There’s one unmistakable reality in the world of Big Ten football. There’s Ohio State...and then there’s everyone else. The Buckeyes have now won three straight Big Ten titles and played in a College Football Playoff semifinal three times in six seasons. More Buckeyes have been drafted by the NFL (141) than from any other school, with only Alabama able to match Ohio State’s 31 first round picks since 2000.
Because Ohio State has been continuously reloading each season, there’s no reason to think that Ohio State won’t be a heavy favorite to win the Big Ten in 2020. They may not end up being perfect (the Buckeyes have lost games to Iowa and Purdue in recent years), but they sure look like the presumptive favorite at the start of the season.
Junior quarterback Justin Fields (6’3” 226 lbs.) is one of the leading preseason Heisman candidates this season after a sophomore season where he threw 41 touchdown passes with just three interceptions. (Oh, and he ran for ten more touchdowns.) He completed 67% of his passes for 3,273 yards and rushed for 484 yards. He’ll be backed up by senior Gunnar Hoak (6’4” 215 lbs.), a four-star recruit who’s played sparingly at Kentucky before transferring to Ohio State, and incoming freshmen C.J. Stroud (6’3” 205 lbs.), a five-star recruit, and Jack Miller (6’4” 210 lbs.), a four star.
Running back is one of the bigger holes (if you can call them that) that Ohio State will have to fill, with J.K. Dobbins off to the Baltimore Ravens. Sophomore Master Teague (5’11” 225 lbs.) rushed for 789 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 5.8 yards per carry last season. Teague tore his Achilles early in spring practice, but is back practicing this fall. He’ll split carries with senior Trey Sermon (6’0” 221 lbs.), a graduate transfer from Oklahoma who had rushed for 2,076 yards in 19 starts for the Sooners.
Leading receiver Chris Olave (6’1” 188 lbs.) returns after catching 49 passes for 849 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore last season, earning him third team All-Big Ten honors. Sophomore Garrett Wilson (6’0” 193 lbs.) looks to see more snaps after catching 30 passes for 432 yards and five touchdowns as a true freshman last season. Senior Demario McCall (5’9” 195 lbs.) looks to be the new slotback, replacing K.J. Hill, who’s off to the LA Chargers. Senior tight end Luke Farrell (6’6” 258 lbs.) will split time with junior Jeremy Ruckert (6’5” 253 lbs.); the two combined for 21 catches for 261 yards and six touchdowns last season.
Three starters return on the offensive line, and all are stars. Junior right guard Wyatt Davis (6’4” 315 lbs.) was a second team All-American last season; he opted out of the 2020 season when the Big Ten shut down but is now back with the Buckeyes now that season is back. Junior center Josh Myers (6’5” 312 lbs.) was a fourth team All-American and senior left tackle Thayer Munford (6’6” 315 lbs.) was a second team All-Big Ten honoree last season. Last season, the Buckeyes had to replace four starters on the offensive line, and still made the College Football Playoff. Frankly, only having to replace two starters up front should not be a huge impediment for a team that continuously reloads like Ohio State does.
Having to replace seven starters on the defense could be, though, especially since seven of last season’s top ten tacklers are off to the NFL. Up front, only senior defensive end Jonathon Cooper (6’4” 257 lbs.) returns. Cooper started 13 games in 2018, earning honorable mention all-Big Ten honors, but was limited to just four games last season.
Senior linebackers Pete Werner (6’3” 242 lbs.) and Tuf Borland (6’1” 234 lbs.) return at strongside and middle linebacker respectively. Werner is the leading returning tackler with 64 tackles last season; Borland was fourth last season with 55. Senior Baron Browning (6’3” 240 lbs.) has been a spot starter and key reserve throughout his careers; he’s slated to take over at weakside linebacker.
Junior cornerback Shaun Wade (6’1” 195 lbs.) is the only returning starter in the secondary for Ohio State. He was a third-team all-Big Ten honoree last season who originally planned to opt out of the season, as he’s projected to be a high NFL draft pick. Now that the season is back on in the fall, he’s been cleared to rejoin the Buckeyes. The rest of the secondary is probably a work in progress; the only thing for sure is that whomever lines up will likely have been a highly ranked recruit.
Nebraska could not have drawn a tougher season opening opponent than Ohio State; however, considering the new weapons with Nebraska’s offense and the relative inexperience on defense for the Buckeyes, there might not be a better time than the season opener to play them. You never know what might happen.
What happens when the Huskers line up in the Horseshoe?
This poll is closed
Bad things, I’m afraid. Nebraska isn’t ready for Ohio State.
Like two years ago, Nebraska makes it interesting, but the Buckeyes begin their run for a national title.
Boom! We’ve seen all sorts of weird upsets in college football this season. The Big Red starts the season 1-0. Sad pizza time!