What to know: When you add touchdown passes and TD runs, Miller was responsible for 20 touchdowns during his freshman season at OSU, 28 as a sophomore and then 36 (24 passing, 12 rushing) while missing almost three full games as a junior. Miller shattered the OSU record of 31 (Terrelle Pryor, 2010; Troy Smith, 2006; Bobby Hoying, 1995) last year, but there’s even more room to grow under Urban Meyer; Tim Tebow totaled 55 TDs in 2007 under Meyer on the way to the Heisman Trophy.
Verdict: I’m actually pretty bullish on this one. Miller is the top proven commodity on the OSU offense and will be given plenty of chances to shine, and he’s added scoring punch each of his three seasons in Columbus. If he had stayed healthy, he would have topped 40 a year ago, and so there’s reason to think this one could happen.
Buy or Sell: OSU will have another 1,000-yard rusher
What to know: Urban Meyer famously didn’t have a 1,000-yard back until Carlos Hyde blew well past the mark with 1,521 yards a season ago. There are plenty of talented running back options on the roster, but will anyone step up and become the kind of bell cow that will allow them to pick up 1,000 yards in a season. In a 15-game campaign, though, that means a rusher would need to average just 66.7 yards per contest. Given Meyer’s proclivity for running the ball, that seems pretty doable.
Verdict: I’d probably sell this one. Ezekiel Elliott looks like the most likely player to become the starter, and I have few doubts about his package of size and power. He showed explosiveness, too, a year ago in spot duty. But the Buckeyes likely have four or five guys who can run the ball if you include Miller, which means finding a lot of carries for one specific guy to get to 1,000. Add in the rebuilt offensive line and I’m just not sure this one is going to happen.
Buy or Sell: OSU will have a 1,000-yard receiver
What to know: Historically, this one seems pretty unlikely. Ohio State hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Michael Jenkins posted 1,076 in 2002, and just four Buckeyes – Jenkins, David Boston (1,435) in 1998, Terry Glenn (1,411) in 1995 and Cris Carter (1,127) in 1986 – have ever reached the mark. Last year’s top wideout, Philly Brown, finished with 771 yards. In Meyer’s career, just one pass catcher topped the mark, that being Paris Warren with 1,076 yards for Utah in 2004.
Verdict: Sell. I think this year’s crop of wideouts will be deeper than in the past, which is a good sign for the team’s health, but that should keep anyone from running away with big numbers on the individual side. There are a number of players who I think will be able to go the distance, headlined by Devin Smith, but you’d need a fair number of long catches to be able to pile up 1,000 yards.
Buy or Sell: OSU will average 40 points per game
What to know: Ohio State finished at 45.5 points per game last season, a school record, and the team became just the second to top the 40-point mark. Of course, OSU returns a lot of skill on offense and should be able to make the scoreboard move against many of its opponents. This year, Phil Steele’s projections have the Buckeyes at 37.0 points per game.
Verdict: I’m on the fence with this one. It’s totally possible to see the Buckeyes going off in a number of games this year, but an average of 40 points is, quite simply, a lot. Add in the fact that the nonconference slate is better this year – three of the four opponents, outside of Kent State, are competent, a big change from last year when Cal and FAMU had no defense to speak of – and it’s harder to imagine 40 points per game this year. But then again, with Miller back and some skill position talent ready to take advantage of Meyer’s scheme, it has to be on the radar.
Buy or Sell: OSU will allow less than 20 points per game
What to know: Ohio State allowed 22.6 a year ago despite one of the worst pass defenses in the history of the program. While the defense was woeful near the end of the year, allowing an average of 38.3 points in its last three games, it did shut out overmatched foes Florida A&M and Purdue. Checking back in with Steele, he projects the Buckeyes to cede 22.7 points per game, actually worse than a year ago.
Verdict: I’m definitely buying this one. I have seen bigger defensive turnarounds happen that what would need to occur at OSU – think Michigan from 2010 to ’11 – and I really think the Buckeyes are going to have a much improved unit this year. With the new aggressive style the coaching staff has installed, I think the defense can take a big jump forward, so I’m on board with this one. It helps that the Big Ten doesn’t project to have as many stars on offense as it does on defense this year.