It’s officially game-week.
Ohio State is just five days away from its season-opener with Bowling Green, and the Buckeyes will finally get a chance to put their inexperience to the test. With so many new faces on both sides of the ball (16 to be exact), what are the realistic expectations for Ohio State this upcoming season? Realistic or not, here are five bold predictions for the Scarlet and Gray in 2016:
1. Dontre Wilson plays an effective, injury-free senior season.
When Wilson signed with Ohio State after decommitting from Oregon in the winter of 2013, he was supposed to have been the missing piece to head coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense. Ever since Wilson stepped foot in Columbus, the senior has drawn comparisons to the former hybrid-sensation Percy Harvin, who was nothing short of electric and helped Meyer win two national titles at Florida.
Unfortunately, an undersized body and a broken foot has derailed the career of Wilson to this point. However, I believe that Wilson has one shining season in store for Ohio State fans.
Wilson is just one of a handful of seniors for the 2016 Buckeyes and his leadership will be vital, especially for such a young group. More importantly, Wilson is finally healthy and is ready to show Buckeye Nation what all the fuss was about when he was recruited four years ago.
2. Mike Weber will rush for 1,000 yards.
History says that Weber probably won’t come close to rushing for 1,000 yards in 2016. Maurice Clarett is the only Ohio State running back of the modern era to clear 1,000 yards as a freshman. H-back Curtis Samuel should also see a fair share of carries, especially since Meyer labeled Samuel as the most “explosive” player in camp. So why Mike Weber?
Weber, barring injury, will be playing on Sundays in a few years and could easily be the next Carlos Hyde, or better. It’s not often a freshman receives the type of workload and opportunities that Weber will. While Samuel and Wilson may take carries away from Weber, the heralded running back from Detroit has a chance to get his Buckeye career off to a record-breaking start. Like the majority of players that will suit up for Ohio State this season, Weber is inexperienced but possesses the talent to be a special player.
3. J.T. Barrett will be a Heisman finalist.
Barrett will need to be for Ohio State to make it back to the College Football Playoff. He put the Buckeyes in position to eventually secure the 2014 national championship and also finished fifth in the final Heisman tally as a redshirt freshman. He relieved Cardale Jones midway through the 2015 season because he was simply better and consistently found the endzone, especially when the team was inside the red zone.
Barrett has already proven he is one of the top quarterbacks in the country and with an offense littered with baby Buckeyes, he is both the unquestioned playmaker and leader of the team. With Ezekiel Elliott’s ridiculous running and blocking ability now a part of the NFL, Barrett’s passing numbers and attempts will surely be increased.
It was only a year ago that the Ohio State quarterback position was anything but solidified with both Barrett and Jones looking over their shoulders. Now, Barrett knows he is the man and can put these Buckeyes on his back and carry them all the way to New York.
4. Ohio State remains unblemished in away games under Meyer.
If the Buckeyes are able turn their record in true road games under Meyer from 19-0 to 24-0, it will be quite a feat. In addition to Wisconsin and Maryland, the Buckeyes would need to be victorious in contests at Penn State and Michigan State and of course, in Norman against Oklahoma in just the third game of the season.
Whether it’s a white-out under the lights or not, Penn State isn’t quite ready to be mentioned among the Big Ten’s elite. Michigan State will be inexperienced and in a bit of a rebuilding mode. That’s not to say both won’t be tough games, because they will be. Concerning Oklahoma, a victory in this setting in the early stages of the season will be a tall order. However, Meyer is unquestionably at his best as an underdog. With Meyer and Barrett calling the shots, I’ll take my chances against any team in the country. At the end of a fall Saturday when the Buckeyes pull off those white jerseys, it’s victory for the Scarlet and Gray.
5. Ohio State supplants Alabama as college football’s current dynasty.
Meyer has a chance to be the first coach in the history of college football to win multiple national championships at two different schools. He captured BCS championships while at Florida in 2006 (as Buckeye fans sorely remember) and 2008. Expecting a national championship from this Ohio State team is a bit farfetched, I know. However, they won one a year early in 2014 so why not?
Meyer and the Buckeyes have compiled a 50-4 record over the last four seasons and are arguably a field goal against Michigan State away from aiming at a three-peat. Alabama head coach Nick Saban isn’t getting any younger and Meyer’s recruiting will have the Buckeyes chasing titles for years to come. Alabama appeared to have passed the torch to Ohio State two years ago when the Buckeyes stunningly defeated the Tide along with Oregon in the 2014 College Football Playoff.
The fact remains that Alabama returned the title to Tuscaloosa in 2015 and the Buckeyes failed to make it back to the playoff as prohibitive favorites. Although, there isn’t much to complain about with a Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame. It just may come down to another Ohio State-Alabama matchup in the playoff for not only a championship but program supremacy.
We’ve seen Meyer win two titles in three years while at Florida and there is no reason why 2016 won’t be the year he makes history and accomplishes the same feat at Ohio State. This time it will be a more permanent passing of the torch for the foreseeable future.
Let the games begin.