#4 Ohio State Football 2016 Preview

Ohio State Buckeyes
Overall Rank: #4
#1 Big Ten
Outside of the 17-14 loss to Michigan State, Ohio State dominated just about every other team they played. That includes a regular season finale victory at Michigan by a score of a 42-13 and a 44-28 victory over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. Those were a couple of big wins that are propelling the Buckeyes into the 2016 campaign. This is a pretty young team and a lot of talent was lost off of last year’s team, but Coach Urban Meyer reloads and this team will be very good by the time Michigan State and Michigan show up on the schedule in November.
2015 Record: 12-1, 7-1
2015 Bowl: Fiesta Bowl vs. Notre Dame (W 44-28)
Coach: Urban Meyer (50-4 at Ohio State, 154-27 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Ed Warinner, Tim Beck
Defensive Coordinator: Greg Schiano, Luke Fickell
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: JT Barrett, QB, 682 yards
Passing: JT Barrett, QB, 992 yards
Receiving: Curtis Samuel, HB, 132 yards
Tackles: Raekwon McMillian, LB, 119
Sacks: Tyquan Lewis, DE, 8.0
Interceptions: Gareon Conley, CB, 2
Other Key Returnees: OL Pat Elflein, OL Billy Price, DE Sam Hubbard, P Cameron Johnston
Key Losses: RB Ezekiel Elliott, QB Cardale Jones, WR Michael Thomas, WR Braxton Miller, OL Taylor Decker, DE Joey Bosa, LB Joshua Perry, LB Darron Lee, CB Eli Apple, S Vonn Bell
The defense returns just three starters, but they have some experience to build around. The line will revolve around ends Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard. Lewis recorded a team high 8.0 sacks and added 14.0 tackles-for-loss during his sophomore season. Hubbard added 6.5 sacks as a freshman. At tackle, expect Michael Hill to lead a deep rotation of big bodies. At linebacker, Raekwon McMillian returns after tallying a team high 119 tackles. He is one of the best linebackers in the country and will emerge as a great leader on the field as well. Dante Booker and Chris Worley are somewhat experienced juniors and are more than ready to step into starting roles. Gareon Conley is the lone returning starter in the secondary and he will be the new top cornerback for Ohio State. Denzel Ward showed some promise as a freshman last year and should step into the other starting spot. The safety spots have a lot of unproven talent. Erick Smith and Malik Hooker are both promising youngsters and Cam Burrows returns after missing most of last season with a foot injury.
The losses on offense are massive, especially for a unit that often failed to move the ball through the air. The good news is that J.T. Barrett is back and the unquestioned leader of this team. Last year with the Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller and Barrett quarterback controversy, Ohio State often looked a little flat on offense. Now this is Barrett’s team. He threw for 992 yards and 11 touchdowns last season and rushed for 682 yards and 11 more scores. With, presumably, a full season ahead of him, expect Barrett to put up huge numbers. He does need to find some new targets though with Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Miller gone. Thomas was the team’s big play threat. Noah Brown and Corey Smith are the likely candidates to step into starting role at wide receiver, but there are a bevy of younger players looking to make their mark. The bigger concern than the passing game though is finding a way to replace running back Ezekiel Elliott. Redshirt freshman Mike Weber will step into the starring role and he has the talent to be the next Elliott. It will need to happen quickly though and behind an offensive line that returns just two starters.
The Bottom Line:
There are certainly tougher schedules in the Big Ten, but the Buckeyes have many of their more difficult games on the road. And it starts in non-conference play when Ohio State heads to Oklahoma in week three. That will be a huge test for the young Buckeyes. Trips to Wisconsin and Penn State in back-to-back weeks in mid-October should be the toughest games until the end of the year when OSU heads to Michigan State and, of course, finishes the season against Michigan. Those two games will decide the Big Ten East and whoever wins the Big Ten East has a very good chance at making the playoffs.
Projected Bowl: Playoffs / Peach Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 245.2 (11th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 188.8 (100, 12)
Total Offense: 434.1 (41, 3)
Scoring Offense: 35.7 (28, 2)
Rushing Defense: 126.8 (22, 7)
Pass Defense: 184.5 (16, 6)
Total Defense: 311.3 (9, 3)
Scoring Defense: 15.1 (2, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.23 (48, 6)
Sacks: 2.92 (9, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.46 (33, 4)
Madness 2017 NFL Draft Rankings:
#20 Reakwon McMillan
#35 Pat Elflein
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#8 Nick Bosa
#35 Keandre Jones
#48 Jonathon Cooper
#57 DeMario McCall
#95 Austin Mack
#98 Dwayne Haskins Jr.