"In fact, Ohio State's accomplishment might actually be more indicative of an overall trend toward consolidation atop the preseason poll. In the five polls between 1992 and 1996, for instance, the No. 1 team accumulated 56 percent of all top votes on average. In the most recent five years, that average was 79 percent, with each of the past three preseason No. 1 teams garnering at least 95 percent of the vote."
On Monday, the Associated Press released its 2015 preseason poll for college football. Unsurprisingly, Ohio State was ranked first overall. The real story, though, was that the Buckeyes had earned all 61 possible votes for the pole position. That marks the first time in the AP Poll's history that a team was unanimously selected as the top team. While that's all well and good, Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight warns not to read too much into the historic ranking.
Although I don't believe many people are taking the poll extremely seriously, Paine makes the point that voters tend to make their votes based off of which teams were already good last year and things like returning starters. The data shown in Paine's article might be interesting to look at.
"Barrett shows no ill-effects from an ankle injury that ended his 2014 season vs. Michigan. The guy moves well and is a sharp thrower. Jones' cannon right arm is fun to watch. He plays with a care-free style and new-found swagger that fits him well."
Tom Dienhart of the Big Ten Network was on hand for Ohio State's practice on Monday night, and came away with five things that stood out to him when watching the Buckeyes. The first thing was Ohio State's wide receivers. Despite some concerns that the receiving group as a whole may be a tad unproven, Dienhart mentions the obvious star receiver Michael Thomas as being one of the more underrated receivers in the country. He also brings up players like Noah Brown, Terry McLaurin, and Johnnie Dixon (as well as Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall, and Braxton Miller).
One of the other topics covered was the quarterback situation (duh) and who might appear to be favored as the front runner for the starting job. It appears both quarterbacks, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, are playing at a high level and there isn't any indication of a push for one or the other. Dienhart throws in that he'd like to see Barrett as the starter because he makes players around him better but does say that Jones is extremely talented.
"We have a lot of Heisman-caliber players, and if all things go well for us as a team, maybe one of us will be lucky enough to be up there in New York at the end of the year."
Fun fact for you: Ezekiel Elliott came 49 yards short of tying former Heisman trophy winner Eddie George, who won the Heisman in 1995 as the running back for Ohio State with 1,927 yards that season. In 2014, Elliott finished with 1,878 yards as he helped lead the Buckeyes to a national championship. This season, Elliott might be gunning for that record and a Heisman of his own. Returning as the feature back in Ohio State's offense, Elliott looks to pick up where he left off last season, when he rushed for over 200 yards in each of the last three games against Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon, respectively.
Though Elliott is aware of how close he came to breaking George's record, he isn't focused on the numbers themselves, but success for the team as a whole. Elliott knows he isn't the only Heisman contender on Ohio State this season, as whoever happens to win the starting quarterback job will likely have a good chance at winning the award, regardless of who starts between J.T. Barrett or Cardale Jones.
"You know, just had to take shots of Gatorade. So when we come into the Woody [Hayes Athletic Center] we've got juice."
The Buckeyes were not only one of the best teams in college football in 2014, but were also one of the most fun off the field. The sort of chemistry and personality that Ohio State has had for the past two seasons is tremendously fascinating. It's one of the closest teams I've seen, at the very least. And that sort of fun hasn't stopped this season, as evidenced by the numerous pranks that the players play on each other before and after practices.
The coaching staff is certainly happy with the players having their fun off the field, as long as they're prepared and focused during practices and games. In fact, they encourage the Buckeyes to have some fun and have set up a "Club Buckeye" for the players following training camp practices where the players are forced to take a 'shot' of Gatorade to enter the club. Once inside, it has the look of a dance club party, with lights flashing in every direction and music blaring. It seems like a nice treat to keep the players relaxed, and if things like that worked last season, there's no stopping the staff sticking to what works.