Tag Archives: Dontre Wilson

Five Bold Predictions for Ohio State in 2016

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.

Email Mark at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @msilverman25.


Predicted: New Year’s Six and the College Football Playoff National Championship

This is the third and final part of my 2016 College Football Preview. The picks in this article directly reflect my first and second article, so check those out before reading this one.

Orange Bowl (ACC vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND) 12/31/16

Miami (9-4) vs. LSU (10-2)

The Matchup: Miami will get the automatic ACC bid, as the Hurricanes are the best ACC team not in the CFP. LSU squeezes its way into the New Year’s Six over the likes of Notre Dame, the second team in line who just misses the New Year’s Six due to their indecisiveness at the QB position early in the season, which cost a few games. Other teams who are in the hunt for the Tigers’ Orange Bowl spot are Michigan State, Ole Miss and Arkansas, but none of them finish over 9-3.

The Game: This is Leonard Fournette’s final game in an LSU jersey. He will eat up the Miami defense, which will have to deal with a bit of Les Miles madness. LSU will come out passing early and often, as the Miami defense gets weaker the further away from the line of scrimmage you go. Once the Tigers expose Miami’s pass defense, LSU will catch the Hurricanes on their heels by simply letting Fournette run over the competition. Fournette’s early season injury may keep him out of the Heisman Race, but he will sure look like a Heisman winner after this game is all said and done. LSU will simply put up too many points for the Hurricanes to keep up with.

Final Score: LSU Tigers 38 – Miami Hurricanes 20

Cotton Bowl (At-Large vs. At-Large) 1/2/17

Michigan (11-1) vs. UH (12-1)

The Matchup: Michigan is not happy to be here. The Wolverines believe that it belongs in the CFP. However, it ends up playing in Dallas facing off against a Houston Cougars squad whose excitement to be in this spotlight inversely mirrors the Wolverines.

The Game: The team’s respective enthusiasm for this particular game reflects into the matchup’s first half to a large degree. Michigan comes out uninterested and sluggish, which a Greg Ward, AAC player of the Year, powered Cougar offense heavily exploits. The First Half ends with the Cougars up 14-10. The Wolverines swing back in the second half, and take a three-point lead over UH with just over a minute left in the game. Greg Ward leads a final charge down the field into the red zone with time winding down. However, after two incomplete passes, Jabrill Peppers fools Ward, after Peppers fakes a blitz before dropping back into coverage. The strong Wolverine defensive line forces Ward to rush a decision, and he overlooks Peppers before throwing a pass which Peppers intercepts.

Final Score: Michigan Wolverines 41 – Houston Cougars 38

Rose Bowl (Big Ten vs. Pac-12) 1/2/17

Iowa (9-4) vs. Stanford (11-2)

The Matchup: Iowa, who lost the Big Ten championship to Ohio State, gets the automatic Rose Bowl bid. Stanford, meanwhile, wins the Pac-12 and because no Pac-12 team gets into the CFP, are the other automatic bid, which makes the 2017 Rose Bowl an identical matchup to the 2016 game.

The Game:  This game will have a similar outcome as the matchup the previous year. Stanford will let Christian McCaffrey run free, and he will single-handedly slaughter Iowa. Iowa, in all honesty, does not belong in the Rose Bowl, and once again, the game’s result shows that. This one is not even close.

Final Score: Stanford Cardinal 31 – Iowa Hawkeyes 6

Sugar Bowl (Big 12 vs. SEC) 1/2/17

TCU (10-2) vs. Tennessee (10-3)

The Matchup: I’m going to be honest. Even though I picked them to be here, I would be surprised if Tennessee can win the SEC East and get the automatic bowl berth. The Volunteers’ inconsistency over the last several years makes I hard to believe that it can string together a solid season and take the East over Georgia and Florida. But, that’s what my mind believed when I wrote last week’s prediction article, so here we are. If the Volunteers manage to make it to the Sugar Bowl, it will face off against TCU, winners of the lackluster Big 12.

The Game: Despite the fact that I don’t think it will make it to this game, I think the SEC will prove too much for TCU. Tennessee, behind powerhouse running back Jalen Hurd and a Joshua Dobbs who develops into a great passer throughout the season, are able to out muster the Horned Frogs offensively. Tennessee’ defense, which nine starters, will shut down the Horned Frogs’ offense. This will be a defensive battle between these two teams, but the Volunteers prevail.

Final Score: Tennessee Volunteers 24 – TCU Horned Frogs 17

Peach Bowl (College Football Playoff Semifinal)  12/31/16

#1 Ohio State (13-0) vs. #4 FSU (11-1)

The Matchup: Ohio State, still riding off “The Game of the Century” Part 2, in which the Buckeyes beat #2 ranked Michigan, gets the #1 overall seed for the third annual College Football Playoff. FSU, meanwhile, campaigns hard for its spot, which the Seminoles fight Michigan, Stanford, TCU and Houston for. However, dominating wins late in the season after a close defeat to Clemson allow FSU to squeeze into its second College Football Playoff appearance.

The Game: Lead by recently crowned Heisman Trophy winner, J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes get off to a quick start, scoring quickly on a pass over the middle against the weakest part of the Seminole defense. However, the Buckeyes’ inexperienced defense will struggle to do anything to stop the Dalvin Cook Seminole offense, and FSU goes up by 10 heading into halftime. Coming out of the half, Dontre Wilson brings the kickoff all the way back for a touchdown, making the Buckeyes deficit only three. Both defenses then hunker down, with the likes of Raekwon McMillan and DeMarcus Walker dominating for the Buckeyes and Seminoles respectively. Late in the 4th, J.T. Barrett leads Ohio State down the field, but Urban Meyer has to settle for a field goal. However, with two minutes to work with, Dalvin Cook is able to take his time and rush the Seminoles into Field Goal position with only a few ticks left. Ricky Aguayo gets a perfect hold ad knocks home a 52-yard field goal as time expires to allow the Seminoles to win.

Final Score: Florida State Seminoles 23 – Ohio State Buckeyes 20

Fiesta Bowl (College Football Playoff Semifinal) 12/31/16

#2 Clemson (13-0) vs. #3 Alabama (12-1)

The Matchup: Winners of the ACC and SEC respectively, Clemson and Alabama both come off monster season to qualify as the middle seeds for the College Football Playoff. Heisman runner-up Deshaun Watson, Clemson finished undefeated, while Alabama’s only loss came to Ole Miss early in the season.

The Game: This game will ultimately come down to Clemson’s offense vs. Alabama’s defense. The Alabama offense will struggle with Cooper Bateman at the helm, but Clemson’s defense will not be nearly as dominant as years past, allowing the Crimson Tide to find holes to score both on the ground and in the air. However, the issue for Alabama is that Clemson’s offense simply has too many pieces, as if the passing game to wide outs Mike Williams and Artavis Scott struggles, Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman, both of whom were 1000 yard rushers in 2015, can simply push Alabama back behind the Tigers’ O-Line. Though Alabama remains in the game in the first half, Clemson comes out firing in the second and breaks the game wide open. Alabama, though talented, won’t have an answer for Clemson, and the Tigers win the game by a fairly wide margin. The Crimson Tide’s shot at returning to the College Football National Championship is cut one game short.

Final Score: Clemson Tigers 45 – Alabama Crimson Tide 24

 College Football Playoff National Championship 1/9/16 (Tampa, FL)

#2 Clemson Tigers (14-0) vs. #4 Florida State Seminoles (12-1)

The Game: This game is going to be a rematch of possibly the best offensive matchup of the 2016 season. Earlier, Clemson beat out FSU in Tallahassee, and that is why the Tigers remained undefeated the entire year. The National Championship, featuring two teams less located less than 600 miles from the game’s location, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, will be an offensive bout the likes of which we haven’t seen in man years. While both teams have competent defenses, Clemson and FSU will look to win the National Championship with offensive firepower. This game will actually not be as much of a nail-biter as their first matchup, as Deshaun Watson, in his second straight title game, will come out firing on all cylinders. FSU will stay in the game, but the Clemson offense will prove to be too much, and keep a constant lead over the Seminoles the entire game. The Clemson Tigers will have its first National Title since 1981.

Final Score: Clemson Tigers 48 – Florida State 35

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

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Image Courtesy of Counse – Flickr

What the Loss of Bri’onte Dunn means for Ohio State

With less than two months until the start of a new college football season, the Ohio State Buckeyes will enter yet another season with a loss before they even play a snap.

Two summers ago, it was the Braxton Miller shoulder injury during preseason camp. It was Urban Meyer’s worse nightmare, the injury would end Miller’s season and thrust an inexperienced J.T. Barrett into a prominent role as quarterback at Ohio State.

Last offseason, the Buckeyes also entered the season shorthanded, this time however due to self inflicted wounds.

The Buckeyes entered the season without Joey Bosa, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith, and Dontre Wilson for what the team called “violating athletic department policy.”

Reasons on why the players were actually suspended began to surface soon thereafter.

As the Buckeyes close in on preseason camp for the 2016-17 season, more bad news came on Monday as it was announced that redshirt senior running back Bri’onte Dunn had been dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules.

Dunn, who was about to play his last season as a Buckeye was a four-star recruit (according to 247sports.com) out of Glen Oak high school in Canton, Ohio.

After sitting behind Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott for his entire career at Ohio State, Dunn finally had an opportunity to fight for the starting job.

But with this latest development, Dunn’s chances of riding out in the sunset in his last year in Columbus came to an end.

A 911 call from an alleged girlfriend of Dunn stated that the former Ohio State football player had choked and hit her.

With Dunn essentially ending his career early, that leaves just a few options for Urban Meyer’s squad.

Without Dunn in the fold, the Buckeyes are down to just two scholarship running backs in redshirt sophomore Michael Weber, and true freshman Antonio Williams who enrolled early in January.

Weber, is a Detroit native who Urban Meyer fought tooth and nail with Jim Harbaugh and Michigan to earn his commitment.

Weber has the talent to the take the starting job and run with it in his second season in Columbus, but after sitting out last season due to injury it remains to be seen just how good Weber can truly be.

What Weber does have as far as talent, he lacks in experience. This is where the loss of Dunn really hurts the Buckeyes. Although he didn’t have much actual game experience, having a player who’s been through it all with the program could certainly help.

Ohio State went through a similar transition at running back two years ago after losing Carlos Hyde to the NFL.

Little did we know back then just how good his successor, Ezekiel Elliott would end up being.

However, Elliott didn’t start strong out of the gates during his first season as the starter as a true sophomore.

During the first three games of that 2014 season, Elliott posted rushing totals of just 44, 32, and 65 yards rushing against Navy, Virginia Tech, and Kent State respectively.

As well as Zeke would go on to play the rest of that national championship season, it didn’t necessarily start that way.

Here lies the dilemma for this season’s Ohio State squad, will Weber be ready to be that feature back from the start, or will he need time to get his feet wet?

Weber won’t be afforded much time to adjust to the college game as the Buckeyes travel to Oklahoma to face Bob Stoops and a very good Sooners squad the third game of the season.

True Freshman Antonio Williams has a bright future at Ohio State, and will battle Weber for carries. But they can’t expect him to grab the starting job and run with it as a first year player.

Junior h-back Curtis Samuel just may be the most intriguing option for Ohio State at running back this season.

Samuel played his first season primarily at running back, rushing for 383 yards and six touchdowns. He spent much of last season splitting time at the h-back position with the aforementioned Braxton Miller.

Samuals made plays when they were there for him, but there weren’t many opportunities to go around with the number of playmakers on last year’s offense.

Samuel has blazing speed, one of the fastest players on the Ohio State roster. Urban Meyer has stressed getting the ball in the hands of his playmaking junior and the loss of Dunn gives him even more opportunity to do so.

Although Samuel stresses that he will do what’s best for the team when it comes playing either receiver or running back, he seems much more comfortable in the backfield and given the opportunity is a candidate for a breakout season.

Losing members of your team is never ideal, whether it be to injury or other. However, it’s next man up for Urban Meyer and company, and the past few seasons have prepared them for this exact moment.

E-Mail Derek at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @D_Woods21.

New Year’s Day Bowl Games (and a playoff upset)

126 days. That’s how long it has been since Texas A&M and South Carolina kicked off the most anticipated season in college football history. 126 days college football fans had to wait for New Year’s Day and the first ever college football playoff. The countdown has reached zero. So who’s going to emerge from tonight’s Oregon/Florida State and Alabama/Ohio State match ups with one more game left to play? There are a couple good table-setters before the Rose Bowl kicks off, so I’ll get to those first.

Auburn vs. Wisconsin
The SEC West hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in their bowl games thus far. Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and LSU have all lost while the rest of the division hangs their hats on wins over Texas and West Virginia. That won’t affect my opinion on this game though. Auburn has similar talent and style as the Ohio State team that ambushed the Badgers in the Big 10 Championship game. Wisconsin has played well in recent games against SEC schools, but I don’t think they’ll have enough today. The Badgers should find success running the ball against Auburn’s defense but Auburn has too much offensive firepower for Bucky to keep up. Chalk one up for the SEC West. Auburn wins 37-27

Missouri vs. Minnesota
Minnesota had a nice year, but a nice year in the Big 10 doesn’t equate to success against the SEC East champ. Minnesota can’t pass the ball, so Missouri will be able to stack the box and limit the Gophers rushing attack. When Minnesota does try to pass, Mitch Leidner will be harassed by a pass rush that accounted for the 8th most sacks in the country this year. Maty Mauk and Russell Hansbrough will both have good games and give the Tigers momentum going into 2015 where they’ll try for their 3rd consecutive SEC East crown. Missouri takes it 27-13

Baylor vs. Michigan State
This game could be just as good as the two playoff games played later in the day. Michigan State comes in with their only losses to playoff teams. Baylor comes in thinking they should be starting their game a few hours later. That’s the biggest question for this game. Will Baylor be motivated? TCU clearly wanted to prove that they should have been a playoff team. With the way Baylor players and coach Art Briles reacted after getting left out, I’m not sure if they’ll have the same “Prove It” desire that TCU showed or if they’ll look like they don’t want to be there. As far as on the field, both teams can put up points and Michigan State’s defense got lit up by the two playoff teams in played. I expect a shootout, and I think the Spartans are able to get a couple more stops than Baylor. Michigan State 45, Baylor 31

Oregon vs. Florida State
It’s pretty amazing that an Alabama-Ohio State playoff game isn’t the most anticipated game of the day. But that’s what happens when you get two good offenses and two Heisman winners squaring off in Pasadena. Everyone will focus on Florida State’s close calls throughout the season which is fair, but Oregon hasn’t been tested much this season. They pulled away in the second half of the Pac-12 Championship Game against Arizona but their offense wasn’t exactly on all cylinders in the first half. Before that, they had wins over a Utah team that was 2-3 down the stretch, and a UCLA team they always dominate surrounded by a bunch of Pac-12 teams that weren’t that good.

Then there’s Florida State who barely won a bunch of games against ACC teams that weren’t that good. But that win against Georgia Tech in the conference championship looks pretty good when you look at what the Yellow Jackets did at the end of the year against Clemson, Georgia, and Mississippi State. I expect the high scoring game that many others do. You can throw on Florida State’s defense so 2014 Heisman winner Marcus Mariota should have a good game. Though Jameis Winston has struggled with decision making this year, I think having the scandals more or less behind him and a few weeks mostly out of the spotlight will help immensely. Add that to an Oregon pass defense that is 103rd in the nation and the 2013 Heisman winner should have a field day, especially with Oregon’s best corner out. The Ducks are a really good team, but Florida State has more future 1st rounders on D than Oregon has seen this year and the Seminoles have been here before. The Seminoles make their second consecutive championship game appearance, beating the Ducks 41-33.

Alabama vs. Ohio State
The night cap features two traditional powers who have top notch talent and probably the two most successful coaches of the last decade. This won’t be the shootout that the other playoff game is, but it won’t exactly be a slugfest either. Before Ohio State’s demolition of Wisconsin, they gave up at least 24 points in their previous four games, including match ups with Indiana and Michigan. Alabama’s offense is much more dynamic than in previous years and they should be able to run the ball against an Ohio State rush defense that is solid but not great, ranking 33rd in the country. On the contrary, Ohio State won’t be able to run the ball on Alabama from traditional sets. They’ll need Cardale Jones to keep defense honest on options and use Dontre Wilson’s speed to hit Alabama on the edges.

That means Cardale Jones is going to have to play big in the passing game for Ohio State to pull off the upset. There’s a lot more pressure here than in the Big 10 Championship game when the Buckeyes got up big early and coasted for three quarters. Though this is Blake Sims only year as a starter, he’s still a senior and should be better equipped for what Urban Meyer throws at him than what Nick Saban has cooked up for the Buckeyes’ sophomore quarterback making his second start. Having a somewhat home-field advantage will also help the Tide. Cardale Jones will hit some big plays in the passing game, but it won’t be enough. Alabama survives, 31-23

Pre-Season Top 25: 1-5

With only a week and a half until the season finally gets underway, it’s time to unveil the year’s heavy hitters. These are the best teams heading into the season. Schedules, avoiding upsets, and dealing with expectations will determine if these squads will be successful in navigating their way to a college football playoff berth. My thinking is that only two of these five will likely make it. Check back next Monday when I tell you which two teams those will be and who from outside the Top 5 will be joining them.
5. South Carolina
South Carolina has become one of the most consistent programs under Steve Spurrier. With eight offensive starters back this year they should find similar success. Though they will head into the year with a new starter at quarterback, Dylan Thompson has plenty of game experience in the last few years and is in his fifth year in the program. Playmaker Bruce Ellington will now be playing WR on Sundays, but Thompson will have the Gamecocks’ next nine top pass catchers back from a year ago. He won’t need to do much throwing though with an offense that will rely heavily on stud RB Mike Davis and an experienced offensive line, one that is one of the ten best in the country. The other side of the ball is a little more bleak. South Carolina will break in new starters at both DE and CB spots. Having both safeties back will make sure the pass defense doesn’t fall to sieve levels. Additionally, year after year the defense has been solid, giving up more than 20 ppg only once in the last half decade. The Gamecocks have won double digit games each of the last three seasons and are a good bet to make it four.
4. Oregon
For the Ducks, it all starts with Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota. The offense was rolling last year until he got injured, and who knows if they would’ve stayed undefeated had he not gotten hurt. Mariota will have to hope new receivers step up as the Ducks will not have four of the top five guys from a year ago. Regardless, Oregon should have no problem lighting up the scoreboard as usual with the help of a dynamite run game. Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner form a running back duo that will continue the success Oregon’s backs have had the previous half decade. Paving the way will be an offensive line that returns four starters and should be dominant, even with the recent loss of starting LT Tyler Johnstone. As far as stopping the other team, it will be interesting to see how the Duck defense performs. They have elite players in returning leading tackler Derrick Malone and potential Top 10 pick Ifo Ekpre-Olomu at corner, but it will be how the others on the unit perform that will determine if Mariota needs to continue putting up points or if he gets to watch from the sidelines most fourth quarters. While it seems like Stanford has Oregon’s number after winning the last couple matchups, the Ducks actually beat the Cardinal by 20+ in the previous two games when both teams were in the Top 10. They have to play fellow Top 10 team in UCLA on the road, but avoiding USC and Arizona State means Oregon will be in the thick of the playoff race until the end of the season.
3. Ohio State
I don’t think Ohio State is as complete of a team as the others in the Top 5, but when you have the impact players they do it makes up for a lot. Like Oregon, the Buckeyes season hopes start and end with a Heisman candidate QB. Braxton Miller has improved every year at OSU and comes into the year after accounting for 36 touchdowns last season and over 1,000 yards rushing. Miller will need to help out on the ground game early in the year as the Buckeyes find a consistent replacement for Carlos Hyde, but I think Urban Meyer would feel better if Miller decreased his rushing attempts drastically over the course of the whole year to make sure he stays healthy. Playmaker Dontre Wilson should be a bigger part of the offense this year and take some of that pressure off of Braxton Miller. The only worry might be an offensive line that breaks in four new starters. There shouldn’t be a ton to worry about on the defensive side. The pass defense could be a concern, but with a front seven that should be dominant that won’t be as big of an issue. The Buckeyes will roll out the best defensive line in the country, even with Noah Spence starting the year serving a three game suspension. And though they did lose first round pick Ryan Shazier, when was the last time Ohio State didn’t have another NFL caliber linebacker to replace the most recently departed one? Even with back to back losses to end last year, the Buckeyes have found themselves ranked in the Top 10 for 20 consecutive weeks, and will continue to add to that total for most, if not the whole season
2. Alabama
Alabama seems to be the most consistently top ranked team after consensus #1 Florida State, so I tried to think of reasons not to follow that trend. Clearly I didn’t find enough. I can understand the argument about Bama breaking in a new quarterback; I just don’t think it matters. Whether Jacob Coker or Blake Sims wins the job, the Crimson Tide have so much talent on offense that even a “Blaine Gabbert on the Jaguars” type of performance can’t stop them from scoring points. Arguably the best group of running backs in the country (TJ Yeldon, Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake would all be Heisman contenders if given 250 carries) will run behind an offensive line that returns three starters along with 5 star T Cameron Robinson. All the QBs have to do is get the ball to a talented group of pass catchers that includes future pros in Amari Cooper and OJ Howard. There are a few more question marks on defense. A’Shawn Robinson, Trey DePriest, and Landon Collins give the Tide an elite player at each level, but will that translate to a great defense overall? I lean towards yes. No matter who Alabama has lost to the NFL, Nick Saban has trotted out a defense that hasn’t given up more than 14 ppg since Tim Tebow won the Heisman (2007). The pass defense may not be up to Saban’s standards but fortunately for the Tide, they won’t play anyone in the regular season whose offense is led by a dynamic passing attack.
1. Florida State
The defense loses some of their top tacklers, a team with a great corner could shut down the Seminoles passing attack which has only one standout wide receiver (Rashad Greene), and the running game is relying on a player who didn’t start last year at running back and had only 91 carries. Those are the only potential reasons Florida State could struggle this year, and even those seem far-fetched. That running back, Karlos Williams, will likely do just fine after averaging over 8 ypc carry and 11 TDs last year. Any worries about workload are mitigated by Williams’ history (came to FSU as a hard-hitting safety) and the impact incoming 5 star RB Dalvin Cook could have. As far as the passing game, history has told us that Heisman winning, number one pick caliber quarterbacks can keep an offense humming no matter who’s catching passes. Jameis Winston will have all day to throw behind an offensive line that returns four starters back including two All-Americans. And the defense? Though it does lose some key leadership from last year, they have talent on D that would make SEC coaches drool. Mario Edwards Jr and Eddie Goldman are just two of many five star talents, both on the defensive line. The back seven is lead by Ronald Darby, PJ Williams, and Jalen Ramsey who help form maybe the best defensive backfield in the nation. The Seminoles even return Lou Groza Award winner Roberto Aguayo to knock home field goals. Florida State may fall short of winning back to back championships, but they are the clear favorite heading into the season.