COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Phil Steele will tell you, his college football preview magazine is the most accurate on the newsstands over the last 16 years. Because it is so accurate, or at least more accurate than the others, I thought it would be interesting to see what he sees for the Buckeyes in the 2014 season.
Five for Friday: Examining Phil Steele's Ohio State Predictions
By Tony Gerdeman
Keep in mind that this is the same guy who had the 2002 Ohio State team pegged as national title contenders in June while everyone else saw them somewhere between 10-20 in the polls.
Nobody is always right, as I have proven emphatically well over the years, but Steele is closer to being right than most. Perhaps a better way to say it is that he is more well-researched than anybody else in the business, so his picks and projections don't just come out of thin air.
So let's take a look at a few of his predictions and computer projections for the Buckeyes, and see how much we agree or disagree with them.
1. Ohio State will throw for 265 yards per game.
As much as I expect the Buckeyes to throw for more yards than they did a season ago (203 yards per game in 2013), I just can't see that number climbing by 62 yards per game. The most I can see this team throwing for this season is about 245 yards per game, and that's probably 15 yards more than I actually expect. It won't necessarily be that they can't throw for 265 yards per game, it's just that they'll be too busy running the ball in the second half of a lot of games. Though I do wonder if we'll see more passing in the second half of blowouts this year just because Meyer needs to build a statistical quarterback model that will entice recruits, and 203 yards per game won't necessarily do that. What did Steele project for the Buckeye passing game in 2013? A whopping 266.9 yards per game.
2. Ohio State will score 37.0 points per game.
If the Buckeyes score 37 points per game in 2014, that will be an 8.5-point per game drop from last season, and as great as Carlos Hyde and the offensive line was, I just can't imagine that much of a drop off from a year ago. Especially when you consider that they scored 37.2 points per game in 2012 when they were still trying to figure out what the offense could even do. No, I'll go with at least 40 points per game, which would be just the third time in school history, and yet second in a row.
3. The Buckeyes will make the College Football Playoff.
Do you mind if I answer this one after the Michigan State game? Cool.
4. The Buckeye defense will allow 22.7 points per game.
That number -- 22.7 points per game -- is one-tenth of a point more than they gave up a season ago. For that reason alone, I can't agree with this and expect that number to be considerably lower. For the Buckeyes' defensive coaches' sakes, I hope it is lower. Even despite losing Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby and Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett, no part of me thinks that this defense is going to give up more points per game than they did a season ago. Forgive me, but there is no way Ohio State allows six opponents to score 30 points in a game again in 2014. What was his 2013 projection? It was 21.2 points per game. Even though the Buckeyes were worse than he expected last season, as well as the 2012 season (13.6 ppg projected - 22.8 actual), and the 2011 season (19.9 ppg projected - 21.0 actual), he can't be wrong again, can he?
5. Corey Smith, Devin Smith and Dontre Wilson will be the starting receivers.
I'm still not sure where I am on the receiver situation. Evan Spencer's blocking makes him extremely valuable, but will it put him in the starting lineup? Does Michael Thomas figure in here somewhere? I think he does, but do he and Devin Smith fit together? Corey Smith is a bulldog who can make noise after the catch. Dontre Wilson is a lock to start. As it stands, I think I'm leaning towards agreeing with Steele here, but at the same time, I'll believe Spencer isn't starting when I finally see it. In other words, I just don't know. Plus, "starting" is just a label anymore. It doesn't even really matter. Or at least that's what the non-starters tell me.
Bonus: Joey Bosa is a First-Team All-Big Ten selection and Second-Team All-American.
It's going to be pretty hard for me to disagree with any predictions of accolades for Joey Bosa. His is a bandwagon that I am fully on, because what we saw last year was damn impressive, and yet still only just breaking the surface of what his real potential is.
Bonus: OSU will allow 140.9 yards rushing per game.
If the Buckeyes allow 140.9 yards rushing per game this year, then that will be a 31.5-yard jump from a season ago when they allowed just 109.4 yards per game, which was good for ninth-best in the nation. The loss of Ryan Shazier is big, but I don't think it is 30 yards-per-game big. This Ohio State defense needs to be under 120 yards rushing per game, and I think they will be. After all, they still have the nation's best defensive line, right?
Bonus: OSU will allow 207.1 yards passing per game.
How do I put this gently and without hysterical laughter -- the Buckeyes gave up 268 yards passing last year, and while I don't expect them to be so violated in 2014, I also don't expect them to suddenly be a lockdown pass defense. The 207.1 yards per game is pretty much impossible just based on the fact that opponents are going to be faced with such huge deficits that they will have to abandon the run and try to catch up through the air.
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