The Ohio State football team will kick off its 2017 on Thursday night and for the first time since my college days, I'll be watching from home.
So some might say I know a thing or two about Ohio State -- or at least, I've tried to. I've even written a newly released book about Urban Meyer, which I mention for no other reason than as a cheap plug.
I write all of this as a long way of saying that although the Buckeyes are no longer my full-time beat -- I'll still be in Columbus at times throughout the season -- I have some thoughts on the upcoming campaign. With that in mind, here are my predictions for Ohio State's 2017 season:
The Buckeyes will win the 2018 College Football Playoff
One would think it'd be tough to erase my last image of Ohio State football from my mind -- and yet, it's been anything but. Despite losing 31-0 to Clemson in last season's College Football Playoff semifinal Fiesta Bowl, the Buckeyes' lopsided defeat at the hands of the Tigers has hardly lingered throughout the 2017 offseason.
If anything, it's fueled Ohio State, which returns not only an experienced roster, but arguably, Meyer's most-talented since arriving in Columbus in 2012. Meyer has long preached his preference to coach an angry team and the Buckeyes certainly fit the mold of just that given the way last season came to a close.
Factor in a friendly schedule, which will see Ohio State take arguably its toughest test of the season -- an Oct. 28 date vs. Penn State -- at home, and I like the Buckeyes' odds of advancing to the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis and beyond.
Once you get to the final four, it's somewhat of a crapshoot. But I'll take talent over anything else and unlike a season ago, Ohio State has not only that, but also experience on its side.
J.T. Barrett will be a Heisman Trophy finalist
When it comes to question marks for the Buckeyes, there may not be any bigger than J.T. Barrett. Despite being Ohio State's most experienced player -- and the reigning Big Ten Quarterback of the Year -- the end of the 2016 season turned many sour on the Buckeyes' signal-caller.
But with Kevin Wilson now running the show as Ohio State's offensive coordinator, I'm predicting a big bounce back year for Barrett, who's on pace to break most Big Ten career passing records. In fact, I think between the talent around him, the Buckeyes' new offensive direction and his pre-existing prominence, Barrett will be in New York City this coming December for the Heisman Trophy presentation.
I don't, however, believe that it will be Barrett who walks away with the Stiff-Arm Trophy.
My 2017 Heisman Trophy prediction? Preseason favorite and USC quarterback Sam Darnold going coast-to-coast.
Ohio State's defense will produce at least five first-round picks in 2018
Jerome Baker, Dre'Mont Jones, Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes, Denzel Ward and Kendall Sheffield all have the potential to be first-round picks next spring.
The scariest thing the Buckeyes' defense has going for it? Its best player might just be defensive end Nick Bosa, who isn't even a starter and is only entering his sophomore season. That's depth.
Parris Campbell will be a more dynamic H-back than Curtis Samuel
Of all my Ohio State hot takes, this is my spiciest.
While Curtis Samuel may have been Meyer's most productive H-back since Percy Harvin, I actually believe that Parris Campbell is better suited for the role. Sure, Campbell has yet to make a significant impact since arriving in Columbus in 2014, but the Akron native was also miscast as a wide receiver for the past three seasons.
But as an H-back, Campbell will be able to utilize the running back skills that helped make him a star at St. Vincent-St. Mary, while still putting to use his ability as a pass-catcher. Because of the plethora of talent around him, Campbell likely won't replicate Samuel's numbers from a season ago. But I do think he'll prove every bit as dynamic as the now-Carolina Panther -- and then some.
Ohio State will cover the spread vs. Indiana
For whatever reason, Indiana has made a habit of playing Ohio State close under Meyer.
That changes on Thursday.
The Hoosiers might actually be a pretty decent team, but they're running into a buzzsaw with this Buckeyes' team. Not only has Ohio State been waiting since its New Year's Eve meltdown to get back on the field, but the addition of Wilson -- who was unceremoniously ousted as Indiana's head coach last December -- should add extra incentive for the Buckeyes to pour it on in their season opener.
Most sportsbooks list Ohio State as a 20-21.5-point favorite. If gambling were legal, I would highly recommend betting the Buckeyes.
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