National Signing Day has come and gone and we’re still two months away from the annual spring game, nevertheless, it’s time to make my early predictions for the 2017 Ohio State Buckeyes. Of course, these projections are subject to change.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who will be entering his sixth season in Columbus, landed what is widely recognized as the nation’s second-ranked recruiting class for 2017. Since Meyer took over in 2012, top-five recruiting classes have become quite routine. The 2017 class is the most heralded in Meyer’s tenure with the Buckeyes and includes five-star prospects Jeffrey Okudah (CB/Grand Prairie, TX), Baron Browning (OLB/Kennedale, TX) and Shaun Wade (CB/Jacksonville, FL).
Meyer has once again put Ohio State in position to compete for a playoff appearance and a national championship in 2017. With the season-opening kickoff still over six months away, here’s my early game-by-game predictions.
8/31 at Indiana
Ohio State’s trip to Bloomington will mark the first time in 41 years that the Buckeyes open the season against a Big Ten opponent (1976 vs. Michigan State). It will also be the third time that Ohio State begins the season on a Thursday night. The Buckeyes previously played Thursday night openers (2-0) in 1997 and 2010 at home against Wyoming and Marshall, respectively.
Ohio State will have no problem cruising to a comfortable victory in front of what should be a pro-Ohio State crowd. Meyer and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson will show off an improved passing offense led by senior quarterback J.T. Barrett. Wilson will be coaching in his first game since he resigned from Indiana last season. Wilson will surely have extra motivation in his return to Bloomington and I suspect there may be a few added wrinkles to the offense in store for his former employer. Ohio State jumps out to an easy 1-0 start.
Ohio State 45, Indiana 17
After being embarrassed in their own building a year earlier, quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Sooners will be out for revenge. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, the Sooners will be forced to deal with another September loss. Oklahoma’s pass defense was abysmal in 2016 and it won’t be much better in 2017, at least in the second game of the season. Barrett immediately enters the Heisman conversation and Ohio State wins in a back and forth shootout to improve to 2-0.
Ohio State 41, Oklahoma 34
We’ve seen Ohio State struggle with Navy twice over the last decade (2009 and 2014) and I think Army will also put up a strong fight. This will be one of those games where the Buckeyes are just happy to get out of Ohio Stadium with a win, especially coming off such an emotional victory over Oklahoma the week before. Ohio State gets the win, but Army makes it interesting.
Ohio State 27, Army 19
If there was ever a game to miss because of the unfortunate circumstance of attending the dreaded wedding during the Ohio State football season, this is it. UNLV will be outmatched in every phase of the game. Buckeyes win big.
Ohio State 63, UNLV 13
9/30 at Rutgers
Rutgers will surprisingly keep the game close in the first half, but then Ohio State’s talent will take over. The scoreboard may not indicate that it was actually a game into the second half.
Ohio State 38, Rutgers 21
The Terps will be looking to avenge the 62-3 pummeling that Ohio State put on them last season in College Park. Maryland will make this a little close, but not by much.
Ohio State 58, Maryland 0
10/14 at Nebraska
Nebraska will also be seeking payback after Ohio State crushed the Cornhuskers by an identical 62-3 score. Barrett and the offense will struggle for much of the game and look more like the unit that regressed in 2016. The Silver Bullets keep Ohio State in the game and the Buckeyes pull out a close one late.
Ohio State 23, Nebraska 17
10/28 Penn State
Following the bye week, Ohio State can’t wait for this one. Other than the Michigan game of course, you can bet that the Buckeyes have Penn State circled on the schedule. The Nittany Lions will keep it competitive on the scoreboard for awhile, but Ohio State dominates the game from start to finish. Penn State played way over their heads in the second half of last season and I just don’t see the Happy Valley “magic” making its way to Columbus.
Ohio State 34, Penn State 16
11/4 at Iowa
In what would normally be a game I would worry about, I think it’s a game Ohio State comes out of unscathed. Kinnick Stadium is a tough place to play. Just ask Michigan. Ohio State dominates physically and the Buckeyes win a fairly tight contest that doesn’t really feel that close.
Ohio State 27, Iowa 23
11/11 Michigan State
Ohio State will look to defeat the Spartans in the Horseshoe for the first time since 2007, which was also the last time the home team was victorious in this series. As is usually the case, Michigan State will play Ohio State down to the wire, but Barrett will prove to be the difference in crunch time. Thankfully, 2017 will not be a year that Michigan State disrupts an undefeated season for Ohio State.
Ohio State 34, Michigan State 30
There will be no looking ahead to The Game in this one. Ohio State will take care of business in their final tune-up prior to Michigan.
Ohio State 52, Illinois 17
11/25 at Michigan
The Buckeyes take a perfect 11-0 record up to the Big House with a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game and the college football playoff on the line. Michigan will enter The Game with one loss, setting up a winner-take-all matchup for the Big Ten East. The Buckeyes and Wolverines play out another classic, but it will be Michigan and coach Jim Harbaugh who exact revenge on the Buckeyes in heartbreak fashion.
It will be a bitter pill to swallow for Buckeye Nation, but it’s almost karma after the way The Game unfolded in Columbus last season. Harbaugh will finally win the last game of the regular season after starting his Michigan tenure 0-2 against Ohio State and enjoy a big glass of milk afterwards.
Michigan 28, Ohio State 27
That’s how I see the 2017 regular season unfolding for Ohio State. The devastating loss to Michigan means there will be no Big Ten title game and no CFP for the Buckeyes. Instead, Ohio State will participate in a quality New Year’s Six Bowl with just the one loss.
These are way too early projections and a lot concerning Ohio State football will probably change between now and then. In any case, Ohio State has reloaded the cupboard and is primed for another legitimate run at the playoff.
E-mail Mark at mark [dot] silverman [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25.
Photo by Paula R. Lively