Braxton Miller returns to Ohio State in 2014, can he lead them to a Big Ten title? Photo: USA Today Sports
CBR's "Way Too Early" Top 10
No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State's unbeatable run under Urban Meyer may have been snapped in the form of a two-game losing streak but if you think the Buckeyes are not going to storm back in 2014 you have anther thing coming. The Buckeyes will once again be one of the favorites in the Big Ten next fall with a roster that has been masterfully put together since Urban Meyer arrived in Columbus. Ohio State's kryptonite may be Michigan State, a new division foe, but few in the Big Ten will stand in the way of the Buckeyes making a push for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
The Good: Ohio State has gone undefeated in the regular season each of the past two seasons, so we know that Urban Meyer has established a powerhouse and sparked a giant of a program. The Buckeyes are 24-0 in regular season play under Meyer and most of the Big Ten is still playing catch-up with Ohio State in 2014. The new division format will pit Ohio State in the same division as Michigan State, but the Buckeyes also get Indiana, Rutgers and Maryland in their division (and Michigan and Penn State). Braxton Miller is returning and he should be one of the preseason Heisman favorites. Meyer and his staff have built a roster with plenty of good talent that should make for another tough and physical opponent for most.
The Bad: Ohio State is losing a good amount of talent from their 2013 team. Up front the Buckeyes must replace four starting offensive linemen and running back Carlos Hyde is also moving on. On defense Ohio State loses linebacker Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby. Teams may be able to throw against Ohio State. Ohio State also loses assistant coach Mike Vrabel, who really helped the defense.
The Uncertain: How quickly will Ohio State's new offensive line gel together? Will it be a work in progress? Probably not, considering the caliber of players the Buckeyes tend to bring in on the line. Perhaps the biggest unknown is whether they will be able to keep Braxton Miller on his feet. Miller got roughed up in his final games, and he was injured at the start of the season. Keeping Miller healthy is necessary for success in Columbus. The biggest unknown is how the Big Ten's reputation could ultimately impact Ohio State's chances of playing in the College Football Playoff. Would Ohio State have to run the table and win the Big Ten championship game to get a shot, or could a one-loss Ohio State be selected as one of the four teams by the selection committee?
Verdict: Ohio State must play at Michigan State next season, which should be a lot of fun, but the Buckeyes also take on Navy in Baltimore and host Virginia Tech the following week to start the season. Throw in a home game against Cincinnati and Ohio State is looking at one of their more challenging September schedules seen in some time. Ohio State should be able to replenish skill at key positions on both sides of the football, and they will have more talent in every game they play this season. Over time this Ohio State may start to work their way up the rankings, but until proven otherwise they will be on the outside looking in on the playoffs.
Be sure to check out the rest of CBR's "Way Too Early Top 10":