Despite losing a historically loaded draft class and needing to replace 16 starters this season, the Ohio State Buckeyes had a stellar year as they returned to the College Football Playoff.
It’s been two years since the Buckeyes won the first ever College Football Playoff championship, and they look to win their second title in three years. Head coach Urban Meyer usually doesn’t get enough credit due to the amazing players he recruits, but he has a legitimate case for Coach of the Year honors. Somebody has to sign those players and then turn them into playoff contenders after they arrive, and Meyer has done it especially this year with all those first-time starters.
The only real flaw these Buckeyes had this season was the collapse against Penn State. To be fair, it was the Nittany Lions senior night, and they basically took the game away, scoring ten unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Overall, the Buckeyes have four wins over top-15 teams, with an average margin of victory of 22.5 points. They shut out Rutgers 58-0 and beat Nebraska as well as Maryland 62-3 each in back-to-back weeks.
Although quarterback J.T. Barrett didn’t live up to the Heisman hype like many expected, the Buckeyes had the seventh-ranked scoring offense in the nation. They scored 45-plus points more times (5) than they failed to reach 25 points (3) this season. Ohio State topped the Big Ten in scoring as they averaged more than 42 points per game, while possessing one of the best ground games in the nation. Tailbacks Mike Weber, Curtis Samuel, and quarterback Barrett were all a threat to pick up huge chunks of yardage on any play, and defenses had their hands full whether the Buckeyes were productive through the air or not. Although the passing attack wasn’t dominant, Barrett still tossed 24 touchdowns against just five interceptions.
This explosive offense is complemented with a defense that gives up the third-fewest points per game at 14.2. Michigan is the only team to score more than 25 points against the Buckeyes this year as even in their lone loss, their defense kept them in the game by containing an explosive Penn State offense and holding them to just 24 points.
At the end of the day, Ohio State was very deserving of a spot in the college playoff. However just like in 2014, there is this awful narrative of Ohio State getting lucky and not earning the right to play in the playoff. All of that is nonsense. They look amazing in the eye test and on paper. Although they didn’t win their conference title, the Buckeyes are the team with the best chance at beating Alabama in the national championship.