In the 100 days leading up to the kickoff of the college football season on Saturday, Aug. 25, HERO Sports is ranking the top 100 teams in the FBS. Each day, starting May 17 and ending Aug. 24, a new team is revealed in the HERO Sports Top 100.
No. 7 Ohio State
With Urban Meyer, Ohio State is a top-five team. Without him, they're a fringe top-10 team. And because his job status is still in limbo as of this writing, the Buckeyes settle in the middle.
They still have one of the most talented rosters in the country, led by several All-American-caliber players like J.K. Dobbins, Parris Campbell, Nick Bosa and Jordan Fuller, but there are a couple questions on the offensive line and at linebacker.
2017 Record: 12-2 (8-1, Big Ten)
Like 2014, Ohio State lost an early non-conference home game but recovered to put themselves in late-season position for a College Football Playoff berth. Unlike 2014, they were obliterated by Iowa this year, which, even with wins over Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin, was enough to keep them out of the four-team field.
They beat Michigan for the sixth straight season and won their 36th Big Ten title (first since 2014), but the season was defined by the Iowa loss.
Head Coach: Urban Meyer (7th Year, 73-8)
As of Saturday, Aug. 18, Urban Meyer is still head coach. If he retains his position after the school's 14-day investigation into his role in the Zach Smith domestic abuse debacle, Meyer will be chasing a seventh straight season with at least 11 wins and their first playoff berth since 2014.
If he doesn't survive, Ohio State will be led by an emergency interim coach for the second time in eight years.
QB J.T. Barrett, QB Joe Burrow, TE Marcus Baugh, WR Johnnie Dixon, OT Jamarco Jones, C Billy Price, DE Tyquan Lewis, DE Sam Hubbard, DE Jalyn Holmes, LB Jerome Baker, LB Chris Worley, CB Denzel Ward, S Damon Webb
Mass exoduses have become the norm at Ohio State and last winter was no exception.
Nine all-conference players left, including J.T. Barrett, the only three-time captain and the only quarterback to go 4-0 vs. Michigan in program history. Two-time All-America center Billy Price is also gone, as is tackle Jamarco Jones.
Defensively, leading tackler Jerome Baker left early, as did defensive end Sam Hubbard, who had 17 sacks and 30 tackles for loss in three seasons. Denzel Ward was one of the best corners in the country last year and became the fifth Ohio State defensive back drafted in the first round since 2016.
Returning Offensive Players
QB Dwayne Haskins, QB Tate Martell, RB J.K. Dobbins, RB Mike Weber, WR Austin Mack, WR Parris Campbell, WR K.J. Hill, WR Terry McLaurin, OT Isaiah Prince, OT Thayer Munford, G Michael Jordan
Urban Meyer didn't name Dwayne Haskins the starting quarterback during spring practice but he did shortly thereafter, giving the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder the job in mid-June. However, for what it's worth, he also said redshirt freshman Tate Martell would compete for the job in fall camp and the pair has split snaps through most of fall camp.
Co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day is interim head coach but he's still running the offense with co-coordinator Kevin Wilson. Day will be the primary play-caller for Haskins, who is capable of running but will stay in the pocket more than any Ohio State quarterback recently.
"His skill set is very different from J.T. Barrett," Meyer said of Haskins. "His release, his size, his accuracy are his strengths. We're still gonna be a spread offense, which means you still have dual opportunities, give it or pull it, the RPO world where you give it or you throw it — I think that's going to be more involved than it was with J.T."
J.K. Dobbins is back for his sophomore year after a huge season in relief of a banged-up Mike Weber. He was one of only five FBS running backs to average seven yards per carry on at least 150 carries last year (Ohio State averaged 5.8 as a team, eighth in the FBS). In the spring, Meyer said both Dobbins and Weber could be part of two-back formations.
Their top four returning receivers all had a catch success rate of at least 50 percent, higher than the national average of 47 percent, according to Bill Connelly of Football Study Hall. Parris Campbell can fly and was one of four players last year who averaged at least 14 yards per reception.
The offensive line lost Jamarco Jones and Billy Price but return Michael Jordan at guard and an improved Isaiah Prince at tackle. Prince started every game at right tackle the last two years but played both sides in spring practice.
Returning Defensive Players
DE Nick Bosa, DE Chase Young, DT Robert Landers, DT Dre'Mont Jones, LB Malik Harrison, LB Tuf Borland, LB Pete Werner, CB Kendall Sheffield, S Jordan Fuller, S Isaiah Pryor
Despite huge losses at each level, not much will change for a defense that has proved it can reload quickly. Last year, they were dominant in the red zone (28 percent of drives resulted in zero points), and allowed just 0.27 points per play (10th in the FBS) and 2.9 yards per rushing attempt (third).
The return of Nick Bosa and Chase Young should ensure there's minimal — if any — drop-off for an 8.96-percent sack rate that ranked 11th nationally. And Dre'Mont Jones and Robert Landers will clog the middle again.
"I’m going to play a decent amount more this year," Bosa said in January after leading the team in both sacks (8.5) and tackles for loss (16) in 2017 despite playing in situational roles for large portions of games. "It’s always [defensive line coach Larry Johnson's] plan to slowly progress me up and I feel like it’s worked out pretty well. This year’s going to be full out, play every snap that means anything for my last year… or possibly my last year."
Linebacker Pete Werner had just nine tackles in 11 appearances last year but is now running with the first-team group alongside Tuf Borland and Malik Harrison.
"One of the most improved players on our team the last couple of weeks," Meyer said of Werner in October when the true freshman was playing well on special teams. "Buy stock in that guy for his career. He's got some good stuff going right now."
Last year's Ohio State's secondary didn't lead a defense to another sub-100 average opponent passer rating like they did in 2016 but they did still post the 10th-best rating in the country (112.6). The headliner is Jordan Fuller, a do-it-all safety who's a true sideline-to-sideline player and is thriving in Greg Schiano and Alex Grinch's system.
"He’s a master of the defense," co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Alex Grinch told Eleven Warriors. "He can fix issues. He can get other guys right from an alignment and call standpoint, and he has the confidence to do so. And that comes from game reps. But when you add all those things up, the physical tools, the athletic tools and then the mental aptitude, you’re talking about a guy who is an established starter and a guy we’re looking forward to come fall."
WR Chris Olave, DE Tyreke Smith, DT Tommy Togiai, DT Taron Vincent, S Marcus Hooker, S Josh Proctor
Even with experienced returnees in every position group on both sides of the ball, there is room for several true and redshirt freshman to make an impact in 2018
True freshman receiver Chris Olave didn't arrive with four- or five-star hype but the three-star product who had offers from many of college football's big boys should get snaps at the Z behind Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon.
Defensively, three true freshman linemen are projected to play, a group headlined by end Tyreke Smith, a Cleveland product and the fourth-ranked weak-side defensive end in the class. His black stripe came off midway through camp and will get opportunities behind Bosa, Young and some second-teamers like Jason Cornell.
True freshmen Marcus Hooker and Josh Proctor are competing for time alongside Jordan Fuller.
Ohio State plays one true road game before their Oct. 20 trip to Purdue (at Penn State, Sept. 29), but they do play TCU in Arlington, Texas, in a game that might play a role in the College Football Playoff race.
|Saturday, Sept. 1||vs. Oregon State|
|Saturday, Sept. 8||vs. Rutgers|
|Saturday, Sept. 15||vs. TCU|
|Saturday, Sept. 22||vs. Tulane|
|Saturday, Sept. 29||at Penn State|
|Saturday, Oct. 6||vs. Indiana|
|Saturday, Oct. 13||vs. Minnesota|
|Saturday, Oct. 20||at Purdue|
|Saturday, Nov. 3||vs. Nebraska|
|Saturday, Nov. 10||at Michigan State|
|Saturday, Nov. 17||at Maryland|
|Saturday, Nov. 24||vs. Michigan|