"This was the season that Urban Meyer was building for after taking over the Buckeyes, and the fact that they arrived ahead of schedule without losing any draft-eligible players early only strengthens their case as the team to beat in 2015."
Though it's just the beginning of 2015, talk has already begun about next season in college football and who should start the season with the No. 1 ranking entering the preseason. ESPN's Big Ten reporter Austin Ward and Big 12 reporter Jake Trotter both their cases for why Ohio State or TCU should be given the top spot, respectively.
Ward cites the fact that the Buckeyes are the reigning national champions and is the most obvious choice, given that the team returns three Heisman Trophy candidates at quarterback with Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett, and Cardale Jones while also retaining a potential Heisman favorite in running back Ezekiel Elliott. Trotter argues that the Horned Frogs bring back plenty of offensive firepower next season themselves and figure to have yet another solid defensive squad led by head coach Gary Patterson, who also won the coach of the year in 2014.
"The defensive line is always going to be a priority here at Ohio State. Really, any successful program, if you're going to be any good you have to have a plethora of offensive and defensive linemen. We were losing some guys, we're going to lose some guys next year, and we needed to make sure that we replaced them in this year's class."
Given that with the loss of seniors Michael Bennett and Steve Miller, the defensive line is the only position group at Ohio State that must replace two starters. The return of Adolphus Washington was huge for the Buckeyes' depth, along with Joey Bosa not having eligibility to declare for the draft until after next season. An influx of defensive line recruits entering their first year already have a shot at cracking the two-deep.
The thinking is that Jashon Cornell, an early enrollee from the class of 2015, could make an instant impact at defensive end as Ohio State tries to not only replace Bennett and Miller, but also losing Noah Spence after his suspension and transfer. With open spots on the line, there will be plenty of fierce competition during spring and fall camps to determine who gets to play on Saturdays.
"But we were thinking: If the Buckeyes were closer to the actual bubble than they are at present (they're in that same step-up tier as Indiana), D'Angelo Russell would probably put them over the top, right?"
Another week of the college basketball bubble watch is upon us. For the Big Ten conference as whole, there's still a lot of work to be done if they want to continue their streak of being one of the top conferences in college basketball and make several appearances in the NCAA tournament. For now, Maryland is the only team that is listed on the "should be in" list, while Indiana, Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, and Purdue all still have to prove they belong.
For the Buckeyes specifically, not much has changed for them since last week. A win over lowly Rutgers isn't going to move the needle very much, if at all, on their chances of getting in to the NCAA tournament. However, with D'Angelo Russell adding a triple-double against the Scarlet Knights, Brennan makes a valid point that N.C. State getting into the tournament last season surprised some people considering they were a one-man show led by T.J. Warren. It's possible that Ohio State could find themselves in the tournament simply because people want to watch Russell perform at the highest collegiate level.
"Just show up? It's never that simple, no matter how strong a team appears on paper. The Buckeyes will be favored in every game and must show they can handle last year's success without letting up."
Adam Rittenberg of ESPN was tasked with the job of breaking down next season's Big Ten New Year's Six candidates. This past season, the Big Ten came out strong with a 2-0 performance. As for next season, Brad Edwards projected Ohio State to face USC in the playoff semifinal at the Orange Bowl and slated Michigan in the Rose Bowl against Oregon. Yes, Michigan.
Still, Rittenberg tossed in his contenders for the Big Ten to make the New Year's Six next season, starting with Ohio State. It makes sense for the Buckeyes to lead the way as reigning Big Ten and national champions. Following the Buckeyes are Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Penn State. Basically, no Michigan (can't say I blame his line of thinking).