Ohio State enters the 2017 college football season, coming off a 31-0 loss to Clemson that would have most coaches and fan bases wondering about the direction of the program. At Big Ten Media Days on July 24, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer stated that the loss to Clemson was behind the minds of the coaches and players, stating "that ship has sailed."
With the return of J.T. Barrett at quarterback, a reshuffled coaching staff, and a roster stocked with some of the nation's top high school talent, Meyer has reason to look forward to the 2017 season with optimism. Ohio State saw seven players taken in this year’s NFL draft, but there are plenty of candidates still on campus eager to show what they can do this season. Heading into his sixth season with the Buckeyes, Meyer has a 61-6 overall record, including a 40-3 mark in Big Ten play.
Three Reasons Why Ohio State Will Make the College Football Playoff in 2017
1. New offensive staff featuring Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day
Recognizing that Ohio State had become far too predictable on offense, Meyer made the decisive move to adjust his staff shortly after the Fiesta Bowl shutout loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal, hiring Wilson, former head coach at Indiana, and Day, former assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. With Wilson now installed as offensive coordinator/tight ends coach and Day as quarterbacks coach/co-offensive coordinator, the Buckeyes will employ an up-tempo approach that Meyer favors. The presence of Barrett and the other playmakers on the roster should give Wilson and Day plenty of toys to play with and lead to a more explosive offense this fall.
Once again, Ohio State has its share of challenges throughout its slate, but they appear to be more spaced out compared to last season’s gauntlet. After opening up on the road at Indiana, the Buckeyes will host Oklahoma in what promises to be a well-hyped primetime showdown. In October, Ohio State travels to Nebraska for the first time since 2011, but this will come after games against UNLV, Rutgers and Maryland. The Buckeyes get a bye before Penn State comes to Columbus on Oct. 28. And while November begins with a trip to Iowa, it’s followed by back-to-back home games with Michigan State and Illinois before “The Game” in Ann Arbor against archrival Michigan. There are still plenty of challenging matchups on tap, but they appear to be a more evenly distributed throughout the season, which was not the case in 2016.
3. Urban Meyer
It cannot be overstated, but Meyer is a master motivator, which is evidenced by his gaudy won-loss record (165-29 or .851 winning percentage) entering his 16th season as a head coach. Even if Ohio State is highly ranked, Meyer is somehow able to manufacture reasons that the Buckeyes are being disrespected, which his teams feed off when they take the field. Meyer will be able to push the right buttons all season to keep the Buckeyes focused on a return to the playoff.
Three Reasons Why Ohio State Will Not Make the College Football Playoff in 2017
1. Wide receivers do not improve from 2016
The aforementioned Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day should be able to diversify the Ohio State offense in 2017. Crucial to these plans are for the wide receivers to improve from last season. While the Buckeyes have been signing highly-touted receivers in their recruiting classes, what happens if nobody steps up their respective level of play, and Ohio State is once again highly predictable on offense?
2. Inexperienced secondary
Of the seven Buckeyes taken in this year’s NFL draft, the biggest hit was to the secondary with Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker and Gareon Conley all picked in the first round. While Ohio State is confident that the new players will be able to step right in, passing teams such as Indiana and Oklahoma are sure to test the Buckeyes’ rebuilt secondary right out of the gates.
As dreadful as it sounds, it is extremely difficult for a coaching staff, even one as talented as Ohio State's, to be able to keep the team focused on the task at hand for every game on the schedule. While the Buckeyes should be favored in every game that they play, road games at places like Nebraska or Iowa, or even home dates with Maryland or Michigan State, could end up being more difficult than they perhaps expected.
There is a reason why just about everyone has picked Ohio State to be a College Football Playoff contender this season, if not one of the favorites to win the national championship. The talent, schedule and, especially, head coach, have given prognosticators legitimate reasons to be confident. Games throughout the season will be challenging, but look for the Buckeyes to make a repeat playoff appearance.
Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 2
Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 12-1 (8-1 Big Ten)
Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 10.5