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Ohio State Football Preview: Why The Buckeyes Will Win The National Title

Editor’s note: This is the 15th in a 15-part series in which we preview college football’s top teams. We’ll be counting down from 15 to one, with the final team, released on Sept. 3 – the day college football starts – serving as our national title pick.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

At Urban Meyer's introductory press conference at Ohio State in November 2011, the new leader of the Buckeyes' football program said he "wants to make the great state of Ohio proud."

You've done that, Urban. 

In three seasons, Meyer has achieved a 38-3 record, an undefeated season, a Big Ten championship and a national title. 

Buckeye Nation wants more, though. They should get it this year. Ohio State heads into the 2015 as the unanimous No. 1 team in the country, led by two great quarterbacks and a Heisman Trophy frontrunner at running back. Meyer also has a two-time Big Ten MVP at H-back, maybe the best offensive line in the country and a defense littered with future first-round picks. 

This is going to be fun. 

">August 5, 2015

Where They're At In The Rankings

The Schedule

Sept. 7 at Virginia Tech
Sept. 12 vs. Hawaii
Sept. 19 vs. Northern Illinois
Sept. 26 vs. Western Michigan
Oct. 3 at Indiana
Oct. 10 vs. Maryland
Oct. 17 vs. Penn State
Oct. 24 at Rutgers
Nov. 7 vs. Minnesota
Nov. 14 at Illinois 
Nov. 21 vs. No. 5 Michigan State
Nov. 28 at Michigan 

Key Games

Sept. 7 at Virginia Tech 

The first game of the season might be the Buckeyes' toughest game until late November. Ohio State's lone loss of 2014, of course, came to Virginia Tech at home. It was J.T. Barrett's second-career start and he struggled with the Hokies' pass rush, leading to a 35-21 VT victory at Ohio Stadium. 

Can that happen again? 

It shouldn't. Ohio State's clearly the more-talented and more-experienced team. But it could be difficult. The Buckeyes will be without a couple of their best players - Joey Bosa, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith and Dontre Wilson are suspended - leaving Ohio State a little shorthanded in the wide receiver department. As long as OSU can run the ball and limit its turnovers, it should be fine. 

Nov. 21 vs. No. 5 Michigan State

This could very well serve as the de facto Big Ten Championship Game. The two best teams in the conference - by far - are the Buckeyes and the Spartans. Whoever wins this one should go onto the league title came and make easy work of whoever comes out of the West.

Last year's game between these two served as somewhat of a coming-out party for Barrett, who threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 86 yards and more scores, leading the Buckeyes to a surprising 49-37 road victory. Will he be the man under center for OSU in this one? 

Ohio State, which gets this game at home, should emerge victorious, though it'll likely be Meyer's most arduous test of the regular season. 

Nov. 28 at Michigan 

Duh. 

Urban Meyer vs. Jim Harbaugh Round 1 should be a classic. Yes, Ohio State is a much, much better team, but that never seems to really matter in The Game. Such was the case last year, when the Buckeyes and the Wolverines played a close contest through three-plus quarters before OSU escaped with a 42-28 victory. 

This one's in Ann Arbor, Mich., and with it being Harbaugh's first game in the rivalry, The Big House should be at its best. Ohio State will likely have to be at its best to win this one. And we expect they will be. 

Nothing will surprise us, though. 

Key Players

Ezekiel Elliott, junior running back

Elliott, a Heisman Trophy frontrunner, showed the college football world just how great he is during Ohio State's national title run. In three games against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon, the Buckeyes' tailback rushed for 696 yards and eight touchdowns. If he kept up that pace for an entire season (12 regular season games, Big Ten Championship Game, two College Football Playoff games) he'd rush for 3,480 yards and 40 touchdowns. 

We don't expect Elliott to do that - Ohio State will likely have plenty of games that force their star running back to the bench by the fourth quarter - but we do expect a massive season from the St. Louis, Mo., native. 

Taylor Decker, senior offensive tackle

Players like Elliott, Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett get most of the shine, but it all starts up front for Ohio State. Up front, it starts with Taylor Decker, projected by some to be a top-10 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. 

The 6-foot-8, 315-pound left tackle is one of the country's top offensive linemen. He's a big reason why Elliott, who averaged 6.8 yards a carry in 2014, had so many big holes to rush through. 

Decker, a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season, could be a first-team All-American this fall. 

Joey Bosa, junior defensive end

Bosa might be college football's best player. The 6-foot-6, 275-pound Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native, is projected by many to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. 

In 2014, he totaled 21 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. He could have an even bigger campaign this fall, despite being suspended for the Buckeyes' season opener. 

From NFL.com, which ranked Bosa as the No. 1 player in the sport:

Could Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa be the second coming of Houston Texans star -- and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year -- J.J. Watt? Some might make that suggestion. Just how good is Bosa? One NFL general manager measured Big Ten offensive tackles for the 2014 draft by how they fared against Bosain his freshman season.

Why They'll Win The National Title

It just doesn't seem smart to pick anyone else. 

1. Look at how much talent they have.

Ohio State could have as many as six first-round picks in the 2016 NFL Draft, with many more first rounders to come in future years. No one has done a better job stockpiling talent than Meyer has in Columbus. The Buckeyes are as loaded a college football team as we've seen in quite some time. 

2. Look at the schedule

College football is not without its surprises, but it's very hard to imagine Ohio State losing a game in the regular season. The Buckeyes' toughest test is at home and it's the only ranked team they're slated to play. OSU should head into the Big Ten title game 12-0. Can anyone from the Big Ten West beat them (or, really, come close)? Doubtful. 

Winning back-to-back games in the College Football Playoff is obviously difficult, but Ohio State should be able to mirror what it did last January - great rushing attack, good big-play ability and fast, opportunistic defense. 

Ohio State is our national champion pick for 2015.

Previously: No. 2, TCU