Ohio State will begin its national title defense without a couple of key players. According to a release from the school, defensive end Joey Bosa and receivers Corey Smith, Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall will be suspended for the opener against Virginia Tech.
Bosa is the biggest loss for the Buckeyes, as the junior is one of college football’s top players and a first-team All-American for 2015. In 15 games last season, Bosa recorded 55 tackles (21 for a loss) and 13.5 sacks. Bosa’s absence is an even bigger concern with the departure of last year's other starter at end (Michael Bennett) off to the NFL. Without Bosa, Ohio State is thin on proven experience at defensive end.
The quarterback battle is going to dominate the offseason headlines in Columbus, but the receiving corps is a concern for the opener with Marshall, Smith and Wilson suspended. The Buckeyes still have Michael Thomas (54 receptions in 2014), but Marshall, Smith and Wilson accounted for 79 catches last year.
With three key targets sidelined for the opener, Ohio State needs Braxton Miller to make a quick transition to receiver. The converted quarterback is now one of the Buckeyes’ top options in the passing attack (at least for the opener).
Before the suspensions were announced, Ohio State was considered a 13 or 14-point favorite in Vegas. Expect that line between the Buckeyes and Hokies to drop over the next month.
Repeating as a college football national champion isn’t easy. And Ohio State’s road to another title just got a little tougher. Virginia Tech’s defense is good enough to pull off another upset over the Buckeyes. And without Bosa, Ohio State’s defense needs sophomore end Tyquan Lewis and senior tackle Adolphus Washington to elevate their performance.
One loss won't end Ohio State's national championship bid. After all, the Buckeyes lost to the Hokies in 2014 and still reached the playoffs and won the title game.
There’s still a month to dissect the on-field matchup between Virginia Tech and Ohio State. However, it’s safe to say this game now has some added intrigue and upset potential.