The college football season is right around the corner. And with that, there are many fans that are excited about the prospects of their teams. Of course, the team that many fans in the Midwest are excited about is Ohio State. The defending National Champions unexpectedly won the National Title despite losing their top two quarterbacks during the season. And heading into this season, they had many of the pieces they had last season coming back. Many fans of the Buckeyes fans are already thinking of their team repeating as champions, but there are many things that can shake those thoughts up heading into this year. The Buckeyes are definitely talented, but there is a reason many teams have failed at repeating as National Champions. And although many Buckeyes fans may not want to head this, there are a few things that could derail the title defense of the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes caught everyone off-guard when they beat Alabama and Oregon to win the National Title. Out of all the teams that were in the four-team playoff, the Buckeyes were the least favored to win it all. Yet, they made it happen and won the title last season. One of the reasons the Buckeyes were so good is because they were overlooked. And because of that, they were the hunter in the playoffs last season. Being the hunter along with being undervalued helped the Buckeyes along with having talented players. But going into this season, no one will be underestimating them at all. The team will go from targeting people to having a target on their backs. It’s easier to play when the target is not on your back. You tend to play a lot looser and there is less on the line because many expect you to lose and when you win, it is just a bonus to you showing up. But when you switch from the hunter to the hunted, the dynamic definitely changes. The pressure will surely be on the Buckeyes this season as they won the national title. And with that, the bullseye will be bigger than it has been for Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Each week the Buckeyes will be getting the best shot of each team on their schedule. And with that, there is always the possibility they could lose.
Other than becoming the hunted, there is also the issue of losing players. In college football, continuity is an important thing. The more players you have come back after winning a title, the more your chances increase to repeat as champions. But along with that, if key players are gone, then there is a chance the repeat takes a huge hit. Ohio State has a lot of their cast coming back, but there is one man that will be severely missing from their team. The Buckeyes had an explosive offense throughout the season with running back Ezekiel Elliot and wide receiver Devin Smith. Elliot returned to Ohio State this upcoming season and will be ready to build upon what the Buckeyes did last season. As for Smith, he is now a member of the New York Jets. Ohio State has a dynamic receiving corps, but there is always a leader that emerges. It remains to be seen who that guy will be, but there is no question that Ohio State is going to miss Ohio State. And the removal of an impact player such as Smith can make a huge impact on the team. Instead of the Buckeyes having a replacement ready, the team will more than likely make a few adjustments to try and cope with the loss of their speedster. But like in the past, there are certain players that you just cannot replace. And in this instance, that could end up being Smith since he finished his time there at Ohio State.
Injuries were something that Ohio State overcame last year. Most notably, they lost two quarterbacks throughout the season with injuries. But in each circumstance, it seemed like the team’s resolve got stronger. That season was special in their ability to overcome the absences. But in this season, they will immediately face absences of players that should be on the roster and did not leave due to graduation or going to the NFL. Four players will be suspended for the opening game this season, including probable All-America defensive end Joey Bosa, Ohio State’s second-leading receiver from last season Corey Smith and potential offensive x-factor Dontre Wilson. For an offense that needs every weapon they have to fend off potential upsets, they will severely miss these players in their first game against Virginia Tech. And it also has not been said how long these suspensions are. It is said that they are only suspended for this game, but who’s to say that the suspensions will end after the one game. Things like this can derail a championship defense. And with them lining up to receive the best shot from Virginia Tech, we will definitely see if Braxton Miller is ready to step into his new role earlier than we all thought since he will be one of the main weapons out there. Miller being out there would have worked well with all the other weapons around him taking away attention. But in the first game at least, he will not have that option to have them and it will make it harder for the Ohio State offense to function. As far as the defense, Boza is a key member of their defense and without him, the tone of the defense will have to be set by someone else. And along with the tone, the energy level will have to be brought by someone else other than him.
When you are defending your title, there are many things that have to go your way. And with Ohio State, there are some things that will help them like being such a young team defending a title and all the returning players they have. But again, it is totally different being the hunted than being the hunter. And with a key cog like Smith gone to the NFL and key players missing in the first game (and potentially more unless otherwise told), the Buckeyes will be facing some obstacles to make a repeat happen. Only time will tell what happens, but it will definitely be a battle for them to stay at the top.