2014 Season Preview: Where Ohio State Fits into the B1G Race

By Patrick Maks on August 22, 2014 at 1:05p
Even without Braxton Miller, Ohio State still figures to do damage in the Big Ten.
46 Comments
Eleven Warriors' 2014 Ohio State Football Season Preview

In less than 24 hours, Ohio State went from favorites to fringe contenders to make the inaugural college football playoff.

But even with senior quarterback Braxton Miller's season-ending shoulder injury, the Buckeyes seem to have the inside track to the Big Ten championship.

Because even without its best player, coach Urban Meyer's squad is supposedly brimming with talent on both sides of the ball. Couple that with a relatively easy schedule and a watered-down conference and you've got why Ohio State may very well hoist a trophy inside of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in December. 

BEASTS OF THE EAST

Ohio State's path to its first league title under Meyer starts with what looks to be the loaded Big Ten East. At the conference's Media Days in Chicago in late July, Meyer called the division one of most-competitive in the country. 

“It’s one of the toughest divisions in college football,” he said.

It's why the Buckeyes, especially without Miller at the helm, are favorites to win the league -- not locks. 

“I hope that happens, but that’s a tough road. It’s a rugged conference. We’re going to do our best to be prepared for it.”

Most notably in Ohio State's path is defending champion Michigan State, which knocked the Buckeyes off in the Big Ten Championship Game last year and snapped their 24-game winning streak.  The two schools are set for a rematch in East Lansing in early November under the lights. This was going to be a challenging game for Ohio State before Miller's absence. Without him, this is probably its biggest hurdle during the regular season.

If you want to look at it glass half-empty, the Spartans and that vaunted defense are going to fluster redshirt freshman J.T Barrettt and an offense that doesn't have Carlos Hyde, four starting offensive lineman, and Corey "Philly" Brown as supporting cast members. On the contrary, playing Michigan State toward the end of the season gives the Buckeyes time to gel and build a level of offensive cohesion that it likely won't have for the first month of play. 

Also, a nighttime trip to Penn State also could trip Ohio State up considering the weird things that tend to happen in State College under the lights. While the Nittany Lions still have notable personnel holes to fill and lack the depth to compete for a Big Ten title, they're going to be jacked up for this game. And with first-year coach James Franklin, who's infused what seemed to be a previously lost sense of excitement surrounding the program, Penn State has all the motivation in the world to upset Ohio State in late October. 

There's also that big game or whatever against Michigan that tends to get people in Columbus riled up for some reason. Though Brady Hoke's squad doesn't look like it'll be much of a contender this season, the Wolverines always pose a real threat to play spoiler and vice versa. If this game was in Ann Arbor, I think the Buckeyes would have a real shot at getting upset (after all, it almost happened last season). But it's really hard to imagine a Michigan team dealing with so much turmoil coming to Ohio Stadium and taking down Ohio State in Columbus. 

The rest of the East -- Maryland, Rutgers and Indiana -- shouldn't pose much of a threat to a Buckeye team that'll overmatch them athletically. 

best of the west

The favorites in the West are Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa. By some scheduling wonder, Ohio State plays none of them. 

The Badgers, which have become one of the biggest conference rivals for the Buckeyes, look to have the inside track in coach Gary Andersen's second year in Madison. It doesn't hurt, either, the West seems to be less competitive of the two Big Ten divisions. But don't tell Andersen that. 

"We’re all going to put our helmets on and go out on play. That will define this year’s teams. So to sit here now and say this division is this and this division is that based off traditions of a school, I don't buy that," he said at Big Ten Media Days. "There’s tremendous tradition on both sides. We’ll all fight it out in the defining moment and we’ll see who’s who." 

Nebraska and Iowa will challenge for the division title, too. The Cornhuskers have the talent to compete with any team in the conference, though fans in Lincoln have grown restless with coach Bo Pelini, whose sideline and press conference tantrums have gotten more play than any on-field action. Pelini's been successful, but he's failed to meet the sky-high expectations of the program's faithful. This year could be different if the Huskers can get past Michigan State and a non-conference bout against the Miami Hurricanes.

Iowa, which wasn't a pushover last season, finds itself with a veteran-laden group that should be able to make noise with a relatively easy schedule. Its hardest game of the year arguably doesn't come until a season-finale agains Nebraska. 

2014 OUTLOOK

Before he ever got hurt, the 2014 season seemed like it'd hinge on Miller, a Heisman candidate and the back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year. 

Without him, the Buckeyes' chances among oddsmakers plummeted, home tickets sales have apparently seen a little, but noticeable, decrease, and national pundits near and far have written coach Urban Meyer's squad off. 

Honestly, it's pretty much impossible to write something without having to note Miller's glaring absence. The Buckeyes, while not doomed, face a considerable mountain to climb if they want to make good on a season that was supposed to be about redemption after coming undone last year. 

The Big Ten, however, remains very much winnable. Ohio State should be favored in just about every game it plays this season, sans for maybe the contest against Michigan State Games against Rutgers, Maryland and Illinois should be relatively easy wins for an Ohio State team that's going to be simply better on paper. The same goes for Penn State and Michigan, despite the natural intrigue those games offer. Really, the only team that looks like it could very legitimately knock the Buckeyes off is Mark Dantonio's squad. Even still, Ohio State probably has at worst a 40 percent chance of winning in Spartan Stadium. 

Again, glass half-empty: there are no guaranteed wins for the Buckeyes without Braxton Miller, which seems more or less true. Glass half-full: if Ohio State can get through its regular season relatively unscathed, it will have already played and potentially beaten the best team it'll play all season.

46 Comments

Comments

BrutusBuckey3's picture

We are still going to win the championship. 

+12 HS
BigKat45's picture

All I do is win, win, win, no matter what. - DJ Khaled

"Well-prepared players make plays. I have yet to be in a game where the most prepared team didn't win.” - Urban

+1 HS
Sleepy's picture

You realize Ohio State has vacated a B1G Championship more recently than they've won one?  It's something that obviously has nothing to do with 2014, but it's kinda amazing nonetheless.

whiskeyjuice's picture

You could also say that OSU has vacated more championships in the last decade than *ichigan has won,lol

"You'll find out that nothing that comes easy is worth a dime. As a matter of fact, I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face." -- Wayne Woodrow Hayes

+4 HS
Sleepy's picture

Yeah, man.  Realistically, best-case scenario for UM is contending for the B1G in three-ish years.  They're literally gonna go 15 to 20 years between titles, which is equally amazing.

+1 HS
Sicily of the 614's picture

I have faith. If we have gained more defensively than we lost offensively, we'll be just fine. Trust the coaches.

Nobody panic

+5 HS
nikolajz1's picture

I like being optimistic but I think people have had too much Kool-Aid this last week. There are gonna be a lot of growing pains in not having Hyde, Shazier, Braxton, Roby, and that awesome O-Line from last year. Plus a secondary isnt going to go from almost dead last in the nation to good over the course of a few months. 10-2 or 9-3 would be an incredibly successful season in my book and sets us up for a run next year. We should all just pump the brakes a little so we aren't disappointed when we struggle the first 4 weeks of the season with pretty much all new guys everywhere minus the D-Line. 

+5 HS
dwcbuckeye's picture

Not so fast my friend

Your points are valid, but I remain cautiously optimistic.  And I disagree that the secondary cannot improve dramatically.  Though mostly unproven, the buckeyes need to play to their potential and as a unit.  If they do that, I believe only a few teams in the country actually have more talent - and none of those in the B10

9-3 would be a disappointment to me and would indicate that the new starters didn't get it, didn't perform up their potential and/or the new defensive schemes did not work.  In the end, I would not be surprised if our margin of victory this year is equal to or greater than last year.  Perhaps down 5-7 points on Offense and maybe better by the same on defense.  Let's see  how this plays.  Will be exciting for sure

+10 HS
QBYBuckeye's picture

Because of the youth factor in the Ohio State line up, perhaps Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, and Penn State could be competitive games, but the one I am most worried about is Minnesota.

Having said that, I will be disappointed with anything less than an 11-1 regular season

New York Buckeye

+3 HS
Mortc15's picture

9-3 is incredibly successful to you? 

Sorry, but those are not the standards of the The Ohio State University football team or Coach Meyer's, with or without their best player. 

Buck-I4Life

jonping67's picture

I agree about a 9-3 record is not the standard at tOSU, but Braxton is not our best player.

Mortc15's picture

While I may agree with your argument depending on who you think it is, currently  two silver footballs say he is. 

Buck-I4Life

+1 HS
brbrbuckeye's picture

I'm thinking Joey Bosa, who are you thinking?

GO BUCKS!!! URBAN RENEWAL!

nrobinsonpe's picture

Why not get excited? I'm a Browns fan. I pump myself up every year knowing there may yet be a letdown.

+4 HS
Buckataltitude's picture

Why not get excited? I'm a Browns fan. I pump myself up every year knowing there may will be a let down.

I fixed that for you.

+6 HS
RKilbane20's picture

I'm sorry did you say "May be a letdown". Every year I go into the browns seasons hoping for a watchable team.  We get a nice win on saturday with the buckeyes then i just hope the browns put up more then 3-4 field goals a game.

Class of '14 & '16

brbrbuckeye's picture

The Browns just need some decent receivers, then they could be a decent team. Their defense is pretty solid.

GO BUCKS!!! URBAN RENEWAL!

Hovenaut's picture

Valid points, Nik.

Countering the downer.

I am not the Last Dragon, therefore I do not possess the power of the Glow.

ibuck's picture

I'm more for being cautiously optimistic than quaffing the B1G Championship or Playoff invite kool-aid. Let's see what our lads can do before anointing anyone or anything.

To me, it should be interesting to see a Meyer OSU team spread the ball around to a slew of playmakers rather than to over-rely on a freakishly gifted running QB (BM).

Still I want to see them play well, and for their record to reflect that. I have relatives who attended Navy, Va Tech and lots more who live in Cincinnati, and I'm not eager for razzing from them. Also I want to see OSU also do well vs teams from TSUN. And I'd like to see our fans support these youngsters no matter what. After all, we're not UM fans.

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

+1 HS
JBDizzle's picture

Call me crazy, but I actually have a lot of faith in this team. Go Bucks!

O-H!

brbrbuckeye's picture

It's not so crazy, we have one of the best DL's in the country. Just the schematics of the revamped D hasn't proven itself quit yet. But I did notice they were on all the receivers during the Spring game. We shall see.

GO BUCKS!!! URBAN RENEWAL!

Icouldnotgofor3's picture

Based on the limited film I've seen of Barrett, he seems to stay in the pocket more than Miller, and can pull it down and take off as well. I think he surprises people this year as he gets more reps and game experience. As to a relatively easy schedule, as alluded to in an earlier thread, OSU's schedule is #36 in the nation. That is the toughest schedule among the current top-5 in the AP poll. I like our chances to beat Sparty as well. That defense last year got hit HARD with graduation. Dantonio has good players, but you can't lose that much experience on defense and expect to perform at the same level as last season.

woodysyardmarker

+8 HS
QBYBuckeye's picture

"~~Couple that with a relatively easy schedule "

Relative to what?  As far as the B1G is concerned, it is not "relatively easy." Virginia Tech and Cincinnati  may not be Oregon or LSU, but they are both ranked in the top 25 by some pundits.  Michigan State is for real, and look out for Minnesota and Penn State on the road.  

New York Buckeye

+2 HS
brbrbuckeye's picture

Minnesota has a pretty good defense but their offense, not so much.

GO BUCKS!!! URBAN RENEWAL!

The Urban Legend's picture

If the team can pull it off this year there is absolutely nothing ESPN, the SEC or that hating ass friend everyone has can say to take away from their accomplishment. I didn't think I could possibly root harder for the Bucks but the injury to Braxton has put me into another gear. 

The Legend continues

+3 HS
Frimmel's picture

I've got that same feeling about another gear of rooting harder. While losing Brax is a big let down it seems to me it's provided an opportunity for something at least as special as what we hoped to see with Brax.

+1 HS
brbrbuckeye's picture

Hopefully it kicks the teams gear up as well.

GO BUCKS!!! URBAN RENEWAL!

tosubuckeye's picture

Watching last night's preseason NFL game, Eagles - Steelers, and what The Distributor (Nick Foles) did against the Steeler D, to me was a precursor of things to come for our own Buckeyes. Barrett will be asked to do the exact thing that Foles is doing. Correct reads by getting ball to your playmakers. I believe that J.T. is the perfect Urban qb for his type of offense. With an already strong defense and loads of playmakers on the O-side this will be another impactful season for us. GO BUCKS!!!!

tosubuckeye
 

+1 HS
causeicouldntgo43's picture

Good point on Foles role in Kelly's offense. Didn't Meyer and company go visit Chip Kelly and his staff sometime this year?  I thought they did, and this could pay big dividends.

Catfish Biff's picture

Without a Miller for defenses to prep for, they can focus on defending the other OSU weapons as well as confusing and overloading Barrett. 

Barrett will need to be consistent, able to read the defense well and not turn the ball over. Easier said than done but if he can do that, he'll put the Buckeyes in the best position to go far. This is assuming the defense ramps it up.

..Til' we wobble in our shoes!

+2 HS
robobuck's picture

I have a feeling that Barrett can and will make defences pay if they forget that he's was one of the highest rated dual threat QBs coming out of HS.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  1 Corinthians 9:24

Run_Fido_Run's picture

We also have to keep in mind that 2013 was pretty much a dream season for MSU - a very good program under Dantonio, but not a powerhouse. Since Dantonio arrived in East Lansing in 2007, MSU has had a 0.69 win percentage, which is good for 20th best in the country during that period.

I see 2014 MSU being roughly on par with their 2010 season (11-2, L in Capital One) and 2011 (11-3, W in Outback). They'll give the Buckeyes all they can handle in EL, but MSU should NOT be the Big Ten favorite.

+1 HS
brbrbuckeye's picture

Their defense won't be quite as good as last year but should be talented. Can't replace all that talent and expect them to be the same.

GO BUCKS!!! URBAN RENEWAL!

BuckAlum35's picture

As painful as it is to think about the 2011 season we had an opportunity to win every game we lost that season except probably the Miami game. That happened without Urban Meyer or his recruiting, Tom Herman as offensive coordinator and Joe Bauserman splitting carries with a Freshman Braxton Miller, who didn't know the playbook and was being coached by Siciliano and Boelman....I think we will be OK.

brbrbuckeye's picture

On the upside, if you sat in the stands during that season you had a chance to catch a ball that Bauserman threw.

GO BUCKS!!! URBAN RENEWAL!

brownie3553's picture

I said it when J.T. committed to theBuckeyes way back when. I think this kid is gonna be a star! Troy Smith kinda status.... I know it will be a rough process the first 3 - 5 games but I expect this kid to be lights out later in the year!!!

Live and Die by the Buckeyes!!!

-1 HS
brbrbuckeye's picture

I'll take raw talent over selfish play.

GO BUCKS!!! URBAN RENEWAL!

GVerrilli92's picture

I just want to see a slant route hit in stride.

It's been since Troy.

How many cheeseburgers are you gunna drive into that dirty old cheeseburger locker Brady Hoke?

+1 HS
HENRYJONESJR's picture

I know the loss of Miller is huge and some key losses on the line along with Hyde.  How can we claim we are a team that can compete for a NC if we can return 14 starters and the lose Miller and the season is over.   Alabama has only 12 returning starters and a new QB and they are still contenders on paper b/c of talent.  I am realistic, and there is no reason to believe we cannot have a great season.  Honestly - much better to have the new QB have the entire season vs. starting half way in and in the middle of the Big 10 conference games.   

Do not be a Negative Nancy.

+3 HS
ScarletNGrey01's picture

Braxton out, no Carlos Hyde, Philly Brown, a new OLine, and how much better is the defense really going to be?  A lot of exciting talent and I will scream my throat sore rooting for the bucks as I have the last 40 years, but winning the B1G seems like a bit of a long shot to me.  Would be exciting to see this team get better every game and the defense have a turn-around from the last couple of seasons for sure.  I guess losing Brax will make the season more of an exciting nail biter is one way to look at it.
 

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

+1 HS
tcm1968's picture

No idea how this is going to turn out but that schedule should help the W column. Probably 6-7 teams we could not pass once against and still win. Play it safe against Navy and VaTech and let JT get some confidence then turn him loose for five games before the big game at East Lansing. Go Bucks!

+1 HS
buckeye phi's picture

A little history refresher for ye of little faith.

Forty-six years ago, today - Ohio State's expectations weren't very high.  Sure, the roster was replete with talent from one of Woody's best ever recruiting classes - but they were only sophomores. (Freshmen weren't eligible to play in what was then referred to as Division 1 football so - ) Not one of them had played a down in college.

The new quarterback didn't have the strongest arm - but it was strong enough.  He didn't possess blazing speed - but he was fast enough.  What he did have was intelligence, accuracy, an uncanny ability to distribute the ball to his gifted playmakers and he was a natural leader.

The defense was young - but talented and hard hitting.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Nobody's necessarily suggesting that this year's team will meet with the same success as the famous "Super Sophs" of 1968 - or that J.T. Barrett will be the next Rex Kern - or that Von Bell will compare to Jack Tatum.  But there is a history of this sort of thing with the Buckeyes. 

By the way, none of the "experts" were expecting much from the 2002 team, either.

Ohio State's last two national championships were won by young-ish squads that had diminished expectations in late August.  Are the Buckeyes due for another?

Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement. - Will Rogers

+2 HS
Chark's picture

Just a reminder that there were no guaranteed wins with Braxton healthy. Yes, he's a human highlight reel and one of the most explosive players in all of college football, but the team last year had most of the offense in 2 guys, Miller and Hyde.

This year, I think there will be much better balance, leading to even higher scoring - especially on big plays from our playmakers that J.T. will be getting the ball to in open space.

This year, we will not have a sorry excuse for a secondary and 10 yard gimmees on every passing play. We barely stopped ttun with a 1-legged QB.

I expect this team to win all 15.

Alcohol will not solve any of your problems, but then again, neither will milk or water.

-1 HS
malbers1967's picture

Bucks win the B1G championship and lead the league in total offense and scoring defense.  Talent level in Cbus is significantly ahead of the balance of the B1G.  A lot of these youngsters will be playing on Sundays over the next few years...GO BUCKS!!

Malbers1967