Ohio State Buckeyes Odds to win the College Football National Championship with Expert Betting Predictions
You can play only four seasons as a college football player, but there are players who seem like they were around for a decade or two. Heisman winner Baker Mayfield was one of those guys last year, and so was Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett. Barrett had a very odd career. He was obviously a winner - he went 38-6 as a starter and played a key role in a national title. But between injuries, legal issues, and an arm that never overwhelmed, it always felt like he wasn't quite what he should be. Now, for better or worse, the team moves on to a new era at quarterback. They are as loaded as they always are, so they don't have to worry about having prospects. But it's change, and change isn't always easy.
2017 in a Nutshell
The Buckeyes went into the season as the No. 2 team behind only Alabama, and expectations were very high. That didn't last long, though, as the season was essentially derailed after two games. They beat up on Indiana in their opener but then got overwhelmed by Mayfield and the Sooners in Week 2. They then won six straight games, but Penn State was the only legitimate opponent in that stretch, and they won that one by only a single point at home. They had climbed up to sixth in the rankings and were going to need some help to make the playoff. Before that could happen, though, they lost a real stunner at Iowa by 31 points. It was bizarre and inexcusable. They won their last three, including a massacre of Michigan State and an easy win over hated Michigan. That wasn't enough to make them nationally relevant, but it did win them the division. They again beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game and capped the year with a very easy win over USC in the Cotton Bowl.
Key Additions and Departures
Besides Barrett, QB Joe Burrow also left to avoid a QB battle he felt like he would lose. That leaves Dwayne Haskins as the presumptive starter and Tate Martell as the talented backup, but depth behind those two is lacking, so they will be fine as long as there aren't injury issues. The rest of the offensive production is in good shape, though. The running backs are deep and experienced, all of the top receivers aside from tight end Marcus Baugh are back. Haskins is in good shape. The biggest concern he has is his offensive line. Two key guys are gone, and there are all sorts of questions - though, as always, with the Buckeyes there are no concerns about talent.
And defensively the losses would be enough to decimate all but a small handful of programs in the country. Three members of the defensive line were drafted, and two more are on NFL rosters. Corner Denzel Ward went fourth overall and was the fourth of the 2016 secondary starters to go in the first round. Stud linebacker Jerome Baker is gone as well. But recruiting like Ohio State does has its advantages. The line could be even better than it was despite the losses. The secondary has returning experienced talent and fresh recruits who have all sorts of game. And depth at linebacker is not a concern either - they have two former five-star recruits who are upperclassmen who haven't started yet but should play a big role this year in Baron Browning and Justin Hilliard, and they have plenty of other options as well.
The coaching staff wasn't supposed to be facing a lot changes after several years of upheaval every season, but wide receiver coach Zach Smith was fired on July 23 after legal issues came to the surface, so changes are coming. The only other loss of note was a big one - cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs, who has produced top draft picks in bulk, has left for the NFL. Taver Johnson, a longtime Ohio State staffer, takes over the role.
Biggest Area of Concern
The defense would be the obvious answer with all of the changes, but for me the transition to Haskins at QB is a bigger issue. He has plenty of talent to work with, but his offensive line will be changing from last year. More significantly, it has been a long while since this offense has had any real creative spark. They seemed content to set up Barrett in designed plays that limited the downside and minimized his weaknesses but that also lacked excitement. Haskins has a big arm and some panache, but it will require a shift in philosophy to fully take advantage of that.
Ohio State Buckeyes Schedule Analysis
After two times playing them, they don't face Oklahoma this year, and TCU is a much more manageable Big 12 opponent. The other nonconference games are ridiculously soft, and six conference games should be won without breaking a sweat. That means that nine wins is the absolute floor for the team. As always in this conference, those other three games will determine how things play out. They travel to Penn State on Sept. 29 and to Michigan State on Nov. 10, and then they host Michigan to close out the season. Two wins in those three games should win them the division yet again. But with all of the changes, and the strength of those teams, that is no certainty.
2018-19 Ohio State Buckeyes Betting Odds and Trends
Ohio State is the third choice to win the national title at Bovada at +750, behind only Clemson and favored Alabama. They are obviously favored to win the Big Ten at +145 and to win the Big Ten East at +105. Haskins and running back J.K. Dobbins, both at +2000, and seen as secondary contenders for the Heisman. The season win total sits at 10.5, with the "over" solidly favored.
2018-19 Ohio State Buckeyes Predictions and College Football Picks
I will admit up front that I have never even remotely liked the Buckeyes, and I am bored by their success. But that being said, I feel at least a little pessimistic. I don't think they will crash and burn by any means, and still think they win at least 10, but I feel like they are more likely not to win the conference than to win it, and I will be looking to beat them when it makes sense to this year.
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