The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Today at No. 10: Ohio State
Coach: Urban Meyer (0-0 first season, 104-23 overall)
2011 record: 6-7 (3-5 in Big Ten Conference, fourth in the Leaders Division)
Look back: Considering all that Ohio State went through last season, it was a miracle that this team was able to even go to a bowl game. Mired in an on-going NCAA investigation which cost the program its head coach and eventually several of its star players, Ohio State was impressive with big victories over several ranked teams including Illinois and Wisconsin. Depth and inexperience caught up with the team as the Buckeyes finished the season on a three-game losing streak including a loss to Michigan in the final game that snapped a seven-game series winning streak. Ohio State earned a spot in the Gator Bowl, where the team lost to Florida, 24-17. Looking to rebuild the program, the school reached out to former Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer and hired the Ohio native to be its next coach.
Offensive starters lost/returning: 4/7
Defensive starters lost/returning: 2/9
Key losses: OT Mike Adams, RB Dan Herron, S Tyler Moeller, LB Andrew Sweat
Top returnees: QB Braxton Miller, S C.J. Barnett, S Christian Bryant, DL John Simon
Strengths: Ohio State had its struggles on offense last season. The Buckeyes finished the season ranked eighth in the Big Ten in points per game (23.6) and 11th in total offense (309 yards per game). Co-offensive coordinators Tom Herman and Ed Warinner were brought in to install Meyer’s spread offense. Their first chore was to work with Braxton Miller. As a freshman, Miller was thrown into the offensive mix and showed off flashes of what fans could expect from the dual-threat quarterback. In 2011, he completed 54 percent of his passes for 1,159 yards and 13 touchdowns. He added another 715 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. … Running back Jordan Hall was expected to take over a role made famous by Percy Harvin at Florida, however the senior tore a tendon in his right foot in early July and is expected to miss 10 weeks. Carlos Hyde, who rushed for 566 yards and six touchdown last season, will share the running back duties with Rod Smith. … Having nine starters return from last season is a huge plus for defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. The defensive line is solid with Johnathan Hankins and John Simon returning. The duo combined for 130 total tackles, 10 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss. Getting the quarterback will be key for the Buckeyes, who ranked eighth in the Big Ten in sacks.
Weaknesses: The offense line took a big hit in the offseason with the loses of offensive tackles Mike Adams, J.B. Shugarts and center Mike Brewster. Look for Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell to anchor the line as coaches continue to develop the position. … Ohio State loses its top linebacker in Andrew Sweat, who was second on the team in total tackles with 72. Storm Klein was expected to play a bigger role but his arrest in the offseason and subsequent dismissal from the team leave his future in question. Etienne Sabino and Ryan Shazier will try and provide some stability to the position. … the secondary struggled last season as the Buckeyes ranked seventh in the conference in passing defense. The group only loses one starter in Tyler Moeller and returns stars like free safety C.J. Barnett, who was the team’s leading tackler (75) and was second on the team in interceptions with two.
Outlook: In the offseason, the NCAA handed down sanctions that included a one-year bowl ban for the Buckeyes. In essence, this team has nothing to lose and should spend most of this season playing spoiler in the Big Ten. Urban Meyer’s presence has already been felt on the recruiting end of things. Ohio State racked up a top ten recruiting class and the first-year coach has people looking for bigger and better things in the future.
Sept. 1 Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 8 Central Florida
Sept. 15 California
Sept. 22 UAB
Sept. 29 at Michigan State
Oct. 6 Nebraska
Oct. 13 at Indiana