Ohio State: Pre-Cotton Bowl, pre-signing day, way-too-early look at where Buckeyes start in 2018
All week long, our Land of 10 reporters following the Buckeyes will address pressing questions on the minds of the Ohio State fan base with our new daily feature. To ask Austin Ward a question, follow along on Twitter and suggest a topic right here. Check back Monday through Friday as we dive into the Ohio State Question of the Day. Go here to see all of our previous answers.
Can we get a way, way, way too early preseason ranking projection from you?
— Tim Bishman (@TimBishman) December 14, 2017
First of all, I appreciate the acknowledgment of how premature it is to nail down any numbers for Ohio State heading into next season — when it hasn’t even wrapped up this season in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Secondly, file this away as another reason why preseason polls aren’t going away even if they might cause more trouble than they’re worth.
However, college football is always about debate, right? So, let’s start one way, way, way too early.
Where will Ohio State start the season heading into Urban Meyer’s seventh season in charge? The guess here is that it will check in around No. 3 or maybe No. 4. That’s high enough to show respect for the talent-rich program Meyer has built. It’s also relatively low enough so as not to go overboard with a new quarterback taking the reins, and certainly not above whoever winds up winning the national championship.
The preseason storylines for the Buckeyes are much easier to forecast, and most of those will support the reasoning for having them projected for a return to the College Football Playoff in the preseason polls. J.K. Dobbins is going to be a Heisman Trophy candidate, and there will be talk about Nick Bosa potentially breaking through as a defensive option for that coveted award.
The marveling over Ohio State’s run of elite cornerbacks is going to continue. And with what now appears to be a coaching staff that could unexpectedly return intact, the stability of that unit and the years of experience and success it has enjoyed will generate attention.
Then there’s that big one: What will life be like without J.T. Barrett? That will be the hottest topic of them all, but Dwayne Haskins has already offered some evidence that the offense is going to be in good hands, thanks in large part to his relief effort in the win over Michigan.
The trick with doing this in December, of course, is not knowing exactly what will shake out with the NFL decisions of the draft-eligible players and how the final signing class will look. But in both respects, Ohio State isn’t going to be short on returning starters capable of defending the Big Ten title.
The offense should feature a deep, dangerous group of receivers working with Haskins, who will operate behind what should be a line that will likely have three returners. And Dobbins will be in the backfield. And Bosa will partner with Chase Young on the defensive line, with Tuf Borland anchoring the linebackers alongside Malik Harrison. Jordan Fuller will be in the secondary — potentially with Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield coming back to lead the way for another wave of elite, young cornerbacks.
So, there is every reason to expect Ohio State to be near the top when we get way, way, way closer to kickoff next season. But no doubt, we’ll be revisiting this topic several times.