With Urban Meyer leading the charge, Ohio State once again finds itself near the top of the various preseason polls.
Despite the lofty expectations there are still a fair amount of questions and uncertainties so what conclusions can we draw in July about the upcoming season?
While I sure as hell don't know, I'm going to pretend I do and offer up five predictions anyway.
As the offseason continues dragging on like that bluehair navigating the Kroger self-checkout, I'm filling my Thursday slot bastardizing my postgame Five Things article with offshoots looking at various aspects of Buckeye football.
To date, I've hit the most ridiculous streaks of individual greatness, acrobatic receptions, crushing defeats, one-hit wonders, the baddest dudes to ever lace 'em up in Ohio Stadium, a power ranking of Buckeye anthems and most recently, I selected the Five Kings in OSU gridiron lore.
This week, I present Five Chings, aka five predictions for the 2017 season you can take the bank. (I mean, I wouldn't but you could.)
DEFENSE WILL BREAK SCHOOL RECORD OF 47 SACKS
Okay, so I'm starting off with a bit of a long shot considering it's not normal for a host of school records at a football factory like Ohio State to fall every year.
There's also the somewhat shocking stat that the Buckeye defense produced just 28 sacks a season ago. That mark stands as the worst during the Urban Meyer era, trailing the 2012 outfit's total of 30.
Despite last year's dismal output there's obviously a few reasons Ohio State could threaten the school record. Those reasons include: Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes, Nick Bosa, Sam Hubbard and Jerome Baker.
Lewis seems almost like an afterthought among some fans and media even though he was the league's Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2016 and led the squad with eight sacks.
Holmes really came on toward the latter half of last season and seems primed to breakout after just two sacks – but 8.5 TFL – in rotational duty. Hubbard gets a ton of ink and the physical freak can certainly make things happen though he'll also be looking to build on last season's tally of 3.5 sacks.
Bosa put up a ridiculous 5.0 sacks in limited snaps and with so many other talented guys around him as part of the Rushmen package, it's hard to see him not posting a good 8.0 sacks or more this fall.
Finally, I love Jerome Baker with another year of seasoning. He could morph into a full-fledged Darron Lee after posting 3.5 sacks last year (Lee had 7.5 in 2014).
One possible factor working against this prediction could be the retooled secondary. I expect a dropoff in the back four just not big enough for quarterbacks to easily and quickly find open targets on the reg, thus cutting down on sack opportunities.
In case you're wondering, the 1998 and 2000 squads own that school-record of 47 sacks with the noted 45 in 2014 sitting in third place.
MIKE WEBER WILL ECLIPSE 1,400 RUSHING YARDS
I'm growing bullish on Mike Weber now that he's been fully committed to the gig after maturing ahead of last season.
Weber went for 1,096 yards on 182 carries in 2016 (the lowest total carries by the main RB since Urban got here), good for 6.0 yards per carry though his totes never exceeded 14 over the course of the final six games including just five in the CFP loss to Clemson.
In the only three games in which he had at least 18 carries (Bowling Green, Oklahoma, Penn State), the Detroit product turned 58 carries into 330 yards (5.7 ypc) including 18 for 123 at Oklahoma.
Weber's feelings may have been a bit hurt last year as he carries diminished and I'm banking on that serving as motivation for a stellar 2017 slate.
He's had another offseason to focus on the finer points of being a great running back and with the left side of the offensive line projected to be outstanding with Jamarco, Jordan and Price holding it down, only another bout with ball security issues and/or injuries could hurt his production.
PASS DEFENSE FINALLY FEELS STING OF EARLY DEPARTURES
Kerry Coombs and company have done a hell of a job developing elite collegiate defensive backs since Urban's arrival. Names like Bradley Roby, Doran Grant, Vonn Bell and Eli Apple all had stellar years in Columbus from 2012-15.
Last year, three more top-flight talents came to the forefront in Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore and Malik Hooker and just as quickly as they blew up, they found themselves going in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
As such, Coombs and Greg Schiano will have their hands full in hopes of fielding another elite secondary.
Last year's pass defense finished 7th in the country at 172.2 yards per game. Is it possible attrition finally catches up to the Buckeye secondary – even if just for a season – and the pass defense falls somewhere closer to 30th in the country, or roughly 200 yards per game?
With Ohio State breaking in three new starters along with one returning safety in Damon Webb who was arguably pedestrian, it's certainly realistic to think the unit could struggle at times.
Yes, the defensive line will help but while Denzel Ward is primed for stardom at one corner after coming on strong during the back half of 2016, there isn't yet a clear cut starter opposite him.
For now it appears Damon Arnette could be the front runner after a rough 2016 in which he was abused at times by slot guys. Yes, other DBs have struggled early in their careers only to catch fire later but seeing is believing and we haven't seen it yet although the staff spoke highly of Arnette throughout spring drills.
Another name to watch is obviously Kendall Sheffield, the former five-star and juco transfer corner who is projected to, at worst, see plenty of time as the fifth defensive back.
At safety, as much as I was on the Webb train early in his career, I'm firmly off it at this point and can only set expectations at the "serviceable" level. I like Webb's experience considering whoever starts opposite him, maybe Erick Smith, won't boast much meaningful reps as the last line of defense.
Of course, a true freshman like Shaun Wade or Jeffrey Okudah could step up and we shouldn't forget about sophomore Jordan Fuller opposite Webb but in mid-July, I can't help but think the secondary could take a fairly significant step backward in the national rankings.
O-LINE GOES FROM 68TH BEST AT YIELDING SACKS TO TOP 25
The 2016 offensive line helped surrender 2.15 sacks per game last year with the wheels coming off late in the season thanks in part to first-year starting right tackle Isaiah Prince regressing as the season wore on.
With rumblings that Prince wasn't right physically down the stretch combined with a belief he'll be better simply through more reps against all those studs across the line in practice, I am cautiously optimistic he won't be a turnstyle in 2017.
Maybe just as alarming is the right guard situation where a first-year starter will have to emerge. Will it be Matt Burrell or Demetrius Knox? Or can Wyatt Davis be a factor when he arrives? These aren't questions you want to have a few weeks from fall camp commencing but again maybe it's blind faith but I feel like someone is going to at least be serviceable there.
While the right side of the line makes me a little itchy, the rest of the starting five should be lights out.
Left tackle Jamarco Jones was the best lineman on the team last year and that was with his own rumored lower leg issues down the stretch. I feel like he's an All-American in waiting at the most important position not named quarterback on that side of the ball.
Left guard Michael Jordan had some ups and downs as a true freshman but that was expected after he came out of nowhere to secure the starting gig. I can't imagine he isn't All-B1G caliber and we know center Billy Price is receiving all kinds of love after moving over from a guard spot during the offseason.
With Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson taking J.T. Barrett back into the lab, hopefully that will kill Barrett's negative contributions to the sacks equation through improved footwork and decision making.
Of course, the receivers still need to improve which is a major question mark but I'm optimistic the improvement seen from the line and Barrett will be enough to cut down the sacks by a significant margin. To make the top 25, we're probably talking going from 2.15 sacks per game to about 1.40-ish.
NO TRUE WIDE RECEIVER WILL CRACK 500 YARDS
It would be great to see the outside receivers (excludes H-back) take a major step forward after last year's leading true wideout, Noah Brown, registered a mere 402 receiving yards.
This spring the corps may have received a boost as Brian Hartline joined the staff as an intern after a seven-year career in the NFL.
Still, the roster shows a combo of young guys with raw skills and strong high school credentials and older guys who've proven virtually nothing for various reasons.
I can see Parris Campbell, Demario McCall and K.J. Hill having some success in the slot but as for outside receiving threats, I'm forced to believe it when I see it considering the lack of development from those guys since Mike Thomas left.
Yes Johnnie Dixon had a strong spring on the outside but with his struggles to stay healthy it's hard to automatically pencil him in for 500+ yards. Everyone wants Benjimen Victor to blow up, including yours truly, but it's a tough ask to go from four receptions and 64 yards one year to being a big time threat the next. Not impossible, but far from a given.
If I had to put money on it, I'd say Hill will be the leading receiver if we take only catches resulting from lining up on the outside with Terry McLaurin close behind making those two the most likely threats to eclipse the 500 yard mark.
Bottom line, with the strength of OSU's passing game appearing to be at tight end and in the slot, combined with the struggles we saw with downfield passing last year (JT, line, wideouts), I'll take the under on a true wide receiver going for 500+ yards.
For the record, I hope I'm wrong and it's Victor or Trevon Grimes that makes it so.