Ohio State can take pride in being ranked No.1 all-time in football by the Associated Press in a recent top-100 survey that was confirmed by ESPN.
But that’s not going to replace the 16 starters the Buckeyes lose from last year’s team.
It’s a testament to Urban Meyer’s talent that smart people have ignored “returning starters” in assessing Ohio State’s playoff chances in 2016.
Meyer has reached such an exalted status HE is always the most important returning starter.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Meyer has Ohio State running at assembly-line efficiency and gets credit where it’s due. Two years ago, he led Ohio State to the first CFB playoff national title with this third-string quarterback.
This year, he starts the season with seasoned-veteran J.T. Barrett and a cast of young, five-star caliber recruits.
We get it: Meyer is at the top of his game, yet you could argue his crown has slipped a bit.
He left AT&T Stadium two years ago, after his Buckeyes whipped Oregon, as the greatest current coach in college football.
He temporarily supplanted Nick Saban that year by soundly defeating Alabama in the playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl.
Things have changed. Saban is now back on top after winning his fifth national title, fourth with Alabama, in last year’s title game.
And Meyer isn’t even the most interesting, or in demand, coach in the East Division of Big Ten.
Incredibly, he finds himself in the shadow of Michigan and Jim Harbaugh, who makes news by brushing his teeth.
Meyer is also on the defense again as Big Ten coaches continue to attack him for “negative” recruiting. The focus seemed fixed on Meyer when Penn State coach James Franklin suggested some continue to use the Jerry Sandusky scandal to steer players away from State College.
“Absolutely not,” Meyer shot back at recent Big Ten media days in Chicago.
The chatter also presents another unique opportunity. If Meyer can win the national title this year, with a team that returns only three starters on offense and defense, he can shut Harbaugh up for five minutes solidifying his standing as one of America’s preeminent college icons.
The guess here is that Meyer’s team, while a legitimate preseason top 10, has too much to overcome to win the grand prize.
Check back with us after Ohio State’s Sept. 17 trip to Norman to face over-stocked Oklahoma. That’s a match up, for what it’s worth, of the top two teams in AP poll history.
The bet on Ohio State these days is that you never bet against Meyer. Having Barrett back, without any controversy at quarterback, is a huge calming bonus.
Trust us: the Buckeyes have plenty of stars—they’re just not household names yet.
Even Meyer concedes he has to replace “arguably one of the best groups of players ever to come through college football.”
The doesn’t mean he won’t do it.
Yes, the Buckeyes are young.
“The issue would be if it was a non-talented young team,’’ he said. “And that’s not the case at all.”
And that’s why everyone else needs to worry.