The College Football Playoff Championship concluded less than 72 hours ago with the 2018 season about eight months from kicking off. But, it’s never too early to talk about the upcoming college football season. Four major outlets—CBS, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and USA TODAY—have released their way-too-early Top 25 rankings. While the rankings fluctuate, the Ohio State Buckeyes are in the Top 4 of all four rankings, ranging from No. 4 (twice) and No. 3 (twice).
Obviously, plenty can (and will) change before the 2018 kicks off. While programs already know which seniors they will have to replace, underclassmen have until January 15 to declare for the NFL Draft, decisions that will greatly affect plenty of programs around the country. Along with that, while class rankings are important, there will be true freshman across the country that surprise many people and have major contributions during their first college season. Monday night’s national championship between Alabama and Georgia, where two true freshman quarterbacks were leading their respected teams in the second half.
In terms of the Buckeyes, they will have to replace quarterback J.T. Barrett, offensive tackle Jamarco Jones, center Billy Price, defensive ends Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis, linebackers Jerome Baker and Chris Worley, cornerback Denzel Ward, and safety Damon Webb. Baker and Ward have already declared, but Ohio State may have to replace even more talent depending on the other potential players who could forgo their final season (or two) in Columbus to enter the NFL Draft.
While it will be tough to replace all that talent, head coach Urban Meyer and company have done a great job recruiting in order to retool—not rebuild. Also, there is plenty of talent who received a lot of playing time in 2017 that will return and don the scarlet and gray next season as well.
In the Top 4 of all four way-too-early rankings, the Buckeyes also have one of the best odds to win the College Football Playoff Championship in 12 months as well. According to Bovada, Ohio State has 8-to-1 odds to win it all, only behind Alabama (5-to-2) and Clemson (6-to-1), while tied with Georgia. Michigan (10-to-1), Penn State (12-to-1), Wisconsin (25-to-1), and Michigan State (25-to-1) are among the best odds as well.
In just eight short months, the 2018 college football season will kick off. Although that’s far off and there will be plenty of changes across the college football landscape, it’s still fun to take a look ahead at some of the top teams in 2018. Let’s take a look at all four of the outlets rankings:
The Buckeyes come in at No. 4 in CBS’s rankings, behind Alabama, Clemson, and Georgia. They seem to lean on the fact that Meyer has had one of the best teams in the country throughout his time in Columbus and don’t think that will change in 2018.
Here’s what CBS’s Dennis Dodd said about the Buckeyes:
I know J.T. Barrett is gone, but Urban Meyer has won at least 11 in each of his seasons in Columbus. There are worse bets than going with that trend. The Big Ten East is loaded. Until further notice, the defending conference champion is going to win it again.
CBS included Big Ten’s Michigan State (No. 5), Penn State (No. 6), Wisconsin (No. 7), and Michigan (No. 14) in their Top 25 as well.
They seem to be a little higher on the Buckeyes than CBS, ranking the scarlet and gray No. 3 in their way-too-early rankings, behind only Alabama and Clemson. They seem to be high on the fact that Ohio State will have both J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber back in the backfield to help whoever the new starting quarterback is. Also, the hiring of co-defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is good, too.
Let’s take a look at what ESPN’s Mark Schlabach said about putting Ohio State as the third-best team in the country to start the 2018 season:
The Buckeyes fell just short of reaching the CFP for the third time in four seasons, but they finished with a five-game win streak, including a 24-7 victory over USC in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.
OSU will have a quarterback battle to watch in the spring; Dwayne Haskins is the favorite to replace Barrett, but highly regarded Tate Martell is a talented dual-threat quarterback who might bring more creativity to the offense. With J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber expected back, whoever wins the job will have plenty of help.
Urban Meyer has brought on Washington State’s Alex Grinch, a two-time Broyles Award nominee, to be co-defensive coordinator. The Buckeyes will have to survive three difficult road games to stay in CFP contention in 2018: TCU (in Arlington, Texas), Penn State and Michigan State.
Surprisingly, ESPN showed the Big Ten plenty of love. Along with Ohio State, Wisconsin (No. 6), Michigan State (No. 9), Penn State (No. 11), and Michigan (No. 13) are all in the Top 25. They were the best conference in 2017 and the Big Ten may be atop of the conference rankings in 2018 as well.
Much like CBS, Sports Illustrated believes that as of now, Ohio State is the fourth-best team in the country heading into the 2018 season, behind only Georgia, Alabama, and Clemson. They believe the Bucks will be just fine with guys like Dwayne Haskins and Nick Bosa, among others.
Here’s what SI’s Joan Niesen said about Ohio State:
Losing Barrett will be a blow, but the Buckeyes are no stranger to attrition, and with Dwayne Haskins stepping in to take his place on a full-time basis, plus the returns of running back J.K. Dobbins and defensive end Nick Bosa, things in Columbus will be just fine.
There are five Big Ten teams in the Top 25, including Ohio State: No. 6 Wisconsin, No. 7 Penn State, No. 12 Michigan State, No. 23 Michigan.
We have two that have already put the scarlet and gray at No. 4, so it’s only right that USA TODAY tabbed Ohio State as the No. 3-ranked team in the country heading into 2018 to make it two for No. 3 and two for No. 4. They have Meyer’s crew behind only Clemson and Alabama.
Why, you ask? They believe Ohio State will be just fine with the talent they have returning and the addition of Grinch. Maybe, just maybe, the co-defensive coordinator was that big of a hire that won’t be talked about much.
Here’s what USA TODAY’s Paul Myerberg said about the Buckeyes:
The Buckeyes will sorely miss J.T. Barrett’s leadership but should feel confident in Dwayne Haskins’ ability to take the reins of the offense as a sophomore. Like Alabama, OSU will lose a number of major players to the NFL, but the inherent talent base and the addition of former Washington State assistant Alex Grinch as co-defensive coordinator will keep Urban Meyer and his team among the nation’s elite.
For those keeping track of the Big Ten, they have Wisconsin (No. 5), Penn State (No. 6), Michigan State (No. 10), and Michigan (No. 16) all in the Top 25.