The offseason is here. The brutal slog started appropriately enough in Columbus, with the first significant snow of the year, the first longer work commute, and sports radio, blogs and everything and everyone else talking about someone else winning a national championship. In other words, pretty dreadful. It is going to be a long winter, a longer spring, and an even longer summer. But we'll get through it - we always do. For now, let's ease into it with three thoughts after Monday's rather fun championship game.
It is going to be a long offseason
Before the now-completed college football season started all the way back in August, I had a conversation with a friend about expectations for the 2015 Buckeye football season. We didn't talk about stats, or prognosticate about the coming year so much as dwell on the 2014 season, and the Buckeyes' miraculous run from being completely out of it, to winning it all. Many Ohio State fans and pundits spent the summer bloviating about how we shouldn't spend too much of our time dwelling on the past. But before the 2015 season started in Blacksburg, I couldn't help but talk about about how wonderful Ohio State's 2014-2015 run was, and how the result helped restore the shine that had dulled after losing to Michigan State and Clemson in consecutive games the year before. And to do it with a backup quarterback. And then a third string quarterback.
It was as magical as you remember, and it will always be magical. And that was kind of the point of the whole conversation, because no matter what happened in 2015-2016, despite all outcomes, it could never match the year before. As Buckeye fans, we may never experience such a fun and fulfilling run again; this year was proof of that for sure. For every thrilling and fun game (Virginia Tech, Michigan, Notre Dame), there were plenty of moments that caused eye rolls and profanity-laced tirades (Northern Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State).
Last season wasn't fun, it was just fine. It's a tough burden trying to replicate, if not completely replace, the memories of the year before, and it probably won't happen again for a long time. And that's mostly because, instead of re-living the Ohio State run from the year before, we get to hear about Alabama, or Clemson, or not about "reigning National Champion Ohio State", but about "what could have been Ohio State". It will be all the little things - the ESPN commercials showing Nick Saban lifting a trophy instead of Urban Meyer. Or when the highlights veer away from Ezekiel Elliott torching three straight great teams, to Derrick Henry doing the same thing to two teams (sorry, not sorry, 2015 Florida).
That's the worst part about a 12-1 season with wins over Michigan and Notre Dame - this season was one of the most successful Buckeye seasons ever. And it will likely go down in Buckeye lore as a season of missed opportunities. So to start the offseason, spend some time preparing yourself for the long wait until last year no longer matters. And in the meantime, feel free to watch this as much as you want for the next few months.
Clemson could be really good again next year...probably.
Clemson showed a lot of fans a lot of things this year. A lot of the talk this morning, and for the foreseeable future, will be on how good next year's Clemson team can be. This is a team that almost out-shot Alabama on the biggest stage and could have, if not for, like, 17 huge plays on Alabama's part, won the game outright. Make no mistake, this was not Clemson-ing, per say. This was the best team on the field winning, fair and square.
Next year might be the year for Clemson. Their Heisman-contending quarterback, Deshaun Watson, is back. The defense, despite laying an egg on big plays to the best team in the country, is back in spades. The ACC is going to be better, sure, with Florida State hoping back on the national stage and all, among others. We at LGHL like Clemson ahead of all other takers (so, too, does ESPN).
The point here is that we've seen something like this before - 2015-2016 Ohio State. The only difference is that Ohio State won it's Championship. But Clemson is well positioned to make another deep run in 2016, and will probably top the preseason polls in a few months... just like Ohio State did last year. Stay humble, friends in the Southland. We've seen this movie, and it gets dicey if you're not careful.
What about the Buckeyes next year?
As linked above, we like the Buckeyes to start at 10 next year. That's a fair spot, considering where others have the Buckeyes. Various other outlets have Ohio State as high as 4th, and as low as 14th.
Oklahoma is getting a ton of early love, too (most have the Sooners at/around #3 or #4). So is Michigan (most have the Wolverines right near the Buckeyes, or above, with ESPN putting TTUN all the way up to #4). Ohio State must play Oklahoma on the road before Big Ten play, and will make road trips to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State in Big Ten play. Nebraska, Northwestern and Michigan come to Columbus. Make no mistake, the 2016 schedule should be harder, much harder, than last year's campaign.
We've talked about the many questions this Ohio State team will have to answer in the off-season, and how few of those answers are apparent right now. Most are leaning on Meyer's recruiting abilities to ensure more of a reload than rebuild in 2016, and there's certainly plenty of evidence in support of that point (Rivals says OSU has the sixth best class coming in; Scout says fourth). Enough to propel the Buckeyes into a preseason top-10 in a few months? Only time will tell.
Welcome to the offseason. We can all get through this together, I promise.