The Ohio State Buckeyes fell a little short of their goal of reaching the College Football Playoff in 2017. They were derailed by an early-season home loss to Oklahoma and then completely undone by a humiliating blowout at the hands of Iowa in early November. However, the Buckeyes managed to bounce back and finish strong. They beat Michigan State and Michigan down the stretch before knocking off Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game and dismantling USC in the Cotton Bowl. But with two losses, they were always destined to be left out of the College Football Playoff.
Entering 2018, the Buckeyes once again have their sights set on the four-team playoff. Despite sending several players off to the NFL, Ohio State remains one of the most talented teams in the country. Urban Meyer and company will also be hungry to win a national championship for the first time since 2014.
As expected, Ohio State is one of the top betting favorites to win the national championship. Their odds are listed at +750, which is the third best behind only Alabama and Clemson. The Buckeyes also have a projected win total at 10.5.
The key to surpassing that total and being in the hunt for a national championship could be the play of new quarterback Dwayne Haskins. He saw some action as a backup last year, but this will be the first time Haskins takes the reigns as the full-time starter. However, many consider him to be an upgrade over J.T. Barrett as a passer, which could help make up for his lack of experience.
Offensively, the Buckeyes will be as good as Haskins allows them to be. Meanwhile, the Ohio State defense has as much talent and depth as any team in the country. There may be a few small areas of concern in the back-7. However, the pass-rushing duo of Nick Boca and Chase Young will help to hide any deficiencies. That could be the difference that takes the Buckeyes to the 11- or 12-win mark and gets them to the Big Ten title game and beyond.
|Sep 1||Oregon State Beavers||12:00 PM|
|Sep 8||Rutgers Scarlet Knights||3:30 PM|
|Sep 15||@ Texas Christian Horned Frogs||8:00 PM|
|Sep 22||Tulane Green Wave||12:00 PM|
|Sep 29||@ Penn State Nittany Lions||12:00 PM|
|Oct 6||Indiana Hoosiers||12:00 PM|
|Oct 13||Minnesota Golden Gophers||12:00 PM|
|Oct 20||@ Purdue Boilermakers||12:00 PM|
|Nov 3||Nebraska Cornhuskers||12:00 PM|
|Nov 10||@ Michigan State Spartans||12:00 PM|
|Nov 17||@ Maryland Terrapins||12:00 PM|
|Nov 24||Michigan Wolverines||12:00 PM|
As usual, Ohio State’s key games are against Penn State, Michigan State, and Michigan, the teams in the Big Ten East with the best chance to take them down. The Buckeyes head to Happy Valley in late September and then travel to Michigan State in the middle of November for a pair of tough road games. Ohio State then hosts Michigan to close out the regular season. The Buckeyes also have an intriguing non-conference game against TCU in mid-September. The Horned Frogs are strong defensively, so they could give Ohio State some trouble.
Outside of those four games, Ohio State’s schedule is not that challenging. They avoid having to play Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Iowa, so their crossovers with the Big Ten West should not trouble them. Even if they slip up once, the Buckeyes should still have no trouble winning the Big Ten East and returning to the conference championship game. Remember, Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State all play one another too, so that group will beat up on each other.
However, winning the East is not a ticket to the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes will likely have a rematch with Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. With the way the Badgers can run the ball, they could knock off the Buckeyes and prevent them from reaching the Playoff in 2018.