The college football season officially ended last night with Clemson's 44-16 destruction of Alabama, which means it's officially time to start looking towards next season.
Ohio State finished No. 3 in the final AP Poll of the season, and even with a new head coach, a new starter at quarterback and a reconstructed offensive line, every way-too-early top-25 poll has the Buckeyes as playoff contenders once again.
Sports Illustrated has the Buckeyes ranked No. 4, behind only Clemson, Alabama and Georgia.
4. OHIO STATE
Ryan Day takes over for the retired Urban Meyer in a smoothly executed transition that indicates the Buckeyes’ talent level and expectations aren’t changing anytime soon. Dwayne Haskins is off to the NFLafter a record-setting season as the starter, and the next quarterback in line will be dynamic redshirt sophomore Tate Martell or Georgia transfer Justin Fields (if he gets a waiver to play immediately), both of which would offer more formidable dual-threat capabilities than Haskins did. Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State all come to Columbus, but the season-ending trip to Ann Arbor will be Day’s biggest test.
USA Today is not quite so high on Ohio State, ranking the Buckeyes No. 6, putting both Texas and Oklahoma ahead.
6. Ohio State
Ryan Day replaces Urban Meyer. A new quarterback, perhaps Georgia transfer Justin Fields, is waiting to replace Dwayne Haskins, who is headed for the NFL. All eyes will be on the Buckeyes as the program undergoes a huge transition. Still, Day's work with the offense and the program's wealth of talent suggests the move won't be too rocky.
Like Sports Illustrated, ESPN has the Buckeyes at No. 4, behind Clemson, Alabama and Georgia, in that order.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
2018 record: 13-1, 8-1 Big Ten
Returning starters: five offense, 10 defense, one special teams
Key losses: QB Dwayne Haskins Jr., DT Dre'Mont Jones, DE Nick Bosa, WR Parris Campbell, WR Terry McLaurin, RB Mike Weber, OT Isaiah Prince, G Malcolm Pridgeon, C Michael Jordan
Outlook: New Buckeyes coach Ryan Day couldn't have asked for a better scenario in replacing Urban Meyer, who retired after seven seasons and a 28-23 win over Washington in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual. The Buckeyes might bring back 10 starters on defense after narrowly missing the CFP this past season.
Ohio State lost Haskins to the NFL draft, but landed Fields, the Georgia transfer who was the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2018 ESPN 300. Fields is expected to appeal to the NCAA for immediately eligibility; he would battle rising sophomore Tate Martell for the starting job if a hardship waiver is granted.
The Buckeyes will have to replace three starting offensive linemen, and Campbell and McLaurin were two of their biggest weapons on the perimeter. Tailback J.K. Dobbins is coming back; Weber, who shared carries with him, has already announced he's forgoing his senior season.
The Buckeyes have a soft nonconference schedule in 2019 with home games against FAU, Cincinnati and Miami (Ohio). They'll play Big Ten foes Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State at the Horseshoe.
Bleacher Report, meanwhile, has Ohio State at No. 6, behind Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Texas.
Obviously, a lot can change. Many NFL Draft decisions aren't yet made, recruiting classes aren't finalized, and we're still waiting on some eligibility decisions (looking at you, Justin Fields), but the Buckeyes are looking a playoff contender once again.
Along with Alabama. And Clemson. And Georgia. And Oklahoma. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Here are the full rankings from each outlet:
|4||OHIO STATE||OKLAHOMA||OHIO STATE||TEXAS|
|5||NOTRE DAME||TEXAS||NOTRE DAME||OHIO STATE|
|11||TEXAS A&M||OREGON||MICHIGAN||TEXAS A&M|
|13||LSU||NOTRE DAME||WASHINGTON STATE||UCF|
|17||WISCONSIN||IOWA STATE||PENN STATE||IOWA STATE|
|20||NORTHWESTERN||ARMY||IOWA STATE||WASHINGTON STATE|