The past month I’ve weighed in on the states of Texas and Florida regarding each team’s outlook for 2015.
The warm, blazing sun atop the dry, barren, Lone Star State. The thought of the swamp in Gainesville, the fans seemingly enjoying a quiet eight-month period of summer.
Sorry to burst your bubble, college football fans–bundle up in your fur coats and take the trek up north with me as we dissect the squads for next season in Ohio.
Ohio State Buckeyes
2014 record: 14-1, National Champions
How in the world did the Buckeyes, the 2014 National Champions, lose to Virginia Tech the second week of the season?
I’m sure head coach Urban Meyer would enjoy a few chuckles at that question himself, but while he rests back on his pool chair sipping some sort of fruity mixed drink, I’m sure he could drop in his ring for some extra ice.
That Ezekiel Elliot guy is pretty good, no?
Similar to March Madness, college football exceeds our expectations each and every season with athletes that burst onto the scene, and Elliot did just that.
He rushed for the century mark only four times in the first ten weeks, then scampered for 200+ in the conference championship, Playoff Semifinal, and National Championship. Pure ice in the veins of the sophomore from St. Louis.
Sophomore. Did you catch that? Yeah, he returns next season.
“Here lies the 2015 Big 10 rush defense. You gave it your best shot.”
The difficulty for Urban Meyer lies at the quarterback slot with Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett, and Braxton Miller while rumors swirl like a media typhoon.
Ohio State’s talent will be good, if not better, than the players stored in its arsenal via 2014. While the receiving core may take a minor hit with guys like Devin Smith departing, wideouts Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson, and Michael Thomas should provide a steady group for whoever takes snaps. Add Joey Bosa to anchor the defensive line and a healthy secondary, and Ohio State is the team to beat in 2015.
Given Michigan State and Penn State come to the Shoe, it’s tough imagine much competition on the agenda. The Buckeyes have owned the Wolverines the last decade, so try to exclude Ohio State from the playoff–you can’t.
However, I’m prone to taking shots. Whether it be Clemson, LSU, TCU, Baylor, USC, or the plethora of squads with playoff bids in sight, it’s far easier to give the nod the Ohio State on paper.
Prediction: 12-0 regular season/Big 10 Champions/Loss in National Championship
2014 record: 9-4
One of my favorite teams to watch once Saturday rolled around will look to progress after a swell 2014 season behind quarterback Gunner Kiel.
The main concern obviously lies on the defensive side of the ball with the Bearcats squandering 30 or more points to seven opponents a year ago.
Will we see an improvement?
Results in 2015 could travel down two paths: for starters, it’s simply too hard to play defense (even in the AAC) with the lack of any pass rush. Cincy’s Terrell Hartsfield will be absent from a defense that struggled earlier in the season, but look for Silverberry Mouhon to lead the line.
Create some sort of pressure on opposing quarterbacks may (I stress the word “may”) ease up the stress in the secondary, a place where the ‘Cats suffered all season, ranking 100th in pass defense.
I can’t say I’ll vouch for the Cincinnati defense, but an offense with Kiel and wide receivers Shaq Washington and Mekale McKay is liable to outscore any opponent on the upcoming schedule.
Some tough non-conference competition in Miami and BYU should pose threats to the loss column, but you have to look at East Carolina and what they lose with Shane Carden and Justin Hardy and wonder how Cincinnati doesn’t light up the scoreboard in the AAC.
Prediction: 9-3/Conference Champions
As always, I usually weigh in just a dash on the Group of 5 schools, so here’s what I expect to see from the many MAC teams residing in Ohio.
Bowling Green Falcons
Another exciting team that saw its share of high-scoring matches, Bowling Green should possess more of the same in 2015.
Matt Johnson went down in week four at quarterback last year. Enter James Knapke, snatching the slack and heading a dynamic offense.
I believe BG will be just fine with whoever they choose under center. Take a decent quarterback, add wideout Roger Lewis, (1,074 yards), sophomore receiver Ronnie Moore, and tailback Travis Greene, and you’ve assembled the traditional high-powered offense that the Falcons have seen the last few years.
Like Cincy, defensive struggles should remain. Bowling Green has stayed near the top of the conference recently, but the defense will be the deciding factor.
Touching base on Toledo, keep a tab on the Rockets’ offense as well for 2015. Their balance and experience should scare the MAC, even Bowling Green and Northern Illinois.
Running back Kareem Hunt, quarterback Logan Woodside, and wide receiver Corey Jones all will be back for the Rockets in 2015. Give me the navy and yellow ousting Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship.
As for Akron, Miami (Ohio), and Kent State, you’re looking at a middle-of-the-pack group, possibly even lower. The Redhawks improved on the offensive side, Akron failed to produce any weapons, and Kent State’s about as mediocre as it comes.