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Big Ten Football 2017 Preview: Ohio State Buckeyes
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9 Aug 2017 02:14 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett scans the field against Wisconsin. (Image Source: Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

We continue our Big Ten preview series with the Ohio State Buckeyes:

Origin of Optimism: How about a 61-6 record under Urban Meyer? Ten top-10 finishes in the past 12 years? The best offensive line in the Big Ten? A quarterback who has already set 25 school and conference records? The best group of defensive ends in the country? Consecutive top-four recruiting classes? Shall I continue? The Buckeyes have every reason to be optimistic.

Cause for Concern: This is a powerhouse, make no mistake, but they aren’t without chinks in the armor. Let us not forget what happened the last time the Buckeyes took the field. They were shutout by the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoffs, the first time an Urban Meyer led team put up a doughnut. The potential downfall of this OSU team is the throw game. As good as J.T. Barrett’s numbers are, he’s an inconsistent passer with an average arm, at best. Their leading returning wide receiver is sophomore K.J. Hill, who caught a mere 18 passes a year ago. Moreover, the offensive line gave up 28 sacks last season. There’s a reason Meyer hired a new offensive coordinator (Kevin Wilson) and a new quarterbacks coach (Ryan Day).

Breakout Player: With so many players already having made a name for themselves on OSU’s talent-laden front seven, senior linebacker Dante Booker is my choice as the breakout player on OSU’s defense. He comes into his senior season with 31 career tackles, but has the talent to more than double that number this year. A four-star recruit, Booker was among the most coveted players in the nation after he was named Ohio’s Mr. Football in 2013 and 2016 was supposed to be his season. However, a knee injury in the opener robbed him of that opportunity. Remember, Booker beat out the talented Jerome Baker for the starting role and is now ready to take over at strong-side linebacker.

X-Factor: Who is the next Percy Harvin or should I say Curtis Samuel? It took Meyer five years to find his Percy Harvin in Columbus and now he must replace Samuel, a dual-threat H-back who was deadly as both a runner and a receiver. Samuel rushed for 771 yards and 7.9 yards per carry with eight touchdowns on just 97 totes, while leading the team with 74 receptions, 865 receiving yards, and seven touchdown catches. In addition to Samuel’s production, Dontre Wilson finished third on the team with 27 catches for 352 yards and five TD grabs on an impressive 13.0 yards per catch. Urban Meyer’s offenses have been at their best when they have a hybrid talent complementing their quarterback and traditional running game. In junior Parris Campbell, redshirt freshman Demario McCall, and true freshman J.K. Dobbins there is no shortage of gifted candidates. Are they ready to star this season?

Previews: Michigan | Media Days: Michigan QBs | MSU Reboot | New-Look Nebraska | PSU Offense | PSU’s McSorley | Rutgers DBs | Preseason Watch Lists: Bednarik | Biletnikoff | Butkus | Camp | Hornung | Mackey | Maxwell | Nagurski | O’Brien | Thorpe | Unitas | Walker

Schedule: Like their rival Michigan, Ohio State has three preseason top-10 teams on the docket, starting with No. 8 Oklahoma in Week 2. The good news is two of those three games will be at home (vs. OU, vs. Penn State). They end the season with a trip to the Big House, one of three challenging conference road games, as the Buckeyes must visit Nebraska and Iowa in what will be hostile atmospheres, likely under the lights.

It’s a Disappointing Season If: The Buckeyes fail to win the division for a second-straight season. Some might say it’s a disappointing season if they don’t win it all, but that is a ridiculous standard. 

It’s a Successful Season If: They win their second national championship under Meyer or at least give themselves a chance by making the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.

Over/Under – 10.5 Wins: Over the past five seasons, Ohio State has averaged 11.4 regular-season wins (0.6 losses) and have never won fewer than 11 regular-season games under Meyer. So, for the Buckeyes to go under 10.5 wins they will have to have their worst season of the Urban Meyer era. I’ll take the over. Is a 10-win season possible? Sure. However, this club is so loaded that nine or 10 wins is the floor with 12 a very distinct possibility.

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. 

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