Preseason polls are something unique to college sports, especially so for college football. They're not worth the paper on which they're printed, but yet it seems fans (and media) can't get enough of them.
Ohio State's 2014 team is an interesting proposition for anybody looking to put together a preseason rankings. On one hand, the Buckeyes have the most talented roster in the Big Ten and a returning Heisman candidate. On the other, the secondary and receivers are largely unproven and their offensive line was decimated by graduations.
Mark Schlabach of ESPN ranked the Buckeyes seventh. Jon Cooper of SaturdayDownSouth ranked the Buckeyes sixth. CBS' Jerry Hinnen, way back in January, also pegged the Buckeyes as the sixth best team entering this season.
Ohio State opened Urban Meyer’s tenure 24-0, but the Buckeyes finished 2013 on a two-game losing streak. Despite the late-season losses, Ohio State is a slight favorite to win the Big Ten in 2014. Quarterback Braxton Miller returns after earning first-team All-Big Ten honors, and he will be surrounded by a talented group of skill players, including running back Ezekiel Elliott and receiver Devin Smith. The defense boasts the best line in college football, but the back seven is a concern. A trip to East Lansing in early November will play a huge role in determining the Big Ten’s East Division champion.
On one hand, Ohio State has too many unproven players, including several seniors with less-than-inspiring résumés. On the other, the roster is littered with raw athleticism and speed, which can cover up a lot of imperfections. Plus, the defensive line could be dynamite. This would appear to be a transition year if it weren’t for the fiery drive of Meyer and the unique talents of Miller. If the slick QB has a Heisman-like season, OSU likely will compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
I won't spoil the whole list, but here's their top reason for picking the Buckeyes at number three:
1. Improvement on defense
Despite losing linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Bradley Roby, Ohio State’s defense should improve off a disappointing 2013 season. The Buckeyes allowed 5.4 yards per play in Big Ten games and finished fifth in the league by allowing 24 points per game (Big Ten-only contests). Seven starters return for 2014, and this unit was bolstered by the addition of two new assistants. Larry Johnson Sr. comes to Ohio State from Penn State to tutor the defensive line, and Chris Ash was hired from Arkansas to serve as co-defensive coordinator. Although the Buckeyes didn’t have a vintage Ohio State defense last year, the returning talent and additions on the coaching staff suggest improvement is coming in 2014.
I agree, there isn't any reason to believe the Silver Bullets will be worse than they were last year. And even then, after losing veteran Christian Bryant, the Buckeyes came within a few minutes of the national title game.
If in-depth previews in May are your thing, Athlon definitely has you covered. There's even a podcast preview for your enjoyment as well.
And for what it's worth, Alabama and Florida State are the (likely) teams left for the top two spots in Athlon's ongoing release.