If we would have told you a season ago that Cardale Jones would beat Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon to win the national championship, you never would have believed it. With that in mind, we take a look at our predictions for the most surprising things we think might happen in the upcoming season.
Ryan Ginn: In the spirit of Jones – he of the 4 career passing yards – piloting Ohio State to a national championship, I’m going to try to actually go bold on this and not just hedge on something that’s possible but not probable. I think Ohio State will have at least three different true freshmen start at least one game this season, and they’ll combine for somewhere around five to 10 starts. While that doesn’t sound that unbelievable, consider that Ohio State had just one true freshman start one game last season (Curtis Samuel against Illinois) and returns more starters than it did in 2014 while bringing in a lower-ranked recruiting class. There are also only three true freshmen listed on the initial two-deep.
With that being said, I’m a believer in this class – especially at the top. I think between the possibilities of injuries, suspensions, fluky circumstances and the emergence of talent, at least a couple guys out of the group headlined by K.J. Hill, Torrance Gibson, Isaiah Prince, Denzel Ward and Eric Glover-Williams will see the field and start some games.
James Grega: OK, so this isn’t the boldest of predictions that will be made as the college football season gets under way, but here goes nothing. Ohio State junior wide receiver Michael Thomas will win the 2015 Biletnikoff Award for best wide receiver in the country.
Thomas led the Buckeyes in receptions last season with 54 and would become just the second OSU receiver to win the award. Buckeye great Terry Glenn won the award in 1995 which was just the second year of the award's existence.
When looking at the 2015 watch list for the award there really isn’t a clear favorite, especially with last year’s winner Amari Cooper gone to the NFL. It also doesn’t hurt Thomas’ case to have two Heisman contenders throwing him the football.
Tim Moody: Damon Webb will be a week two starter. Sophomore Eli Apple is a no-brainer to start at corner for Ohio State throughout the season. To start the year his classmate Gareon Conley is a no-brainer as well.
But here’s the thing, Conley was at the best underwhelming in 2014. Conley’s chance to shine as a redshirt freshman came to a quick, and deserved, end against Michigan State when he was torched early in the game, paving the way for a not-quite-healthy Apple to check into the game. The difference was clear once Conley was off the field as the Buckeyes went on to 49-37 win in East Lansing, Mich.
Sitting behind Conley on the depth chart this fall is sophomore Damon Webb, who showed the coaches enough to play as a true freshman — something Conley failed to do. In very limited playing time Webb recorded a pass breakup and a forced fumble, while Conley managed just 16 total tackles and two pass breakups even though he played in six more games than Webb.
Now it’s unlikely Conley would have a Michigan State-esque performance against Hawaii, Northern Illinois or Western Michigan ahead of the Big Ten season, but if he struggles against Virginia Tech week one, the coaching staff would be hard pressed to keep Webb on the Ohio Stadium sidelines against the Rainbow Warriors come Sept. 12.
Jeff Svoboda: Sam Hubbard will lead the team in sacks. This is nothing against Joey Bosa, who I think can and likely will still have a huge year despite his one-game suspension to start the season. But I'm fully a believer in Hubbard, who I think will be a terror for the Buckeyes on the other edge this season.
In fact, Ohio State might very well have the best pair of defensive ends in the nation in Bosa and Hubbard (Jalyn Holmes will be pretty scary for opposing passers too). And for a variety of reasons, I'm picking Hubbard to lead the team in sacks.
It might sound crazy given that Bosa came within a half sack of setting the Ohio State single-season record last year, but hear me out. I think teams will focus on Bosa, allowing whoever is on the other side (who I expect to be Hubbard for a good portion of the time) to make plays. In addition, I just have a feeling it's gonna be a weird year for Bosa, though obviously I hope that's not the case.
But mostly, this is a pick for Hubbard, not against anyone else. And that's my bold choice for the season.
Blake Williams: Stephen Collier, Ohio State's third-team quarterback who has not taken a competitive snap in his college career, will lead the Buckeyes on five touchdown drives this season.
Clearly, whoever starts out of the Cardale Jones-J.T. Barrett tandem will be the first signal caller off the bench when things start to get out of hand. I think whoever is the backup will still see snaps with other starters in order to stay fresh. As the game continues to get out of hand -- and given Ohio State's schedule and the huge gap in talent between the Buckeyes and their average 2015 opponent that means things will often get out of hand -- I think Meyer will pull his second quarterback before true mop-up time sets in as a sign of respect. That means Collier will get his fair share of fourth-quarter snaps. I think the Buckeye reserves are talented enough to find the end zone in those situations, giving Collier a handful of TD drives this season, more than double the two Jones put up before Barrett was injured last season.