#8 Ohio State Football 2014 Preview

Ohio State Buckeyes

Overall Rank: #8
#2 Big Ten

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Ohio State fell short of perfection when they ran into Michigan State’s defense in the Big Ten title game. Those two are now in the same division, so the Buckeyes revenge will come during the regular season with a trip to East Lansing, Michigan on November 8th. Ohio State followed up that loss with another in the Orange Bowl, falling 40-35 to Clemson. The Buckeyes do have some reloading to do, but there is never a lack of talent in Columbus.

2013 Record: 12-2, 8-0
2013 Bowl: Orange Bowl vs. Clemson (L 35-40)
Coach: Urban Meyer (24-2 at Ohio State, 128-25 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tom Herman
Defensive Coordinator: Luke Fickell

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Braxton Miller, QB, 1,068 yards
Passing: Braxton Miller, QB, 2,094 yards
Receiving: Devin Smith, WR, 660 yards
Tackles: Joshua Perry, LB, 64
Sacks: Noah Spence, DE, 8.0
Interceptions: Doran Grant, CB, 3

Other Key Returnees: TE Jeff Heuerman, DE Joey Bosa, DT Michael Bennett

Key Losses: RB Carlos Hyde, RB Jordan Hall, QB Kenny Guiton, WR Corey Brown, OL Jack Mewhort, OL Corey Linsley, OL Andrew Norwell, LB Ryan Shazier, CB Bradley Roby, S C.J. Barnett, K Drew Basil

The amount of talent at the skill positions is pretty impressive, even by Ohio State standards. It starts, of course, with quarterback Braxton Miller. He threw for 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 1,068 yards and a dozen more scores despite missing some time. However, Miller is likely out for the season with a shoulder injury and the Buckeyes have very little experience behind him. Just days before Miller’s injury, Coach Urban Meyer announced that redshirt freshman J.T. Barnett beat out Cardale Jones for the number two spot. But now expect Barnett to be on a short leash since Cardale has a bit more experience. Ohio State does lose their top pass catcher from a year ago in Corey Brown, but the next four are back. That includes Devin Smith, who caught 44 passes for 660 yards and eight touchdowns, Evan Spencer, Dontre Wilson and tight end Jeff Heuerman. Wilson is the player to watch. As a freshman he showed flashes of his potential and keeps drawing closer to those Percy Harvin comparisons. Corey Smith is a rare junior college transfer to sign with Ohio State and could find himself on the top of the depth chart by game one. At running back, Carlos Hyde does need to be replaced, but the Buckeyes are high on Ezekiel Elliott. As a freshman in 2013 he rushed for 262 yards and two touchdowns, yet he will be able to do a lot more with more carries. If Elliott falters, Bri’onte Dunn, Warren Ball and Rod Smith will be waiting. Any way you look at it, Ohio State boasts one of the best defensive lines in the country. End Noah Spence tallied 8.0 sacks and 14.5 tackles-for-loss, while Joey Bosa tallied 7.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles-for-loss on the other side. Tackle Michael Bennett added 7.0 sacks and 11.5 tackles-for-loss. That is a lot of returning talent and nobody is going to have an easy time getting through the Buckeyes front four.

Once through the front four though, the opposition will have an easier time. Linebacker Ryan Shazier leaves a huge hole in the middle of the defense. He recorded 143 tackles, including 6.0 sacks and 22.5 tackles-for-loss. Joshua Perry and Curtis Grant are experienced, but it is unlikely either is capable of picking up where Shazier left off at this point. The secondary is in trouble too. The unit last year ranked 110th in the nation and 11th in the Big Ten with 268 yards allowed through the air per game; and that was with safety C.J. Barnett and corner Bradley Roby, who left early for the NFL. Doran Grant, who picked off three passes in 2013, is the new building block and Vonn Bell is a superb talent. Ohio State will hope that some fresh faces turn the unit around.

The Bottom Line:
For now Ohio State is going to have to win games with their offense. But that will not be quite as easy as it seems if the offensive line cannot effectively replace starters Marcus Hall, Corey Linsley, Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell. Taylor Decker will man the left tackle spot and hopes are high for sophomore guard Pat Eflein, but coming out of the spring, nobody else took advantage and grabbed ahold of a starting spot. Hosting Virginia Tech on September 6th will not be particularly easy, but the Buckeyes should have time to sort out their issues on the offensive line and in the back seven of the defense before being seriously tested by teams like Penn State and Michigan State in late October and early November. Even without Miller, the offense is good, but obviously now the potential problems could be extremely significant.

Projected Bowl: Fiesta Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 308.6 (5th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 203.3 (88, 8)
Total Offense: 511.9 (7, 1)
Scoring Offense: 45.5 (3, 1)
Rushing Defense: 109.4 (9, 3)
Pass Defense: 268.0 (110, 11)
Total Defense: 377.4 (46, 7)
Scoring Defense: 22.6 (28, 5)
Turnover Margin: 0.4 (36, 3)
Sacks:  3.00 (7, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.57 (37, 6)

Madness 2015 NFL Draft Rankings:
#22 Michael Bennett
#48 Noah Spence
#99 Braxton Miller

Madness 2014 Recruit Rankings:
#24 Raekwon McMillan
#39 Damon Webb
#42 Sam Hubbard
#48 Erick Smith
#57 Curtis Samuel
#76 Demetrius Knox
#77 Johnnie Dixon
#82 Marshon Lattimore
#88 Jamarco Jones
#90 Jalyn Holmes
#97 Kyle Berger
#107 Dante Booker
#120 Parris Campbell
#178 Noah Brown


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