Braxton Miller has been ruled out for the 2014 season per an ESPN report, after re-injuring the shoulder he hurt last season. While this is an undoubted blow, it is by no means a death sentence. Ohio State can still win the B1G and do so in a fashion that earns them a playoff place. Here are three reasons why.
Their Schedule is Putrid. Ohio State plays virtually no one. The Buckeyes have one game against a Preseason Top 25 opponent, at Michigan State. Their conference slate, beyond that, is bleak. They drew Illinois and Minnesota from the West, evading Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern. Their other trickiest conference games are Michigan (home) and Penn State (away). Non-conference, Virginia Tech at home looks like the one potential hiccup. The other games are against Navy, Kent State and Cincinnati. They don’t face a team that can match their talent (in most cases not close). That schedule gives them a very high floor and a ceiling within reach.
The Meyer/Herman Offense. Braxton Miller missed a significant portion of last season. Great as he is, the offense did not miss a beat with Kenny Guiton. The fifth-year senior played well. But that performance was also the sign of a system in place, flexible enough to accommodate players of differing strengths and abilities. Probable replacement J.T. Barrett is “only a redshirt freshman.” So were the last two Heisman-winners. Barrett is a highly touted recruit, suited to the offense who got a lot of reps with Miller out. This description from Tom Herman sounds like someone who can do things.
“Gets the ball out quickly. Very efficient. Smooth release. Very accurate. Extremely cerebral. Very magnetic leader. I think the kids kind of gravitate towards him.
“We’ve got to work on strengthening his arm. He’s a distant third to Braxton and Cardale in terms of just rearing back and trying to throw it through a wall. But he makes up for it in his anticipation and his accuracy and all that. You don’t have to have a howitzer to be successful in college football. I’m very pleased with his continuing growth.”
That Absurd Defensive Line. The Buckeyes return three linemen – Noah Spence, Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett – who had at least seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss last season. Bosa did so as a true freshman. Top recruits such as Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt could take steps forward this season. There are players behind them who could work their way into the rotation. The Ohio State defensive line is by far the best, deepest unit at any position in the Big Ten, in perhaps the most important spot. Reminder: their second biggest game is against Michigan’s offensive line.
[USA Today Sports]