Alas, the days of the BCS are over and America has the playoff system (or at least a version of it) that we’ve all been clamoring for. Since the good folks in Las Vegas are the closest thing we have to fortune tellers (all apologies to Nate Silver), we are going to explore the six teams with the best odds of winning the National Championship and look at the main concerns that can derail them.
The Buckeyes have been discounted and disrespected over the last two years despite winning 24 consecutive games before dropping the Big Ten Championship to Michigan State. But why the negative aura? Ohio State has one of the best coaches in the nation in Urban Meyer, a Heisman favorite at quarterback and a schedule that is far from daunting.
Let’s start with Urban Meyer, a coach that has turned around cultures wherever he’s been and although he is not the most friendly with the media, he is a stellar recruiter and X’s and O’s coach. Meyer has now had a chance to collect three recruiting classes of his own and will finally be judged on how he prepares HIS athletes, who are the most superior in the Big Ten Conference.
Moving on to Braxton Miller, there’s probably not a quarterback in the nation that is better suited for his head coach’s offense. Miller is a physically dominant runner, good enough as a passer and one can make a case that he’s been the best football player on the field each game of his collegiate career.
So why won’t Ohio State Win the National Title?
Although the Buckeyes have the quarterback, the head coach and the schedule to make a run, the schedule is ultimately what will trip them up.
Ohio State opens up with a road game at the Naval Academy before returning to the Horseshoe to take on Virginia Tech, Kent State and Cincinnati to finish the non-conference slate. The not-so-tough B1G Ten schedule begins with a trip to Maryland followed by a home date against former AAC doormat Rutgers. The Buckeyes then have their first losable game at Beaver Stadium against James Franklin’s Penn State Nittany Lions. Ohio State’s trap game is fortunately (for them) against an Illinois team who is unable to set a trap. The Buckeyes then have their toughest game of the season against the reigning conference and Rose Bowl champion Michigan State Spartans, in East Lansing. Ohio State then travels to Minnesota before returning home to take on Indiana and their rivalry game against “the school up North.”
So why will that schedule trip them up?
Easy, they won’t be battle tested. If they face Michigan State in a Big Ten Conference game rematch they will have to beat them twice in one season. That’s not easy to do. One can assume that a one-loss Big Ten Champion (unless it’s Michigan State) won’t be able to get into the “Final Four.”
What if Ohio State runs the table?
Ohio State has the best chance as a Major 5 Conference team this side of FSU to run the table and go undefeated. If they do that they won’t have seen the quality of opponents that they will face in a national playoff.
Refer to last year’s FSU national title team. They didn’t play a close game all year long and were overwhelmed in the first half against an Auburn team without nearly as much talent. Although FSU did come back to win in one of the great BCS Championship games of all time, they were one of the most talented college football teams in recent history.
This year’s Ohio State team has to replace the first running back taken in the NFL Draft and four starting offensive linemen. They also have to replace first-round pick Ryan Shazier who was one of the best linebackers in the nation. To put it simply, they won’t have the experienced talent to compete with anyone they will be playing in the playoff. Even if they do pull a miracle upset in the semifinal game, they will likely be exposed in the championship.