The Ohio State Buckeyes are the overwhelming favorites to win the 2015 College Football Playoff national championship. The oddsmakers in Las Vegas have put 12/5 odds on Ohio State repeating as national champions this year – for reference, the team with the next best odds is Alabama at 7/1. On top of that, the Buckeyes received 62 out of 64 first place votes in the recently released USA Today Coaches poll. The excitement and optimism didn’t last very long, however. On the same day that the coaches poll was released, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer took to the podium for the first day of Big Ten Media Days and announced that four of the teams top players had been suspended for the team’s season opener against Virginia Tech.
Among the four players who will be missing for the team’s first game is Joey Bosa, who was an All-American and the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2014. Bosa, who is arguably the best defensive player in the country, will be joined on the sidelines by wide receivers Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith, and Dontre Wilson, who are all expected to be significant contributor to the Buckeyes’ offense in 2015. The suspensions of Marshall, Smith, and Wilson open the door for Braxton Miller, who is moving from quarterback to wide receiver for his final season in Columbus. Miller is one of the most dynamic and explosive athletes in the country, and while there will surely be a few hiccups involved in his position change, his game-breaking ability with the ball in his hands makes Ohio State losing three wide receivers seem a lot less painful. Bosa, on the other hand, is one of the most irreplaceable players in college football. However, Ohio State likely has another former four or five-star defensive end recruit waiting in the wings for an opportunity to play.
The other issue at hand for Ohio State is their quarterback situation. They have two of the best young quarterbacks in the country competing for their starting job, and only one of them can play at a time. Sophomore J.T. Barrett led the team to an 11-1 record as the team’s starter in 2014 before suffering a broken ankle in Buckeyes’ regular season finale against Michigan. He also earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting during his freshman season. His competition for the job is Cardale Jones, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound junior. Jones only has three career starts, but they all came in big-time games. He led Ohio State to victories in the Big Ten Championship Game over Wisconsin, in their College Football Playoff semi-final game over Alabama, and in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game over Oregon.
In reality, the Buckeyes really can’t go wrong with either player. What could become an issue for Ohio State in their title defense are the potential distractions of an unhappy star player or a split locker room. Needless to say, there will be a lot of scrutiny on whichever player wins this battle. Likewise, the player who loses this battle surely won’t take the news lightly.
All distractions aside, history would suggest that it will be extremely difficult for Ohio State to repeat as national champions in 2015. After all, only 11 teams have won back-to-back national championships in the 145-year history of college football. With that being said, the Buckeyes are hands down the most talented team in the country heading into the 2015 season. And with Urban Meyer running things, anything is possible.