Urban Meyer has his young Buckeyes in position to win it all
Despite not winning the Big Ten East Division, Ohio State was able to ride a five-game winning streak into the 2016 College Football Playoff. Ohio State last lost at Penn State, 24-21, on Oct. 22 in a raucous night game on a blocked field goal at Beaver Stadium. This loss enabled Penn State to claim the B1G East Division due to the head-to-head tiebreaker, but Ohio State secured a playoff spot, based upon not only the one loss on the Buckeyes' schedule, but also their strength of schedule. Wins at Oklahoma, at Wisconsin and over Michigan gave the Buckeyes three wins against top-10 teams.
Ohio State entered into the 2016 season with the majority of its roster made up of either freshmen or redshirt freshmen. While expected to be competitive, most college football analysts and fans believed the Buckeyes were a year away from being able to compete for a national title, having lost so much talent to the NFL. As the Buckeyes demonstrated throughout the 2016 season, youth was not only served, but also eager to prove itself.
Playoff Teams: No. 1 Alabama I No. 2 Clemson I No. 3 Ohio State I No. 4 Washington
5 Reasons Why Ohio State Will Win the 2016 College Football Playoff
1. Ohio State's Defensive Depth
As stated earlier, the Buckeyes lost a wealth of talent to the NFL in the spring. Losing Joey Bosa, Eli Apple, Darron Lee, Vonn Bell, Adolphus Washington, Joshua Perry, and Tyvis Powell alone from the starting defensive lineup was going to mean the Buckeyes would be weak on that side of the ball, right? Wrong. Yes, those players were outstanding, but the Buckeyes were able to reload with younger guys who are just as fast, if not faster, and probably even more opportunistic. Redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker has emerged as one of the best ball-hawking defensive backs in the entire country, as evidenced by his six interceptions, three of which he has returned for touchdowns. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson is continually substituting guys up front, keeping everyone fresh. At linebacker, sophomore Jerome Baker also has emerged, coming up with big plays at key moments.
2. Curtis Samuel
When Urban Meyer began coaching the Buckeyes in 2012, Ohio State fans were often told that the coaching staff was always on the lookout for the next Percy Harvin-type player who could make the offense difficult to defend. It is entirely possible that instead of talking about Harvin, college football fans may be talking about being on the lookout for the next Curtis Samuel. A true hybrid offensive threat, Samuel has been used as a running back, wide receiver and punt returner. He has 704 yards rushing, averaging more than seven yards per carry, and eight touchdowns on the ground. He also is the team’s leading receiver with 65 catches while averaging nearly 13 yards per reception and seven more scores. Difficult to defend with a linebacker or a safety, teams often will spy on Samuel with a cornerback, which has opened up opportunities for others such as…
3. Noah Brown
At 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds, Browns serves as another physical mismatch for opposing defenses to try and handle. Brown, a redshirt sophomore, is not a burner, but he is a terrific possession-type of receiver who can outmuscle defensive backs, especially in the end zone. Oklahoma found this out the hard way back in September. Brown has just 30 catches thus far, but he’s tied with Samuel for the team lead in touchdown receptions with seven.
4. J.T. Barrett
The redshirt junior quarterback is the heart and soul of the Ohio State team. A threat with his legs, Barrett has already run for more than 800 yards with nine touchdowns. Barrett’s mobility makes it hard for defenses to put the Buckeyes in second- or third-and-long situations. Barrett also has been efficient when he throws the ball, utilizing weapons like Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown. Barrett has 24 touchdown passes and just five interceptions. And when the game becomes tight, it seems as though Barrett is at his best, displaying a poise and command that steadies the entire team.
5. Urban Meyer
A master motivator, Meyer always relishes the underdog mentality whenever the media doubts the capabilities of his teams. Even being in the playoff will not deter Meyer from an "us against the world" mindset, as he will look for any and every possible angle to blister his players' pride and have the Buckeyes ready to seize the moment in the national spotlight.
— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.