In the coming weeks, Brandon Vogel and Derek Peterson are running through Big Ten programs for a “Buy or Sell” kind of opponent preview. We’ll keep the list here for those just jumping in and want to recap:
|Michigan State Spartans||Sell||Sell|
With one of the hottest names in coaching, Ryan Day, and one of the trendiest Heisman picks, quarterback Justin Fields, Ohio State will make the College Football Playoff in 2020. Buy or sell?
Brandon Vogel: Sell
OK, just to reset from the first entry in this series (Indiana), my buy-sell criteria is simple: Will this team be better at the end of the season than we think it is entering the season? That’s the reason Ohio State is a sell for me in 2020. The Buckeyes are still going to be really good. They’re the easy favorite in the Big Ten and only Penn State seems particularly close as an alternative pick. We’re measuring Ohio State against its own ridiculously high standard here, and the amazing thing about Day’s first season is that he elevated things in Year 1. Remember when we spent much of the 2019 season wondering if Ohio State was one of the best teams in history? The Buckeyes’ SP+ rating of 35.4 last year was 4.5 points better than the best such rating from the Urban Meyer era. Ohio State has plenty to replace outside of quarterback, but the Buckeyes are talented enough as to be nearly exempt from the traditional returning production math. They’ll find good players to replace the good players lost, don’t worry about that. But 2019 was a season where Ohio State probably ranked in the 99th percentile of all teams to ever play this sport. In 2020, something in the 95th percentile seems more realistic. That’s still plenty good enough to win the Big Ten and make the Playoff, but this also seems like a year when the Buckeyes could just miss those heights by a game. The road trip to Oregon in Week 2 offers an early test and, more importantly, the huge East Division showdown with Penn State is at State College on Oct. 24.
Derek Peterson: Buy
My buy-sell criteria is different from Brandon’s. Maybe that’s the wrong way to go about this, you know, #ARB and all that, but I’m not looking at whether a certain team will be better year-over-year. Instead I’m looking at moving targets. For Ohio State, it’s about whether I’m buying another College Football Playoff. And you betcha. Ohio State recruits at an elite level, meaning it’s insulated from NFL Draft departures and graduation in a way only three or four other programs really are. Ohio State replaced the Bosa brothers (fun-to-think-about Heisman candidates) with Chase Young (an actual Heisman candidate) and Kerry Coombs is back in Columbus to keep pumping out high-end defensive backs. The defense will be fine. And the offense has Justin Fields, another Heisman candidate (supposed Heisman front-runner), to run the show. Ryan Day and Fields create the perfect storm combination, and the only team that might truly threaten the Buckeyes is Oregon in early September. Penn State is on the road and Michigan is at home, but Ohio State’s recruiting has created serious distance between it and the rest of the Big Ten. Fields doesn’t turn the ball over, the offense is one of the most efficient point-scorers in the country and slippage from the best defense in football a season ago would put the Buckeyes at, what, good-to-great? Certainly there won’t be enough drop-off to cause real harm. Zach Harrison is the next star Buckeye defensive lineman you’ll be hearing about, former all-conference lineman Jonathon Cooper is returning from injury and defensive back Shaun Wade is making the NFL wait. Must be hard to be a Buckeye fan.