It's the middle of December and here Ohio State is, preparing for the College Football Playoff, a place a lot of people thought the Buckeyes would be in when they were making their predictions for the season back in the summer.
The road Urban Meyer's squad took to get here was a bit different than expected, and redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones is now driving the car most thought would be captained by Braxton Miller (and, later, J.T. Barrett). But the Buckeyes are here, nonetheless.
And they're going to win it, too.
That's right - Ohio State (12-1), the No. 4 seed in the inaugural CFB Playoff, is going to defeat No. 1 seed Alabama (12-1) and the winner of No. 2 Oregon (12-1) and No. 3 Florida State (13-0).
Don't believe me?
Here are five reasons why Ohio State is going to win the College Football Playoff:
No. 5, Speed
Ohio State might not be the fastest team in the College Football Playoff field, but the Buckeyes use their speed as well as Alabama, Oregon or Florida State.
Take, for example, each of the following Ohio State players' longest plays of the season:
- Devin Smith, senior wide receiver: 80 yards
- Ezekiel Elliot, sophomore running back: 81 yards
- Michael Thomas, redshirt sophomore wide receiver: 79 yards
- Jalin Marshall, redshirt freshman wide receiver: 57 yards
- Dontre Wilson, sophomore tailback/receiver: 40 yards
That's a lot of big plays. And the Buckeyes' opponent in the CFB Playoff semifinal game, Alabama, is somewhat prone to giving them up. Against Auburn, the Crimson Tide's defense gave up four plays of more than 25 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown through the air. On offense, Ohio State is basically a more talented Auburn. That will be a problem for Nick Saban's team, and he realizes it.
">December 11, 2014
Ohio State will be able to get up and down the field against Alabama. And if the Buckeyes can get past the Crimson Tide, they'll be able to do the same against Oregon or Florida State.
No. 4, Running game / offensive line
On Sept. 6, Ohio State fell at home to Virginia Tech, a loss that many believed would knock the Buckeyes out of CFB Playoff contention. That, obviously, wasn't the case, as Meyer's squad rebounded with 11 straight wins. A lot about Ohio State has improved since then, but perhaps nothing more so than the Buckeyes' running game and offensive line.
Against the Hokies, Ohio State rushed for 2.7 yards a carry and allowed seven sacks. The Buckeyes now rank No. 11 in the country in rushing and, during their Big Ten Championship Game beatdown of Wisconsin, rushed for 7.9 yards a carry and allowed just one sack.
If you can consistently rush for five or six yards a carry and protect your quarterback, you're going to be competitive in basically every game you play. Rushing the ball well against Alabama will be a challenge (the Crimson Tide allowed just three rushing TDs all season, while no Big Ten team allowed less than 12), but Saban's team hasn't faced a rushing attack like Ohio State's. If the Buckeyes can win the battle of the line of scrimmage against Alabama, a victory should come.
No. 3, Defensive line
When Urban Meyer came to Columbus in 2011, one of the things he wanted to bring with him was an SEC-like defensive line - fast, strong and physical. Three years later, the 50-year-old coach has it.
Led by future first-round NFL Draft picks Joey Bosa - a sophomore defensive end and a consensus All-American - and Michael Bennett - a senior defensive tackle and a third-team All-American - the Buckeyes' defensive line is perhaps the best in the country.
In the Big Ten Championship Game, that defensive line shut down the nation's best running back, holding Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon to 2.9 yards a carry, and wreaked havoc on the Badgers' quarterbacks, sacking them four times and forcing one fumble. The three interceptions thrown by Joel Stave were likely a result of being pressured by the Buckeyes' pass rush, too.
Alabama's Blake Sims can be forced into making mistakes, as he was against Auburn (three interceptions) and Ole Miss (interception sealed Rebels' victory). If the Buckeyes' defensive line can pressure Sims and keep the Crimson Tide's rushing attack in check, they should be able to force some turnovers. Turnovers can lead to easy points, and easy points against a Nick Saban-led team are the easiest way to securing a victory. The same can be said against Florida State or Oregon.
No. 2, They're peaking
Is any team riding greater momentum into the College Football Playoff than Ohio State?
Alabama enters with an eight-game winning streak, having just defeated Missouri by 29 points. Oregon also heads in with an eight-game winning streak, having just blown out Arizona by 38 points. And Florida State has the nation's longest winning streak at 29 games, but nothing has been easy for the Seminoles lately (four-straight wins by five or less points).
The Buckeyes, meanwhile, have won 11 games in a row and won the Big Ten Championship Game, 59-0, the largest margin of victory ever in a conference title game.
Nobody is feeling better than Meyer's squad. And when you're an extremely talented team like Ohio State, confidence can be everything.
Will that confidence continue to be displayed when the Buckeyes take the field Jan. 1 against Alabama? We'll find out.
No. 1, Urban Meyer
Sure, Meyer might be the "hungriest" of all the College Football Playoff coaches, as he's gone the longest of any of them without winning a major bowl. And he's probably got revenge on his mind, too, as Nick Saban's 2009 Alabama team beat Meyer's Florida squad in the SEC Championship Game, ruining the 50-year-old coach's dream of a perfect season.
The main justification for putting Urban Meyer as the No. 1 reason why Ohio State will win the College Football Playoff, though, is because there's no one in the country better at preparing for a big game with a long layoff.
In 2004, Meyer's Utah team, after a roughly month-long gap in between games, beat Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.
In 2006, Meyer's Florida team, after a roughly month-long gap in between games, beat undefeated No. 1 Ohio State in the BCS National Championship.
And in 2008, Meyer's Florida team, after a roughly month-long gap in between games, beat Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship.
Meyer, simply, is a brilliant football mind and motivator. Giving him nearly a month to prepare for Alabama (and Oregon and Florida State) should spark some concern among opposing fan bases.
And, eventually, it should prove to be the reason why the Buckeyes win their first national title since the 2002 season.