall-order faces next season’s Buckeyes.
While the early rankings will probably leave some Scarlet and Gray faithful a little salty, these diehards can take solace knowing these rankings mean absolutely nothing.
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The fact that Urban Meyer doesn’t rebuild, but reloads, should also lift Buckeye fans’ spirits.
Fortunately, OSU will have J.T. Barrett at quarterback, and while he was inconsistent in 2015, there’s the hope Barrett will return to his 2014 form since he won’t be fighting through a season-long quarterback controversy.
Torrance Gibson will probably play more of a role in the offense come fall, and should help ease the Buckeyes’ loss at wideout. Gibson played quarterback in high school, but was heavily recruited as an athlete.
Defensively, another Bosa–Nick Bosa–will probably start on the defensive line. Bosa The Younger was said to be better than Joey, during his playing days at Florida’s St. Thomas Aquinas. Bosa’s coming off serious knee injury, but big things are still expected out of him in 2016.
Couple that with Raekwon McMillan poised to become one of the best backers in the country, and the emergence of Gareon Conley at corner, and the Buckeys defense may be able to pick up the slack quicker than expected.
As Buckeye fans, we always want to be No. 1, but maybe Ohio State will be aided by their perceived drop-off. Some would say the 2015 squad lacked hunger. That shouldn’t be the case in Columbus come August.
Other thoughts on the rankings:
Writer Mark Schlabach believes Clemson should be No. 1 entering the season. That’s fine. Dabo Swinney still has Deshaun Watson, and he’s a special player.
Schlabach has Michigan ranked No. 4. That’s a little surprising. Jim Harbaugh’s losing his starting quarterback and his entire linebacker corps. I expect the Wolverines to be good, but I think No. 4 is too high.
Iowa registers at No. 16. I didn’t believe in the Hawkeyes last season, and my beliefs were vindicated in the Big Ten title game, as well on New Year’s Day. They didn’t play anybody last season, and while their schedule isn’t as soft, the Hawkeyes did catch a few breaks.
The Hawkeyes won’t play Michigan State or Ohio State during the regular season, and will host Wisconsin, Michigan and an always gritty Northwestern team at home.
Michigan State (No. 14) is losing Connor Cook to the NFL, and Tyler O’Connor appears to be the front runner as his successor. It won’t be a surprise to see mid-term enrollee Messiah DeWeaver open eyes at spring practice. DeWeaver played at the same high school as Braxton Miller (Huber Heights Wayne) and is poised for big things in East Lansing.