Ohio State made its second consecutive College Football Playoff appearance this season and finished as the nation's runner-up behind national champion Alabama.
But after a few key departures, highlighted by Justin Fields' move to the NFL, the national media outlets are expecting the Buckeyes to take a step back this season as Ohio State consistently checks in at No. 5 across five of the major way-too-early rankings for the 2021 college football season.
Here's a look at how each outlet sees the Buckeyes as they head into the offseason.
After a few key departures on both sides of the ball following the College Football Playoff run, ESPN once again sees Ohio State as a national title contender but has a few more concerns about the Buckeyes in 2021.
Here's what ESPN has to say about Ohio State as the Buckeyes head into the offseason.
The Buckeyes have enjoyed a seamless transition from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day, who has guided them to back-to-back CFP appearances. The Buckeyes don't seem ready to slow down anytime soon. Fields is projected as a top-five pick in the NFL draft, so he's probably leaving after two seasons at OSU. Freshman Jack Miller III, who set the Arizona high school record with 115 career passing touchdowns, was Fields' backup this past season. C.J. Stroud was the No. 2 pocket passer in the 2020 ESPN 300, and incoming freshman McCord was the No. 4 pocket passer in 2021.
There are a handful of other offensive starters who are candidates to leave, including Olave and Sermon. Defensively, the Buckeyes might have big holes to fill on the defensive line and at cornerback and linebacker, depending on who comes back. The Buckeyes' nonconference schedule next season includes home games against Oregon and Tulsa, and they're scheduled to play Big Ten road games at Minnesota, Nebraska, Rutgers, Indiana and Michigan.
It's worth noting that this article was published before guys like Chris Olave and Haskell Garrett announced their returns, but that doesn't mean much would change.
ESPN has Clemson leading the way in its way-too-early top-25 followed by No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Georgia to round out the top-25.
Three of Ohio State's 2021 opponents crack ESPN's way-too-early rankings: No. 10 Indiana, No. 13 Oregon and No. 22 Penn State with No. 12 Iowa and No. 17 Wisconsin making the list from the Big Ten West.
USA Today sees Ohio State as one of the top teams in the country heading into next season, but has some concerns at the quarterback position and in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
Here's what USA Today has to say about the 2021 Buckeyes:
The questions start with the replacement for Justin Fields. Does C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller or possibly incoming freshman Kyle McCord win the job? And can any of them come close to being as dynamic as Fields? Master Teague and Garrett Wilson will provide threats at running back and wide receiver, respectively. Key losses along both lines can be filled as the Buckeyes have stockpiled enough pieces to remain the class of the Big Ten. However, like Clemson and Alabama, they might get pushed more than usual next year.
Like ESPN's list, this ranking was published before anybody knew of any of the Buckeyes' key returning players, but their concerns remain largely the same even with guys like Chris Olave and Haskell Garrett returning.
USA Today ranks defending national champion Alabama as its top team, followed by No. 2 Georgia, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Clemson.
Four of Ohio State's 2021 opponents crack USA Today's way-too-early top-25, with Indiana at No. 12, Oregon at No. 13, Penn State at No. 16 and Michigan at No. 22. Two Big Ten West teams crack the top-25 with Wisconsin at No. 14 and Iowa at No. 18.
CBS Sports sees Ohio State as once again the clear best team in the Big Ten, but projects that the Buckeyes will be a little less strong due to a lack of experience at the quarterback position.
Here's what CBS Sports has to say about the 2021 Buckeyes.
Best in the Big Ten, but the Buckeyes take a step back in 2021. C.J. Stroud or Jack Miller take over for Justin Fields. Ryan Day has options, but we're going with Stroud, the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2020 who has yet to throw a pass. No more Trey Sermon. All the linebackers depart, too.
Once again, this article was written before any Ohio State player announced a decision to return, but that doesn't change any of the concerns as Justin Fields, Trey Sermon and all the starting linebackers have still departed.
CBS has Clemson as the No. 1 team in the country followed by No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 Alabama.
Just two of Ohio State's 2021 opponents crack CBS Sports' way-too-early rankings with Indiana at No. 13 and Oregon at No. 17. Iowa and Wisconsin make the top-25 from the Big Ten West, ranked No. 16 and No. 21, respectively.
After the 2020 season ended in a College Football Playoff semifinal win and a trip to the title game, Sports Illustrated sees Ohio State as a dangerous team once again, but expects the Buckeyes to have to do a little rebuilding with new faces at the quarterback position and on the defensive side of the ball.
Here's what SI is saying about the 2021 Buckeyes:
In the final analysis, the Buckeyes played a few great quarters of football against quality competition in 2020: most of the game against Clemson; half the game against Northwestern; one quarter against Indiana. Otherwise, this was a flush team that left you wanting a bit more than it delivered—that certainly was the case in the national championship game. As it stands, Ohio State doesn’t have a quarterback who has thrown a collegiate pass; of course, that isn’t the same as having no talent at QB. There are very good players everywhere else on offense. Defensively, the Buckeyes’ top seven tacklers all were seniors. There is some rebuilding to do there.
Again, this article was published shortly after the national title game and does not account for any key returning players, but that changes little about their concerns.
Sports Illustrated has Alabama as its top-ranked team in the way-too-early top-25, followed by Clemson at No. 2, Georgia at No. 3 and Oklahoma at No. 4.
Three of Ohio State's 2021 opponents make SI's list, with Indiana checking in at No. 12, Oregon at No. 16 and Penn State at No. 18. Sports Illustrated also has two Big Ten West teams in its way-too-early top-25 with Iowa at No. 8 and Wisconsin at No. 21.
Though Yahoo! Sports ranks Ohio State No. 5 – like every other national outlet – and acknowledges all the departing talent, they are optimistic about the Buckeyes' chances in 2021, even with a new quarterback.
Here's what Yahoo! Sports thinks of the 2021 Ohio State football team:
Ryan Day has done an excellent job since he took the reins from Urban Meyer and there’s no reason to expect a step back from the Buckeyes in 2021. Sure, Justin Fields is moving on to the NFL, but this is easily the most-talented roster in the Big Ten despite the looming inexperience at quarterback. The surprise return of receiver Chris Olave is a massive boost for OSU as well. There will be holes to fill on defense, but OSU has recruited at an extremely high level.
Yahoo! Sports' list was the lone way-too-early ranking that came after the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft, so their outlook includes the return of players like Chris Olave and Jeremy Ruckert.
Ahead of the Buckeyes, Yahoo! has Alabama at No. 1, followed by No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Georgia.
Yahoo! Sports ranks three of Ohio STate's opponents in its way-too-early top-25, including No. 10 Oregon, No. 17 Penn State, and No. 20 Indiana. Two Big Ten West teams crack the list with Wisconsin checking in at No. 13 and Iowa at No. 15.