2014 Ohio State Buckeyes Odds to Win the Big Ten with Picks & Predictions
by Jim Riggio - 7/28/2014
Expectations are always high for Ohio State and this season should be no different under third-year coach Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes have gone 24-2 since Meyer took over and have yet to lose a conference game under him.
They open the season Aug. 30 on the road against Navy in Baltimore.
One of the reasons the Buckeyes should be the leading contender to win the Big Ten title this season is the return of senior quarterback Braxton Miller, a four-year starter. A strong candidate for the Heisman Trophy, Miller has passed for 5,292 with 52 touchdowns and just 17 interceptions in his first three years in Columbus. Miller has also rushed for 3,054 yards and 32 touchdowns. Bovada lists him as a 7-1 candidate to win college football's most prestigious individual award.
Bovada has listed the Buckeyes season win total set at 10.5 games, with the "over" juiced as the -130 favorite (the "under" can be bet an even money).
Miller missed spring drills after undergoing surgery in February on his throwing shoulder following an injury in the Orange Bowl. He is expected to be at full strength for the start of the season.
The Buckeyes, who went 12-2 last season, have a relatively favorable schedule, with seven home games and five away. They will host rival Michigan on Nov. 29. Perhaps the toughest challenge will be Nov. 8 when the Buckeyes play at Michigan State. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes 34-24 in the conference title game a year ago. Ohio St. will not have to face Nebraska or Wisconsin this season.
One of the big keys to the Buckeyes' success will rely on those around Miller as the offense will see many new faces, particularly the offensive line.
Junior Taylor Decker is the only returning starter on the offensive line and will play left tackle.
Meyer got a huge pickup in senior center Chad Lindsay, who started four games for Alabama last season and was able to make the transfer since he has already graduated.
Sophomore Pat Elflein has secured one of the two starting guard positions.
In the backfield, sophomore Ekeziel Elliott is expected to take over the ball carrying load after Carlos Hyde moved on to the San Francisco 49ers.
In a part-time role as a true freshman, Elliott rushed for 262 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 30 carries.
Miller does have back a key passing target in senior Devin Smith. Smith had 44 receptions for 660 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He has 88 receptions for 1,572 yards and 18 touchdowns in his career.
While the most visible name on the Buckeye roster runs the offense, many feel it is the defense that makes Ohio State the leading candidate to win the Big-Ten title.
Eight of 11 starters return on defense, including six of the front seven. The Buckeyes will play with a 4-3 defensive front.
Senior defensive tackle Michael Bennett is a returning all-conference selection as was junior defensive end Noah Spence. Some think sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa could be ready for a big breakout.
The secondary returns just one starter in senior Doran Grant, but sophomore safety Vonn Bell was an elite recruit out of high school.
It will take a tremendous effort to win the Big-Ten East Division. When the Buckeyes face Michigan State, they will have faced them right after the Spartans faced in-state rival Michigan. However, the Spartans do have a bye week in between the two huge games.
The Buckeyes will not have the luxury of the bye week to prepare for the Spartans. However, they should be able to take care of business early against Illinois at home and then rest some key players for the following week. Last season Ohio State scored 60 points against the Illini on the road in a 60-35 win.
Michigan State is much like Ohio State in that offensively it returns many skill position players, but lost much of its offensive line. However, defensively the Spartans were hit hard by graduation. All-American defensive end Shilique Calhoun will give the Buckeyes fits, but Miller has been one of the elite players in college football for four years and it is hard to vote against him especially knowing that a win here could propel him to the Heisman and his team into the national championship picture.
But if anyone spends time throwing everything at Ohio State for the conference title, there is little reward. The Buckeyes odds with Bovada are 2-5 to take the East Division title and 10-11 to win the overall conference title. A better bet would be on the Buckeyes taking the FBS Championship as the 12-1 odds look quite generous for a national title coming back to.
There shouldn't be five teams with better odds at taking the FBS Championships than the Buckeyes. That makes putting your money on them at 12-1 as a good solid choice.
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