It pains me to say it, but the fact that this Ohio State team is not only viewed as a top 25 team, but as a legitimate playoff contender, is proof of just how incredible what they are doing in Columbus right now is. I mean, this team has just six starters returning - the fewest in major conference football. They lost 12 guys in the draft last year alone. Five of them went in the first round, and the whole dozen were gone by the end of the fourth. That kind of attrition would crush most programs, or at least cause them to need a year to regroup.
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On paper at least, though, the Buckeyes have the firepower and depth to come through just fine. I mean, 16 starters are gone and they are the co-favorites to win their conference at Bovada. Urban Meyer may be devoid of a personality, but the guy sure knows how to run a football program.
Key Additions and Departures
The list of departures is obviously long and notable. DE Joey Bosa went third in the draft. Running back Ezekiel Elliott was gone just one spot later. They lost two members of their offensive line, two receivers and a tight end, two members of the secondary, two linebackers - it goes on and on, and that doesn't include the three guys signed as undrafted free agents and the others who graduated and went pro in non-sports fields. They are among the best recruiting teams in the country consistently, though, so they have players to fill in.
Perhaps the most interesting addition, though, doesn't come on the field at all. For the second year in a row they have lost a key coordinator. Last year it was offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who headed to Houston and worked wonders there. This year it is defensive coordinator Chris Ash, who was desperate enough to be a head coach that he thought taking over at Rutgers was a good idea. The guy taking over for him is former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Greg Schiano. It's a risky move. Schiano hasn't been a coordinator since 2000 and hasn't coached at all since 2013. He'll have to find a way to put his ego aside to shine here - especially since he shares the defensive coordinator role with the ever-present Luke Fickell. The ability of Schiano to play well with others and assimilate will have a big impact on what this team does this year.
Ohio State Schedule Analysis
It's a risk to oversimplify, but the Buckeyes are essentially playing a three-game season this year. In Week 3 they travel to Oklahoma to play the Sooners in a potential Top 10 showdown. The other two big tests come in the last two weeks of the season. First, they head to East Lansing to play Michigan State. The Spartans aren't likely to be quite as good as they have been recently, but they are never an easy opponent. Then they return home to play co-Big Ten favorites Michigan in a game that could potentially, like old times, determine which team will win the conference and remain viable National Championship contenders.
Outside of those games, the rest of the schedule is manageable if they are playing like they should. Bowling Green and Tulsa are both programs with things going for them, but they are both outclassed as nonconference opponents to start the season. Road games to Wisconsin, Penn State and Maryland could all be traps, but only if this team isn't focused - and they should be. Hosting Rutgers, Indiana and Northwestern is like having three bye weeks, and Nebraska is tougher, but not dramatically so. There are nine wins without breaking a real sweat here along with the chance for three of the kind of statement wins that the selection committee loves. It's a good schedule for an aspiring National Champion.
2016-17 Ohio State Betting Odds and Trends
The Buckeyes are at +900 to win it all at BetOnline, which ties them with Oklahoma as the fifth choice, just behind bitter rival Michigan at +800. Michigan has them as the co-favorite to win the Big Ten at +175. The season win total is set at 9, with the "over" heavily favored at -175. Bettors will hope that the team is better to bet on than they were last year. Despite going 12-1 the team was just 6-7 ATS. Thanks to a stout defense they were much more useful against the total - they went "under" in nine of those 13 games.
2016-17 Ohio State Buckeyes Predictions and College Football Picks
I'm not sure how useful it is given the price, but they are all but a lock to go over the total. I expect them to beat Michigan State. It's all about Oklahoma and Michigan. I expect them to split those games. What it comes down to, then, is which game they lose. Beating Oklahoma and losing to Michigan probably wouldn't be enough because they would likely miss the Big Ten Championship. The reverse, though, could very much get them into the playoff. Led by a veteran quarterback, and with plenty of talent on the field, this is an elite team.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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