Three Reasons Why Ohio State Will Make the College Football Playoff and Three Reasons the Buckeyes Won't

By Tim Shoemaker on August 28, 2016 at 7:45 am
Urban Meyer, Ezekiel Elliott hold up the CFP trophy in 2014.

Around this time of year, it's nearly impossible not to find and/or read preseason college football prediction stories. Well, this is another one of those.

Ohio State is six days away from its season opener against Bowling Green, but we're looking at the bigger picture today. We're talking College Football Playoff because, since it became a thing, that's pretty much what the expectation level is for the Buckeyes no matter the situation.

After a massive talent exodus, Ohio State will replace 16 starters for the upcoming season yet fans and most media outlets remain high on the Buckeyes. Ohio State recently came in at No. 5 in the Amway Coaches Poll and was No. 6 in the preseason Associated Press poll.

Those preseason expectations somewhat warrant the talk of a College Football Playoff appearance. Because of that, we've decided to break down reasons why the Buckeyes will and will not make a return to the CFP.

The two national semifinals this season are the Peach Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl. What follows are three reasons why Ohio State will play in either of those games, but also three reasons why it will not.

We begin with why the Buckeyes could return to the College Football Playoff:

1. Urban Meyer is one of college football's best coaches

He has four losses in four seasons at Ohio State (compared to 50 wins) and he's yet to lose a true road game. Meyer is also a three-time national champion coach with a proven track record as a guy who can lead an inexperienced team to the promise land. In fact, he did it just two years ago with the Buckeyes.

Meyer certainly has his work cut out for him this season with such a young group, but he and Alabama's Nick Saban are the top two in this profession so it'd be foolish to count either out of a season before it begins.

2. J.T. Barrett and Raekwon McMillan can be the best offensive and defensive player on the field in each game

This is used in basketball a lot — when you have the best player on the court you always have a chance — but it could apply to this Ohio State football team, as well. Both Barrett and McMillan are All-American candidates and every time the Buckeyes step on the field they will have a chance to win if each plays up to that superstar potential. It's especially important to have a player like Barrett, who plays the single most important position in all of sports.

3. There is more talent on Ohio State's roster than any other in the Big Ten

This is the biggest reason. Have you seen the Buckeyes' recruiting classes under Meyer? They've got some pretty highly-ranked players who have just been waiting for a year or two now behind a historic class. The majority of this roster is unproven at the collegiate level, but it's unquestionably talented.

Ohio State's 2014 recruiting class ranked third overall and had 10 players who were top-100 prospects. Only two of those players — Raekwon McMillan and Curtis Samuel — have seen any sort of significant playing time yet. The Buckeyes' 2015 class ranked seventh nationally and their 2016 class was No. 4 in the country.

So, yeah, this roster is pretty stacked.

Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan

On the other hand, there are a number of factors that could cause Ohio State to miss the College Football Playoff for a second-consecutive season. Here are three reasons why that could happen:

1. The inexperience factor is real

Yes, Ohio State is talented, but as we've said all along there's really no substitution for experience. The only way to get that is a player is to actually, you know, play in games and the Buckeyes have 44 (!) players on their roster who are yet to do that in college.

That inexperience could show at the beginning of the season and Ohio State could trip up at, let's say Oklahoma, and one more time shortly after that. Two losses in the first half of the season — or at any point, really — could be the reason why the Buckeyes miss the CFP.

2. Look at the schedule!

It's brutal, and it's easily the most difficult in Urban Meyer's tenure at Ohio State. The Buckeyes figure to have five key matchups on their 2016 slate — one non-conference game and four in Big Ten play — and four of those contests come on the road. Ohio State will take on Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State away from home while closing out the season with the annual rivalry game against Michigan at Ohio Stadium. That's a really, really tough draw for a young and inexperienced team.

3. The injury bug strikes

This is the wildcard for every team. Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game, but they do happen. You can't predict them and it's very difficult to prepare for an injury to any player, but in particular a star player. If the Buckeyes were to lose someone at a key position — Barrett, McMillan, Pat Elflein, etc. — it could be too much for them to overcome.

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