It truly is hard to believe, but this marks our final B1G 2015 potluck of the year. We have covered everyone from Purdue to Michigan State, and our only team left is a team that will always be the first CFP Champions - the Ohio State Buckeyes. After what can only be called a team that was extremely ahead of schedule and stacked beyond belief, the Buckeyes stormed through the postseason last year and cemented their claim to the top spot in football. Going into 2015, all of the pieces are there for a repeat, but that's one of the most difficult things to do in sports, right? Maybe.
Today we are bringing a lot of nutty deliciousness in honor of those crazy poisonous nuts from Ohio. We cover everything from the chances of Ohio State repeating as champions and the expectations that come from that to the plethora of talent the Buckeyes will be rolling out on each side of the ball. After some talk about the wildcards in the deck - specifically a new Offensive Coordinator - we finish with a few awards. After all, what would the Ohio State potluck be without a couple of slights to the team with the golden trophy? It's been a fun summer, this is a fun week, and I cannot wait for football to be here.
As always, recipes are in the titles. Let's get nutty.
Appetizer: Spicy Maple-Cashew Popcorn via Cooking Light
Some teams win championships and everybody is all like, "Hey, look at the years of building towards this crowning achievement. This is the hard work of a senior class that started together as freshmen and avoided debilitating injuries, bad losses, and had a dose of good luck." Then there's this Ohio State team that somehow lost not only a two time B1G Offensive Player of the Year at QB - Braxton Miller - but also Heisman hopeful JT Barrett, and then went all LOLWEHAVEALLTHETALENT and put Cardale Jones out there during the three most important games of the season in which he eviscerated his opponents. So naturally there would be attrition going into 2015, right? Nope. They're all here and the goal is a repeat. Most of the team is intact, and Urban Meyer has as many weapons as he ever has. Would it be fair to say that anything less than a CFP berth is a disappointment?
Andrew Kraszewski: Yes, anything less than a repeat appearance is a huge failure, though of course with the asterisk of decent health and no unforeseen off-field issue meteors crashing into the 'Shoe.
Candystripes for Breakfast: Probably, yeah. Of course, to not make it back probably means something went seriously wrong for them during the season, but given how last year played out, what even qualifies as "seriously wrong"? Heck, they've already got a few people suspended for their opener, and they'll still probably roll.
GoForThree: At this point, that's a given. The pre-season hype, combined with the obviously high level of returning talent makes a playoff berth the floor for this season, and anything else will be seen as an abysmal failure. As much fun as it is to poke fun at the obsession and expectations of other fanbases, the fact remains that Buckeye backers are no less demanding. Now, maybe more so.
LincolnParkWildcat: Yeah, given how everyone thinks how loaded this team is, this season would be a disappointment if they don't make the playoffs.
Aaron Yorke: Yes, unfortunately for Urban Meyer and company, the bar has been raised that high. If this team doesn't win the Big Ten and reach the Playoff, it will be seen as a disappointment. Is that fair? Probably not. Last year's team was a couple of bounces away from losing at Penn State and maybe was lucky down the stretch that opponents were so unprepared for the amazing talent that is Cardale Jones.
Mike Jones: I’m not sure talent is everything for Ohio State. I mean, are we forgetting that it was a surprise that they actually made the Playoff? Wasn’t it going to be TCU or Baylor? And then BOOM. Ohio State. WHAT? THEY LOST TO VIRGINIA TECH? Sometimes you need things to fall your way. Because last season Ohio State was arguably better in the season when they were fully healthy…and they lost to Virginia Tech. Then they made the playoff…and the rest is history. Circumstances and the losses of other teams that are in the top 10 are just as important as winning games. And winning games is something that Ohio State can do.
So let's get the QB thing out in the open. Braxton Miller is now a WR, and he has a new number and everything. So you're Urban Meyer and you have to choose between J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones. Barrett offers so much upside, and his tape shows he's probably your best bet, but do you remember Jones rumbling over Alabama for 20 yard chunks at a time? They say if you have two QBs, you really have none, but maybe this changes things? What do you do with the QB situation at OSU? Moreover, is it possible to get all three on the field at the same time? Is this the part where we remember Ezekiel Elliott being really good at RB? Or the part where the Offensive Line is stacked?
AK: If Meyer wants to do a Leak/Tebow thing, he's basically got the archetypes right here- except Barrett's already way better than Chris Leak ever was and Jones is even bigger than Tebow with a howitzer arm to match. Having 2 QBs is fine if they're both good enough to play and the system can make use of both. This isn't the NFL where your QB must take hundreds of reps and go through dozens of hours of coaching to have a shot at grasping what the defense is doing. Usually, having 2 QBs just means neither is good enough to grab the starting job. That's emphatically not the case here.
C4B: I'm pretty firm on the "2 QBs = 0 QBs" plan, but honestly, I think the Buckeyes are set regardless of who starts. Just pick one and stick with him for a while.
GF3: Every team believes they're the exception to the two QB caveat. No team ever seems to be....except maybe that 2006 Florida Gators squad. And we know who coached that. That being said, I hope OSU picks a QB and sticks with him. History is littered with examples where the opposite has proven to be a costly error.
LPW: Call up a trick play: Have Jones line up as tight end and Miller as wide receiver. Then have the center hike it to Barrett, who hands it off behind his back to Zeke, who laterals it to Jones, who then throws a bomb to Miller. TD... Is OSU's line seriously called the Slobs? If so, that's awesome!
This is a scary good offense. I didn't know one could marry power football with the spread until last year. I thought those two offenses were the complete opposites of each other. Zeke's a damn tank.
insertname: /looks at Gopher depth chart
AY: I've always thought the "if you have two QBs..." mantra was a load. The reason most teams play two guys is because they don't have one good one. With Ohio State, we've seen both choices win and win big. I still think Meyer should choose a starting quarterback, but if he wants to put the other guy in for certain situations (maybe Jones for 3rd-and-short and Barrett for 3rd-and-long?), I think that's perfectly fine. And yeah, with Elliot and that line, it won't matter who the signal caller is for most of the schedule.
MJ: he answer is yes. Cardale led you to the Championship. Well, Zeke did that. And JT is really good. So yes. I didn’t answer the question. Don’t care. Ohio State is good.
Defensively, OSU finished 2014 as the 7th best defense according to FEI and the second best defense according to S&P. They had a filthy line anchored by all-everything Joey Bosa - who is coming back. Oh, and add to that a duo of tackling machine LBs in Joshua Perry and Darron Lee and everything in the secondary - Vonn Bell especially, and you have the makings for an even better defense. I don't even know what my question is... Oh, I know, can this unit actually be better than the offense? In theory, there is enough talent that Ohio State can play any game they want, but what should be the expectations for this unit? Can they be the best defense in the nation?
AK: They need 2 new DL to step forward, maybe make it 3 to have a little depth, and then, yes, they should be. If they don't find someone as good as Bennett at the nose, though, blocking schemes will be free to key on Bosa, and the edge comes off the pass rush a little bit...to leave this as merely a top-10 to top-15 outfit. Boo fookin' hoo.
C4B: Is it possible for them to be #1 in the nation? I think so. Do I expect them to do that, though? No, not a chance. Somehow, their defense last year finished something like 19th(!) in the country, which leads me to believe that actually being #1 is a crapshoot among probably 10-15 top teams.
GF3: Can they be? Sure. Will be they be? Probably not, and that's partly due in large measure to how the season will play out and how defenses are measured. They may be the best in simple metrics, but when the entirety of the slate is considered for the purpose of advanced stats, it's doubtful the squishy segments of the schedule will do them any favors.
LPW: I have no clue if the defense could be better than the offense. Can we call this defense the Silver Bullets, or is that only reserved for the 2002 champs? I think they will definitely be up there with the top defenses, if not the top defense in the country.
AY: With all that talent on offense, there shouldn't be too much pressure on the defense. At the same time, though, expectations should be just as high. If this unit can stop the run like it's expected to do, the experienced secondary can be counted on to force lots of turnovers on passing downs. Best defense in the nation is in play, but they might give up some points here and there just because opponents will constantly be playing catch-up.
MJ: Ohio State can never be the best defense in the nation because Michigan State exists.
Main Dish: Almond Crusted Halibut via Fine Cooking
One of the interesting offseason stories for Ohio State is the loss of Offensive Coordinator Tom Herman. Sure, Urban Meyer is the true architect of this offense, but Herman seemed to have this team humming by the end of the year, and you can certainly assume that his QB tutelage played a big part in both Barrett and Jones being able to step in and be awesome. With Tim Beck coming in as QB Coach/Co OC, do you all see any potential dropoffs in offensive output? Should Ohio State be nervous about breaking in some new pieces against Virginia Tech again? Is Urban just trying to level the playing field in a cocky, "Guys, I can do this with my eyes closed" way?
AK: Maybe, but Beck's got plenty of toys to play with- a lot more than he did at Nebraska or anywhere else. Even if his concepts take some getting used to, the skill of the players should help erase some of that. Having not just one guy like Jalin Marshall who can just score 4 TDs in a half out of the blue, but a half dozen of those guys, makes me think it'd be hard for Beck to mess this up too much.
C4B: When in doubt, send Zeke 85 yards through the heart of the South. Worked before.
GF3: As I said in yesterday's article, Beck is a wild card at best. His best selling point right now is that Urban Meyer picked him as a match for Ed Warriner. That being said, I'm extremely worried about this offense against Virginia Tech. Bud Foster is looking to repeat last year's magic with that Bear nonsense, and the lack of Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson, and Corey Smith on the offense will make Beck's task even taller (way to go, you #%&!@$ chuckleheads).
LPW: I'll have Nebraska fans throwing things at me for this, but if Beck can make Nebraska's QB's look good, then I think OSU will be just fine on offense. As for Virginia Tech, I expect OSU to exact 1 year of pent up rage and have 55 points on the board before halftime. And shut them out. I'm talking a Wisconsin level of destruction. NO MERCY.
insertname: <Put in the frank beamer arms up pic from VT00WF>
AY: Beck has experience at Nebraska coaching athletic quarterbacks and a power running game, so he seems like a very good fit for Ohio State. The real reason he was brought in, though, was to recruit in Texas, where he used to coach high school ball. I'd be more nervous about Joey Bosa being suspended versus Virginia Tech than any offensive issues. Whichever quarterback the Bucks deploy in that game will have plenty of experience already. Could Meyer coach this time with his eyes closed? Maybe (it depends on how strong his telepathic connection with Barrett is). He hired Beck for legitimate reasons, though.
MJ: Urban is infallible and Tim Beck is just as good as Tom Herman. Now here’s a picture of Rick Kaczenski.
Dessert: Buckeye Pie via the Kitchn
This is the last potluck of the year, and we have covered everything from mascots to drinks to apples to poems. I'd say it's been a pretty good summer. With that in mind, go ahead and pat yourselves on on the back and hand out some awards as you see fit. Perhaps it's the August CFP Championship to the Buckeyes. Maybe it's the Heisman in a tie to Braxton Miller, JT Barrett, and Cardale Jones. Or maybe it's COTY to Urban Meyer. Ohio State does seem to have all of them these days. Or, you know, go ahead and make up an award and hand it out to the public, writers, or whatever. It's a free-for-all. Note: feel free to give me the award for best potluck question maker of 2015.
AK: No awards. By definition, most entries in a standard distribution fall within 2 standard deviations. I guess what I'm trying to say is nobody and nothing is really all that special (it's been a long day at work, guys).
GF3: "Ohio State does seem to have all of them these days." Except that COTY award...it's only been 35-ish years and two national titles since an OSU coach won it. But hey, who's counting? I'd like to dedicate the inaugural Fuck Michigan Forever and Ever Amen Memorial Ice Cream Scoop to everyone out there in the OTE land whose heart is warmed by a loud and boisterous "Fuck Michigan!" The scoop is plated in solid gold (er...maize?) and features Brady Hoke's fingerprints alongside the inscription "This is Michigan Fergodsakes!" I encourage you all to enjoy some of Columbus' own Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.
LPW: Best hybrid QB award goes to Mackton Thorvitiver of Northwestern. Also, props to Jesse for coming up with all these potlucks and the food/drink to pair it with.
insertname: I'd like to give an award to the drivers of Philly. Traffic moving at 75 in a 35 for two straight miles.
AY: Jesse gets the Potluck award for putting so many specific details in these questions that he didn't sound like a rampant Nebraska homer. Now, that is an accomplishment.
MJ: September coach of the year goes to Jim Harbaugh. Moral victory of the year goes to Minnesota in their "closer than it looked" 20 point loss to TCU. Maryland fans win the "we don’t give a shit about your coach but keep talking about him" award. Christian Hackenberg wins the David Carr BUT IF HIS OFFENSIVE LINE WAS GOOD HE WOULD BE TOO Award. Nebraska wins the Well Mike Riley Only Won 7 Games His First Year BUT HE’S A REALLY NICE GUY AND WE NEEDED SOMETHING DIFFERENT Award. Kirk Ferentz wins coach of the year. That last part is serious.