The college football season officially begins on Aug. 24, but it's never too early to start thinking about what might transpire this fall. Athlon Sports released its College Football Top 25 Rankings today and the Ohio State Buckeyes came in at No. 5.
Here's why: Urban Meyer finished his Ohio State career with an 83-9 record, a 7-0 mark versus rival Michigan, a national championship in 2014 and no finish below No. 12 in the final Associated Press poll. In other words, no pressure Ryan Day. As if following Meyer wasn't a tough task on its own, Day has to replace quarterback Dwayne Haskins and address a defense that underachieved in 2018. While Day has big shoes to fill, he inherits one of the nation's most talented rosters. Additionally, the addition of former five-star recruit Justin Fields as a transfer from Georgia addressed the quarterback position. Fields brings more dual-threat ability than Haskins provided to the offense last season, but the sophomore is still developing as a passer. Day's offense also returns standout running back J.K. Dobbins, along with a deep group of weapons at receiver. Left tackle Thayer Munford is the lone returning starter up front, but the Buckeyes have some experienced pieces and talent pushing for snaps. Ohio State's defense ranked an uncharacteristic seventh in the Big Ten in points allowed (25.5), finished sixth versus the run (158.2 ypg), gave up 5.8 yards per play, and surrendered 23 plays of 40 yards or more last fall. Day tapped former Michigan assistant Greg Mattison and Jeff Hafley (49ers) from the NFL to coordinate the defense and address last year's deficiencies. The defensive line is deep, as All-America candidate Chase Young anchors the edge with Tyreke Smith, Jonathon Cooper and Zach Harrison, while Robert Landers, Davon Hamilton, Jashon Cornell and Tommy Togiai plug the interior. Senior Malik Harrison should rank among the Big Ten's best at linebacker, but the rest of the unit struggled in 2018 and must step up this fall. The secondary will be a strength with Damon Arnette, Shaun Wade and Jeffrey Okudah at corner, along with senior Jordan Fuller leading the way at safety. The Buckeyes get Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State at home, but the success level of Day's first season (and the Big Ten East Division title) is likely to be decided on Nov. 30 at Michigan.
*An important note on Athlon's Top 25 for 2019: This is not a preseason ranking of teams going into the season. Instead, this ranking takes into account where we project teams to finish after the national championship in January.
Check out Athlon's entireCollege Football Top 25.