Any college football enthusiast with the slightest bit of conventional wisdom knows that if there’s any college football coach that has skillfully mastered his craft, it’s Ohio State football’s Urban Meyer. All the charismatic and rather intense Toledo, Ohio native has done since taking up the job at Ohio State is win football games. He has initiated a sense of pride and respect for the Ohio State football program.
Despite the fact that Meyer had never lost more than four games in a season as a head coach, there were a lot of uncertainties surrounding Meyer’s 2014 squad. Against all odds, the Buckeyes went on to win the inaugural college football playoff national championship. Well, the 2016 season could play out the same exact way.
As noted, a lot of question marks surrounded the 2014 Ohio State football team. Its senior-to-be and two-time Big Ten player of the year QB Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury just weeks before the season began, the new starting quarterback was a redshirt freshman, the majority of its starters were inexperienced underclassmen, and four out of five of its starting offensive lineman needed to be replaced. No one knew what to expect of the young Bucks. Similarly, this coming season only six starters return for the Buckeyes. Due to Urban Meyer’s’ ability to recruit, talent won’t be an issue. However, experience will be a big one. Just like the 2014 season, however, Ohio State will get things together eventually. But Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Going back to the 2014 season, Ohio State played mediocre in its first game, coming away with a comfortable 14-point victory against the Navy Midshipmen. Having said that, the final score wasn’t indicative of how close the game really was. In the following game, the youth and inexperience of the team — although talented and highly touted — was evident as it lost to the Virginia Tech Hokies, a team from another one of the power five conferences, by 14 points. Realistically speaking, many thought that it was going to be a long year for the Buckeyes. Yet the team got better every game and shocked the college football world by overcoming all of the adversities it faced en route to its eighth national title. Similar to the 2014 season, Ohio State is scheduled to play another team from a power five conference in the third game of the 2016 season — the Oklahoma Sooners.
Coming off of a season in which they made it to the college football playoff, the Oklahoma Sooners will be a major playoff contender once again this coming season. Returning for the Sooners are seven starters on offense, including all Big Twelve and senior-to-be quarterback Baker Mayfield, and seven starters on defense. The team will be ambitious and primed to make yet another national title run. Although I am and will always be a Buckeyes fan, I see Oklahoma coming on top in this matchup. Especially when you consider the fact that they’ll be at home. I think Mayfield will feast off of Ohio State’s young secondary and that will be the key to the victory. However, that won’t take Ohio State out of the national title picture per se.
After Ohio State’s loss to Virginia Tech in the 2014 season, it faced a couple of cupcake opponents in Cincinnati and Kent State. In those two games, the Bucks outscored their opponents 116 to 28. That gave them moxie and a certain degree of swagger going into conference play, and by the end of the season they proved that they were one of the best teams in the country. So despite having to play, ‘that team up north’ (Michigan) and away games against Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State in 2016, this team will have enough talent on it to run through conference play unblemished. And if last year’s loss against Virginia Tech didn’t keep them from making a playoff run, an early season loss against a powerhouse like Oklahoma certainly wouldn’t prevent them from being one of the four teams selected to play in the four-team playoff by season’s end.
In the college football world, different circumstances usually lead to different outcomes. Although circumstances may be slightly different between the 2014 and the 2016 Buckeyes, the outcome could very well be the same. Despite having to replace 14 starters from last season, Ohio State will be a viable national championship contender in 2016.