Big Ten College Football Preview – Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State finished 2017 with a 12-2 mark, 8-1 in the Big Ten, and 7-7 against the spread. Ohio State remains one of the most consistent powerhouses in college football, but one that tends to have one unforeseen let down game every year. Last year such a letdown occurred when beaten by 31 as 18 point favorites at Iowa. The year before it was a road loss as 19 point favorites at Penn State. Mentally opponents are highly motivated to play this program and upsets do occur. In the Buckeyes favor this season is a fairly manageable schedule. The out of conference games are quite weak, there is no regular season game against Wisconsin and the season finale against rival Michigan takes place in Columbus.

An offense that averaged 41.1 points per game last season returns 7 starters, including outstanding running back JK Dobbins who went for over 1,400 yards last season. His backup Mike Weber is also extremely effective going for 626 yards last season and double digit touchdowns. Starting Quarterback Dwayne Haskins is athletic, runs well, and has a huge arm. He was the backup as a freshman, led the comeback against Michigan in the regular season finale, and is the likely starter, although not completely settled in the Spring. Ohio State likes to spread passes to a deep stable of receivers, six of which got major looks last season.

The defensive unit with five returning starters is led by Nick Bosa who will be a star in the NFL in due time. He is expected to have double digit sacks and remain a major force on a strong line that will need to replace two starters. Other returnee Dre’mont Jones will also be a high NFL pick. Overall the defense lost five players to the NFL draft, the highest being corner Denzel Ward who went as the 4th pick in the first round. Overall, last year’s unit allowed 19 points per game, which was worse than the prior two seasons where the average was 15.1 and 15.5. Nevertheless, this unit is strong and the numbers are sometimes skewed by meaningless late game scores by opponents in blowouts.

The over/under season wins total for Ohio State is 10.5 and the odds to win the Big Ten is +100 or even money. Based on the talent level and weakness of schedule, we feel Ohio State is a very strong candidate to win 11 or 12 games. Even if Michigan can turn the tables for only the third time in 18 years, we feel Ohio State is likely going to run the table with the other games. If they are upset at Penn State, defeating Michigan once again will get to the 11 wins needed to cash on the bet. With respect to the Big Ten Championship, Ohio State is the most likely winner but even money is not enticing enough to recommend a play.

The season kicks off with a home game against Oregon State of the Pac 12. Oregon State finished 2017 with a 1-11 record and features a first year head coach with no Head Coaching experience. It will be a long time before Oregon State is relevant and we expect a minimum five touchdown home opening win by the Buckeyes. The line currently stands at 38, which feels about where we think the game will land.

Week #2 is a home game against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have not had a winning season since 2014, and finished last season 4-8. Rutgers is competitive against the bad teams in the Big Ten, but are usually blown out by the good ones. Ohio State won 56-0 in New Brunswick last season. Another blowout is likely this year, although the line is likely to be outrageous.

Week #3 is a neutral field game in Arlington against the TCU was 11-3 last season and was ranked as high as #4 at the midway point. They lose some key personnel including their starting quarterback. We expect TCU to be competitive, but slightly worse than last season. Ohio State will have a talent edge and two easy games prior to this one to get into a groove. We expect an Ohio State win in the 2 to 3 touchdown range. We will provide an update on how we will play this game when the Week 3 lines are posted.

Week #4 is a home game against Tulane. Tulane has not had a winning record in several years despite playing in a manageable conference. Tulane is not afraid of facing big programs, but last season they were defeated by over four touchdowns against Oklahoma. The offense shows up occasionally and brings back 9 returning starters, but they will likely be outclassed here and we expect an Ohio State win somewhere in the ballpark of 4 touchdowns.

The month of September concludes with the first major test of the season with a road game against Penn State. Penn State was a total of 4 points away from being undefeated last season with a 1 point loss at Ohio State and a 3 point loss at Michigan State. They will likely be a top 10 team that can score points, but also defend. The defensive lost 8 starters, which could be an issue early in the season. The offense returns 7 starters, including starting QB Trace McSorley who threw for over 3,500 yards last season. On the flip side, Penn State loses future NFL All-Pro Saquon Barkley who will be doing his running this season with the NY Giants.
That concludes the September preview for the Ohio State Buckeyes. There are high hopes in Columbus and we understand why. We will be back at the end of September with a recap of the first month and preview of the rest of the Big Ten schedule.

Pete Rinato