So before the focus shifts on the 2017 Ohio State Buckeyes, let’s take a quick inventory. First, three out of the four starters in the secondary need to be replaced. Three players, who combined for 133 receptions and 19 touchdowns in 2016, are no longer on the roster either. One of those players, Curtis Samuel, also was a dynamic running threat who accounted for nearly 800 yards on the ground and an additional eight touchdowns.
There’s also the offensive line, which is being reshuffled with a new center and right guard. Oh, and the last time the Buckeyes took the field, they were shut out by Clemson 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl, which also served as the College Football Playoff semifinal.
So this is a team that is in serious discussion for a playoff berth in 2017? The answer is emphatically yes, as evidenced by Athlon Sports ranking Ohio State No. 2 entering the season.
Under Urban Meyer, Buckeye fans have become comfortable with the phrase of, "We don't rebuild, we reload." Despite losing seven players to the 2017 NFL Draft, Meyer and his staff have assembled a roster that is among the very best in the nation.
There’s also excitement surrounding the additions of new offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Kevin Wilson and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day. Day, a former NFL assistant, will be tasked with getting quarterback J.T. Barrett back to his 2014 efficiency levels, while Wilson, Indiana’s former head coach, is widely respected throughout college football for his innovative offensive schemes.
For a fan base that saw the Buckeyes develop an explosive offensive attack during the 2014 national championship season, only to become somewhat predictable and stagnant in both ’15 and ’16, both Wilson and Day are being counted on to right the offensive ship.
With another young, but tremendously talented team, can Ohio State get back to the playoff? Athlon Sports polled a few writers to get their take on the Buckeyes’ realistic 2017 won/loss projection.
Ohio State Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2017
Chip Minnich (@ChipMinnich)
Kevin Wilson's previous work and reputation as an offensive guru at Miami (Ohio), Northwestern, Oklahoma, and Indiana looms large in his debut as Ohio State's offensive coordinator. Wilson's Indiana teams were routinely among the best within the Big Ten, and it will bear watching to see what Wilson is able to do with the caliber of talent that resides in Columbus.
The schedule has its challenges, but should be manageable for Ohio State. The second game of the season is against Oklahoma, but is at home and at night in what should be a raucous Ohio Stadium environment. Ohio State has to travel to Nebraska for the first time since 2011, but will the Cornhuskers have enough to keep pace with the Buckeyes? The most anticipated home game for the Buckeyes is Oct. 28, when Penn State comes to town in what could an elimination game within B1G East.
Ohio State makes a road trip to Iowa at the beginning of November, and the Buckeyes will be on upset alert for that one. Ohio State gets Michigan State at home, and that is usually a very physical contest for both teams. Of course, THE GAME is a no-holds-barred event to wrap up the regular season up in Ann Arbor, and Jim Harbaugh has yet to defeat the Buckeyes since becoming the head coach for the Wolverines.
Even with the inexperienced secondary, and a wide receiver group that needs to take a significant step forward, the talent and the coaching have me comfortable projecting Ohio State to win every game in 2017. If the Buckeyes should stumble, I do not see it happening more than once.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I have the Buckeyes finishing undefeated, but a loss at Michigan in the regular season finale wouldn’t be a surprise. Regardless of whether Ohio State goes 12-0 or 11-1, this is the team to beat in the Big Ten for 2017 – and is the biggest threat to Alabama for the national title. The offense should be more dynamic with new coordinator Kevin Wilson calling the plays, and quarterback J.T. Barrett should thrive in his final year in Columbus. The biggest concern for coach Urban Meyer’s offense is at receiver where Curtis Samuel, Noah Brown and Dontre Wilson must be replaced. Even though the secondary has to be revamped, the defense will be among the nation’s best. The defensive line is anchored by a talented trio of edge rushers, including rising star Nick Bosa and senior Tyquan Lewis. Assuming the right answers emerge in the passing game, Meyer has a team capable of winning it all in 2017.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
Despite being the alpha dog in the Big Ten, Ohio State has been tripped up by lesser opponents several times under Urban Meyer. While that possibility still exists in 2017 for a team that could get bored blowing out opponents left and right, I wouldn't count on that kind of history repeating itself. The Buckeyes have more talent than anybody on their schedule by a wide margin outside games against Penn State and Oklahoma. There should be massive strides made offensively with new coordinator Kevin Wilson and it wouldn't be surprising to see J.T. Barrett return to form and wind up in New York this December when all is said and done. That should help cover up any growing pains on the defensive side of the ball but make no mistake, that unit will still be pretty good even with a fresh new secondary. OSU isn't just the favorite for the Big Ten title, but the national championship as well.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
If I had to pick a team most likely to go undefeated this season, it might just be the Buckeyes. I have them running the gauntlet to a Big Ten championship and a top-two seed in the College Football Playoff fueled by regular season home wins against Big 12 favorite Oklahoma and Penn State in a revenge game off a bye week. The schedule sets up well for the Buckeyes, but there are some tricky spots on the road against Big Ten West teams Nebraska and Iowa to look out for. And Michigan could be a much better team at the end of the season than the Wolverines will be at the start of the year, so a regular season finale in Ann Arbor will once again be a tough draw. But Ohio State is darn good this year, and with a bitter taste in the Buckeyes’ mouth from last season, I trust Urban Meyer to set the tone from start to finish.
J.P. Scott (@TheJPScott)
I know it's Ohio State, and I know it's Urban Meyer. I also know I'll probably be proved wrong, but I have a hard time seeing teams lose the number of talented players the Buckeyes did from a season ago and coming back as good as or better than they were. J.T. Barrett is great and running back Mike Weber is a future star, but this team will go as far as the defensive front seven – one of the best in the nation – will take it. Working in Ohio State's favor is an easy schedule where approaching 10 wins shouldn't be much of a challenge. On the flip side, they play two games against legit College Football Playoff contenders and another against a hated rival that will be more talented at the end of the season than the beginning.