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Ohio State is suddenly flying under the radar in the Big Ten

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The Buckeyes are the No.5 ranked team in the AP Poll, but the talent on their team could take them much higher.

NCAA Football: Ohio State Spring Game Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“Regardless of what happens with Meyer, the floor of this team should be competing with anybody in the country on the field.”

-Dan Murphy, ESPN

With continuing uncertainty surrounding Urban Meyer’s status as head coach, it was no surprise that Ohio State dropped to the No. 5 spot in the AP Preseason Poll released today. However, with the perceived demotion, the Buckeyes find themselves in the position of flying under the radar with what is still a championship-caliber team. Especially given that Wisconsin snagged the No. 4 spot, Ohio State suddenly has far less of a target on its back in conference play in what remains a highly-competitive Big Ten.

Still, it remains that Ohio State has been without a head coach for three critical weeks in the offseason as the university conducts its investigation. How well-prepared the Buckeyes are heading into their week one matchup against Oregon State in Columbus now depends largely on the success of veteran assistant coaches and coordinators like Greg Schiano and Kevin Wilson. The fact that both have previous head coaching experience on their own should bode well for their respective units’ preparations.

As a result of the ongoing investigation, success may be redefined for this Ohio State team. Widely considered a future conference champion and playoff contender, the Buckeyes are now relegated to the second-highest ranked team in the Big Ten and questionable in terms of how they can leverage their on-field talent without Meyer to garner a playoff spot.

Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Wisconsin finds itself in a position to not only win the West for the third straight season, but to potentially take the conference title for the first time since 2012. The Badgers have appeared in three of the last four Big Ten Championship games, losing all three to opponents from the East. Penn State, meanwhile, looks to take advantage in the East--a feat that seems more favorable with home matchups against Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State.

“If he indeed starts there, he will follow Pat Elflein in 2016 and Billy Price in 2017 as guards who moved over to center.”

-Tim Bielik, Cleveland.com

With the departure of Billy Price this spring, Ohio State is once again in the position of needing to break in a new center. For the past two seasons, that void has been filled on an annual basis by a converted guard. The strategy has proved to be a successful one: Price and, previously, Pat Elflein won the Rimington Award as the nation’s top center in two consecutive seasons. Elflein started at center for 14 games during his rookie season with the Vikings. Price, as the 21st-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, looks to do the same in Cincinnati.

Now, it looks like the Buckeyes could be continuing in the same vein as Michael Jordan, who started at left guard for the past two seasons, has been working out as the first-team center. According to acting head coach Ryan Day, Jordan has been working in snaps at center during practice this week with fifth-year senior Brady Taylor, who backed up Price last season. Taylor, who was also Price’s roommate, seemed to be the heir apparent to the center position throughout spring practice. He has played in 29 games throughout his career and recorded a career-high 55 snaps against UNLV in 2017, but has obviously not had the chance to start, having played behind Elflein and Price.

Entering his true junior season, Jordan looks in many ways like Price, who built up a storied college career in Columbus. Like Price, Jordan has started every game since he began his true freshman season. After a strong sophomore campaign, Jordan was recognized with first-team All-Big Ten honors last season. Previously, Jordan was named a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America. He’s been solid at his guard spot, but the Buckeyes have other guards like Demetrius Knox and Branden Bowen to fill the role if Jordan should need to be moved fully over to the center spot.

“Both of them will play in the first game but Shawn will be the starter. Mike will have a chance to get his reps.”

-TCU head coach Gary Patterson, via Barrett Sallee, CBS Sports

With the start of college football less than two weeks away, TCU, Ohio State’s week three opponent, has announced its starting quarterback. As expected, head coach Gary Patterson named sophomore Shawn Robinson to the role over Penn transfer Michael Collins.

Robinson backed up Kenny Hill all of last season, throwing for 184 yards and three touchdowns in 2017. Importantly, much of Robinson’s total offense came when he started a game in place of Hill. In that outing, Robinson completed 6-of-17 passing for 85 yards and a touchdown against Texas Tech. He added 84 yards on the ground as well, demonstrating the rushing ability which made him the No. 6 dual-threat quarterback in the 2017 recruiting class.

Robinson will also have an additional two weeks to settle into his starting role, as the Horned Frogs face Southern and SMU in their first two games of the season. As a whole, expectations are high for TCU, which ranks No. 16 in the AP Preseason Poll released today. The Horned Frogs were expected to finish third in the Big 12 at the conference media days last month, behind only Oklahoma and West Virginia. TCU finished ninth in the AP Poll at the conclusion of the 2017 season, having defeated Stanford in the Alamo Bowl.

Patterson acknowledged that while Robinson had earned the starting role to open the season, he would play both Robinson and Collins during the season--including in the team’s first game. With this flexibility at quarterback, the starter could conceivably change by the time the Horned Frogs take on Ohio State Sept. 15. Collins transferred from Penn following the 2017 season, despite being widely expected to take over the starting role from Alek Torgersen following the latter’s graduation. Collins played in four games as a backup, completing two passes for 17 yards in one season.

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