Monthly Archives: July 2015

Top Ten Big Ten Games to Watch in 2015

  The excitement and anticipation are building. We’re just a little over a month away—34 days at the time of this post—from the start of a new college football season. But, it’s never too early to look ahead. Here’s a look at the key games involving Big Ten teams in 2015. 

September 3rd, Michigan at Utah 

The Jim Harbaugh coaching era begins in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines finally have their “Michigan Man” to lead their program. Going to the Utes is a tough opening act for a guy who in his first two college coaching stops at San Diego State and Stanford went 7-4 and 5-8 respectively in his first seasons. He’ll also be breaking in a new QB, Junior Shane Morris, who completed only 35 percent of his passes with three interceptions on his 40 attempts last season.  Harbaugh needs to get off to a great start in Ann Arbor to build momentum for a desperate fans base, or those khakis are going to be hot. 

September 3rd, TCU at Minnesota  

You have to love that so many power conference teams are facing off against each other to start the season. I don’t know if this is an effect of the college football playoff or not, but it’s going to heavily impact how the final four is selected. TCU and the Big XII feel they got snubbed by the committee in 2014, partially due to the Buckeyes emergence, but mostly because of poor non-conference schedules and no conference title game.  With a win the Golden Gophers can deliver an early knockout blow to the Horn Frogs redemption plans, and as a middle of the pack team in the B1G, make a case its a better conference than the Big XII. 

September 5th, Wisconsin vs. Alabama in Arlington, TX 

The Badgers have a new coaching staff for the second consecutive season, and lost their 2,000 plus running back Melvin Gordon to the NFL. Whisky is trying to defend its Big Ten West division title and get back to Indy to redeem itself in the championship game. 

The ESPN Football Power Index gives the Badgers a 52 percent chance of doing so. Their toughest competition will be Nebraska. 

Can the Badgers, be like the Buckeyes, and send a message to the sports world that the big bad SEC isn’t the bullies on the block anymore? Or, will they embarrass themselves on the national stage like they did the last time they were on it? The Tide have only four starters returning on offense, but eight on defense. They’ll be looking to avenge themselves from their disappointment in the CFP the last time the nation saw them. 

September 5th, BYU at Nebraska 

If the Nebraska Cornhuskers are going to re-establish the program to its past glory in its present conference, the time is now. 

The FPI gives the Cornhuskers a 59% chance of winning this game, but only project them to win 7.6 games on the season. They need to get off to a great start to make sure that prediction is off and over take the Badgers. The FPI has given them a 26.3 percent chance of succeeding making it to Indy. 

September 7th, Ohio State at Virginia Tech 

Who’s going to start at QB? That’s the big question everyone wants the answer to. Coach Meyer is a wise guy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t show us his hand until the offensive unit runs out for its first drive of the game.  

In case you forgot, the Hokies were the only team to beat the Buckeyes in 2014, and it was ugly. They took advantage of a young offensive line and a quarterback making his second start. And, they did it in “The Shoe.” 

Who doesn’t like a revenge game? Thankfully we don’t have to wait long to see it. The defending champs repeat bid will be tested early and we’ll get to see if they’re hungry or satisfied. 

September 12th, Oregon at Michigan State 

The Spartans got off to a good start in the game at Eugene last season, but the eventual Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota had a few signature moments to lead the Ducks to victory.  He won’t be on the field in East Lansing facing a defense returning seven starters looking for revenge. 

MSU will likely have to be undefeated going into their November 21st showdown at Ohio State to overtake the Buckeyes as Big Ten East division champs. A lost to Oregon will all but derail those hopes. 

October 10th, Wisconsin at Nebraska 

This is the biggest game in the lowly West Division. The FPI gives the edge to the Cornhuskers at 51%. This game could decide who plays for the Big Ten crown at season’s end. 

October 17th, Penn State at Ohio State  

The Nittnany Lions had a chance to dash any hopes the Buckeyes had of making a title run last season. After the loss to Virginia Tech in week two, this was the closest game the Scarlet and Gray played. 

Penn State has seven starters returning to a defense that was ranked number one overall in the B1G and number one against the run. 

November 27th, Iowa at Nebraska 

Regardless of if the Cornhuskers beat the Badgers in October, the Hawkeyes will be their final hurdle to get a ticket to Indianapolis to play for the B1G Championship. 

Iowa is always sneaky and will likely be ramped up to play spoiler. Nebraska can’t overlook them. Luckily for them they won’t have to stare at those ugly pink locker rooms. 

November 28th, Ohio State at Michigan 

Meyer versus Harbaugh Episode 1. I wonder if “The Khakis” will continue to disrespectfully call the Buckeyes “Ohio” a la Brady Hoke. The mind games these two will play in the media all season long, especially the week of “The Game”, will probably be better than the actual game. 

The Buckeyes are 12-2 in the last 14 games against Michigan, which includes a three game winning streak.  

The Buckeyes likely will be undefeated and moving closer to a second national title. Folks in Columbus know all too well how the “The Team Up North” has dashed their championship dreams. If the last couple of seasons are any indication of how Michigan’s 2015 will go, a victory could be their crowning achievement on the season. Being spoiler will definitely guarantee season one in Ann Arbor a success for Harbaugh.

How Ezekiel Elliott Stacks up With the Best RBs in the Country in 2015

Photo Courtesy: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Let me get this out there first, the Buckeye offense will go as far as Junior running back Ezekiel Elliott takes them. It won’t matter which quarterback lines up behind center in Scarlet and Gray. If Ohio State is to repeat as National Champions, Elliott will need to be close to the player who rushed for 696 yards and 8 touchdowns in the Big Ten Championship game, and the College Football Playoffs. Not the Guy who rushed for 138 yards, 2 TDs on 27 carries in the first three games of the season.

Coming into the 2015 season he is by many people’s opinion the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. But, is he even the top back in the country? Here’s a look at his competition based on how they finished in 2014.

Total Rushing Yards 

#3 Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio St., Junior, 1,878 yards
#4 Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego St., Junior, 1,867
#6 Devon Johnsom, Marshall, Junior,  1,767
#7 James Conner, Pittsburgh, Junior, 1,765
#8 Samaje Perine, Oklahoma, Sophomore, 1,713
#10 Kareem Hunt, Toledo, Junior, 1,631
#14 Jordan Howard, UAB, Junior, 1,587
#16 Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan, Sophomore, 1,551
#17 Nick Chubb, Sophomore, Georgia, 1,547
#18 Leon Allen, Western Ky., Senior, 1,512

Elliott finished in the top three despite not rushing for a hundred yards in the first three games of 2014, and missing the century mark six times in fifteen games. Part of his early season inconsistency was due in part to an inexperienced offensive line that came on strong at the end of the season. Also, teams loaded the box on the running game, hoping to force the Buckeye Offense to let a young J.T. Barrett throw more.

The O-line’s experience—they return four starters in 2015—along with Elliott’s growth as a runner, is the reason most believe he will hoist sports most coveted individual award.

Rushing Touchdowns

#3 James Conner, Pittsburgh, Junior, 26 TDs
#4 Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan, Sophomore, 24 TDs
#6 Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech, Senior, 22 TDs
#8 Samaje Perine, Oklahoma, Sophomore, 21 TDs
#9 Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego St., Junior, 20 TDs
#11 Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio St., Junior, 18 TDs
#13 Devon Johnson, Marshall, Senior, 17 TDs
#14 Dee Hart, Colorado St., Senior, 16 TDs
#14 Kareem Hunt, Toledo, Junior, 16 TDs
#14 Shock Linwood, Baylor, Junior, 16 TDs

Touchdowns can be very misleading when evaluating running backs. Depending on situation and the system, quarterbacks can rack up touchdown carries as well. The Buckeyes spread option is why J.T. Barrett, Ohio State’s QB for most of 2014, scored 11 touchdowns on the ground; his longest was 86 yards.

Rushing Yards Per Carry 

#2 Kareem Hunt, Toledo, Sophomore, 7.96
#3 Elijah McGuire, La-Lafayette, Junior, 7.61
#6 Nick Chubb, Georgia, Sophomore, 7.06
#7 Michael Gordon, Arkansas St., Senior, 6.92
#8 Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio St., Junior, 6.88
#10 Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego St., Junior, 6.76
#11 Dee Hart, Colorado St., Senior, 6.57
#13 Samaje Perine, Oklahoma, Sophomore, 6.51
#15 Corey Clemet, Wisconsin, Junior, 6.46
#17 Storm Woods, Oregon St., Senior, 6.3

6.88 yards per carry is nothing to sneeze at, especially going against the talented defenses in the Big Ten. Other than Nick Chubbs at Georgia, none of the backs ahead of Elliott play in one of the Power 5 conferences, where the talent and competition is much better.

Rushing Yards Per Game

#3 Kareem Hunt, Toledo, Junior, 163.1
#4 Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego St., Junior, 143.6
#5 Devon Johnson, Marshall, Senior, 135.9
#6 James Conner, Pittsburgh, Junior, 135.8
#7 Jordan Howard, UAB, Junior, 132.2
#8 Samaje Perine, Oklahoma, Sophomore, 131.8
#12 Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio St., Junior, 125.2
#16 Paul Perkins, UCLA, Senior, 121.2
#17 Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan, Sophomore, 119.3
#18 Nick Chubb, Georgia, Sophomore, 119.0

Elliott, unlike most of the top running backs in this category, plays in a well-balanced offensive system with an accomplished quarterback—no matter which one wins the job—with him in the backfield. That means defenses won’t be able to load up on him, and it will create even more opportunities for him to dominate.

Another stat that determines the greatness of a running back, yards after contact. Last season, Elliott gained 836 yards after first contact. That was good for fourth most amongst Power 5 running backs.

Despite what’s happening in the NFL, running back in the college game still holds high value, and none are more valuable than Elliott. Don’t believe me, just go replay the final three games of the Buckeyes 2014 season.

Big Ten Football’s Mount Rushmore

It’s the never-ending argument or debate in sports, who’s the greatest? If you think narrowing it down to one is difficult, try coming up with a top four. It’s especially difficult when you have to factor in players and coaches across different eras, many of which from a time long before you were born. But like most sports fans we try. And, I’m opening myself up to ridicule and badgering by trying to come up with the faces that shape up the Big Ten. So without further or do…..

Woody Hayes, HC, Ohio State (1951-1978). In twenty-eight seasons, Coach Hayes led the Buckeyes to five National Championships, thirteen Big Ten Conference Titles and 205 victories. A Mount Rushmore for Big Ten football would have to start with the legendary Hayes, who is the most accomplished coach in conference history. Three times he won the College Football Coach of the Year Award. On top of being a great leader on the field, Coach Hayes is known for being one of the first to recruit and start African-American players and hire African-American assistant coaches.

His coaching tree has produced several legendary coaches in college football such as Bo Schembechler (Michigan), Ara Parseghian (Notre Dame), Lou Holtz (Notre Dame) and his own successor at Ohio State, Earle Bruce to name a few.

Bo Schembechler, HC, Michigan (1969-1989). In twenty-one seasons at the helm in Ann Arbor, Schembechler’s Wolverines won or shared the Big Ten Title thirteen times and won 194 games. Six times he was awarded the Big Ten Coach of the Year Award. Ten times in his career, Coach Bo led Michigan to the Rose Bowl.

Along with Coach Hayes, these two can largely be credited with helping the Big Ten Conference gain the prominence it has. And, the “Ten Year War” between Ohio State and Michigan is why the annual meeting between the school is largely regarded as one of the greatest rivalries in sports.

Archie Griffin, RB, Ohio State (1972-1975). The only two-time Heisman Trophy winner was, and still is in the conversation for greatest college football player ever. #45 is the only running back to lead the Big Ten Conference in rushing for three straight years. When he graduated from Ohio State in 1975, he was the NCAA record holder in rushing yards (5,589) and carries (924). His 31 games with at least 100 rushing yards from 1973-1975 is still an FBS record. The Buckeyes were 40-5-1 in his four seasons.

In 1990, Griffin was named to the Walter Camp All-Century team, and ESPN named him twenty first out of twenty fifth on the Top Players in College Football History list.

Dick Butkus, LB, Illinois (1962-1964). While he’s mostly remembered and revered for his time as a Chicago Bear,  history shows he was just as dominant as the leader of the defense with the Illini. He finished his career with 374 tackles in three seasons, in an era when freshman weren’t allowed to play varsity. In 1963 he won Big Ten’s Most Valuable Player, and in 1964 he was awarded the American Football Coaches Association Player of the Year. Adding to his accomplishments, Butkus finished sixth in Heisman Trophy balloting in 1963 and third in 1964, a rarity for defensive players.

In 1990 he was named to the Walter Camp All-Century team, and in 2000, College Football News named him the sixth-best ever college football player. ESPN ranked him nineteenth out of twenty-five on their Top Players In College Football History list.

I think it’s safe to say he is the best linebacker ever, I mean, he has his own award given out yearly to the best high school, collegiate and professional player at the position. That’s more than Mount Rushmore worthy.


Charles Woodson, CB/KR/PR, Michigan (1995-1997). The only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy and leader of the 1997 National Champion Wolverines. He racked up the awards after ’97 season, from the Walter Camp, to the Thorpe, to the Bednarik award and others. But, his final season in Ann Arbor is really the one people only remember, not his entire career.

Joe Paterno, HC, Penn State (1966-2011). Earlier this year, the NCAA restored his 111 wins taken away as punishment in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal to make him once again the winningest coach in college football. My knock against Joe Pa is that a majority of his success came before Penn State joined the conference in 1993, and his team’s were 13-22 against Ohio State and Michigan.

Ron Dayne, RB, Wisconsin (1996-1999). Dwayne won the 1999 Heisman Trophy and finished his career in Madison as the NCAA’s All-Time Leading Rusher (6,397 yards, 7,125 if you count bowl games). While he was consistent as a thousand yard rusher all four seasons, like Woodson, his last season is the most impactful year when he gained acclaim as the best player in the conference.

Drew Brees, QB, Purdue (1997-2000). Before he donned the black and gold of the New Orleans Saints, he wore the same as a member of the Purdue Boilermakers. Brees finished his career in West Lafayette as the Big Ten’s All-Time leader in passing yards (11,792), touchdown passes (90), total offensive yards (12,693), completions (1,026) and attempts (1,678). In a 2010 Big Ten Network Icons documentary, Brees was ranked forty-eighth out of fifty on the conference’s top student athletes. He was also named the Big Ten’s best quarterback of the 1990s.

His other honors Include, Big Ten Offensive POY 1998 & 2000, Big Ten MVP in 2000, 2000 Maxwell Award Winner, Big Ten Medal of Honor winner in 2001.

Pat Fitzgerald, LB, Northwestern (1993-1996). Before he was leading the Wildcats as head coach, Fitzgerald was the defensive leader on the field helping turn the program around from conference doormat, to conference champions. In 1995 as a consensus All-American, he led Northwestern to the first of consecutive Big Ten titles and a berth in the Rose Bowl, the school’s second ever and first since 1949.

“Fitz” is a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and is the first two-time winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award. In 2008, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Buckeyes Chances to Repeat (By the Numbers)

“Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t” — Jay-Z “Reminder” 

Photo Courtesy: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

There are only seven Monday’s left until The Ohio State Buckeyes began defense of their eighth National Championship in school history at Virginia Tech. By most accounts, they are the favorites to win it again in 2015. They return fifteen starters from the team that has a thirteen game winning streak—the longest active streak in the FBS—coming into the season. Their three-headed quarterback monster is one of the most accomplished units in the country. Lately, not much has gone against Buckeye Nation (unless you count being swept out of the ESPY’s awards) , yet there is cause to pause in Columbus.

The Buckeyes have never won the Championship in the seven times it began the season as the number one ranked team. The last two times they were selected as the preseason top team, they finished ranked number two (1998 and 2006).

Six teams have received more than ninety-percent of the 1st-place votes in the preseason, none won a national title in that season. This includes Florida State in 2014 and Alabama in 2013.

But, the numbers aren’t all bad against the Buckeyes repeat bid. According to ESPN’s preseason projections, the Scarlet and Gray has a seventy-three percent likelihood of winning all its games in 2015 and a twenty-nine percent chance to enter the bowl season undefeated, by far the best in the country. Ohio State football fans hope those numbers don’t lie come January 2016.

One more stat, the Buckeyes need twelve consecutive wins to break the school record (twenty-four set in 2012 and 2013) for longest winning streak.

Big Ten Well Represented on Preseason Awards Watch Lists

(Updated 7/17/15 with Walter Camp list)

(Updated 7/16/15 with O’Brien Award and Walker Trophy lists)

(Updated 7/15/15 with Biletnikoff Award and Wuerffel Trophy lists)

(Updated 7/14/15 with Butkus and Lombardi Awards lists)

The Big Ten is loaded with talent amongst their fourteen teams, and it’s showing on the preseason awards watch lists.

The watch list for the Jim Thorpe award, which goes to the top defensive back in college football was announced Moday. Only two players from the conference made the cut, Juniors Vonn Bell from Ohio State and William Likely from Maryland. But, last week the Maxwell, Bednarik, Nagurski and several other major prestigious individual awards announced their preseason watch list, and the defending National Champion Buckeyes, and the Big Ten were well represented. Here’s a look at the players from the conference on each list.

Eleven B1G players are on Maxwell Award watch list, which goes to the player voted America’s College Player of the Year. As expected Ohio State Junior running back Ezekiel Elliot is on the list, he is also an early favorite for the Heisman Trophy. Joining him from OSU are quarterbacks Sophomore  J.T. Barrett, Junior Cardale Jones and Senior Braxton Miller. The Big Ten is also represented by:

2014 Maxwell semifinalist Connor Cook, Senior, QB, Michigan State
Leonte Carroo, Senior,WR, Rutgers
Christian Hackenberg, Junior, QB, Penn State
DaeSean Hamilton Sophomore, WR, Penn State
Justin Jackson, Sophomore, RB, Northwestern
Nate Sudfeld, Senior, QB, Indiana

The Bednarik Award which goes to college football’s Defensive Player of the Year, also has eleven Big Ten players on the list, headlined by Buckeye defensive end Joey Bosa a finalist in 2014. He’s joined by Buckeye teammate Senior linebacker Joshua Perry. The rest of the list goes:

Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Senior, CB, Minnesota
2013 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Shilique Calhoun, Senior, DE, Michigan State 
Michael Caputo, Senior, S, Wisconsin
Maliek Collins, Junior, DT, Nebraska
Ed Davis, Senior, LB, Michigan State
Darius Hamilton, Senior, DL, Rutgers
William Likely, Junior, CB, Maryland
Eric Murray, Senior, CB, Minnesota
Anthony Zettel, Senior, DT, Penn State.

Mackey Award (Most Outstanding Collegiate tight end)
Jake Butt, Junior, Michigan
Kyle Carter, Senior, Penn State
Jake Duzey, Senior, Iowa
Josiah Price, Junior, Michigan State
Nick Vannett, Senior, Ohio State.

Rimington Trophy (Nation’s top center)
2014 winner Jake Allen, Senior, Michigan State
Austin Blythe, Senior, Iowa
Jacoby Boren, Senior, Ohio State
Robert Kugler, Senior, Purdue
Angelo Mangino, Senior, Penn State
Dan Voltz, Junior, Wisconsin

Ray Guy award (Nation’s top punter)
Cameron Johnston, Junior, Ohio State
Peter Mortell, Senior, Minnesota

Lou Groza award (Nation’s top place kicker)
Rafaell Gaglianone, Sophomore, Wisconsin
Paul Griggs, Senior, Purdue.

Dick Butkus Award (Nation’s top linebacker)
Joe Bolden, Senior, Michigan 
De’Vondre Campbell, Senior, Minnesota 
Darien Harris, Senior, Michigan State
Raekwon McMillan, Sophomore, Ohio State 
Mason Monheim, Senior, Illinois 
Yannick Ngakoue, Junior, Maryland 
Joshua Perry, Senior, Ohio State 
James Ross, Senior, Michigan 

Rotary Lombardi Award (Nation’s top interior lineman)
Mason Monheim, Senior, LB, Illinois 
Dan Feeny, Junior, OG, Indiana 
Jack Allen, Senior, C, Michigan State
Shilique Calhoun, Senior, DE, Michigan State 
Jack Conklin, Junior, OT, Michigan State 
Joey Bosa, Junior, DE, Ohio State
Taylor Decker, Senior, OT, Ohio State
Pat Elflein, Junior, OG, Ohio State
Adolphus Washington, Senior, DT, Ohio State 
Darron Lee, Sophomore, LB, Ohio State
Anthony Zettel, Senior, DT, Penn State
Steve Longa, Junior, LB, Rutgers
Vince Biegel, Junior, LB, Wisconsin 

If one of the five Buckeyes on the Lombardi Award watch list wins, they would be the sixth in school history, giving them the most in NCAA Football history.

Biletnikoff Award (Nation’s top receiver)
Leonte Carroo, Senior, Rutgers
Alex Erickson, Senior, Wisconsin
DaeSean Hamilton, Sophomore, Penn State
Michael Thomas, Junior, Ohio State 

Wuerffel Trophy (Community Service Award)
Nate Sudfeld, Senior, QB, Indiana 
Josiah Price, Junior, TE, Michigan State
Peter Mortell, Senior, P, Minnesota 
Bryce Haynes, Senior, LS, Ohio State 
Joshua Perry, Senior, LB, Ohio State

O’Brien Award (Nation’s top quarterback)
Connor Cook, Senior, Michigan State
Christian Hackenberg, Junior, Penn State
Cardale Jones, Junior, Ohio State 

Walker Award (Nation’s top running back)
Jordan Canzeri, Senior, Iowa
Corey Clemet, Junior, Wisconsin 
Ezekiel Elliott, Junior, Ohio State 
Josh Ferguson, Senior, Illinois 
Jordan Howard, Junior, Indiana 
Justin Jackson, Sophomore, Northwestern 
Paul James, Senior, Rutgers
Akeel Lynch, Senior, Penn State

Walter Camp (Nation’s most outstanding player)
J.T. Barrett, Sophomore, QB, Ohio State
Joey Bosa, Junior, DE, Ohio State 
Shilique Calhoun, Senior, DE, Michigan State
Connor Cook, Senior, QB, Michigan State
Ezekiel Elliott, Junior, RB, Ohio State 
Christian Hackenberg, Junior, QB, Penn State
Cardale Jones, Junior, QB, Ohio State
Braxton Miller, Senior, QB, Ohio State

9 Players From the B1G on the Top 50 Players in College Football For 2015 List

The SEC has been by far the best college football conference for the past decade, and it wasn’t even close. They had better teams, and clearly better individual talent. But, now that the Buckeyes have slayed the “King’s of the South” in Alabama on the way to winning the first College Football Playoff, the debate can begin again. But, the B1G is filled with talent at more than just OSU. The Big Lead’s Ty Duffy released his Top 50 College Football players in 2015, and a few notable names from around the conference made the cut.

#46 Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State. Many scouts at the Pro level say he has number one pick talent, but if you look at his stats—2,977 yards with 12 touchdowns, 15 interceptions on 56 percent—it wouldn’t suggest that. Another year in Head Coach James Franklin’s system should do wonders for his development and confidence. He also has his top target, Sophomore DeSean Hamilton (who led the Big Ten in receptions with 82) returning.

#44 Von Bell, S, Ohio State. The Junior tied for the Conference lead in interceptions in 2014 with 6. He also finished second on the Buckeyes in tackles with 92.

#27 Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State. Along with the three-headed monster down in Columbus, Cook could vie for the best at the position in the Big Ten Conference. In 2014, Cook passed for 3,214 yards and 24 touchdowns. He needs to improve on his 58 percent completion rating and losing his top target Tony Lippett to graduation won’t help. But, with a 24-3 record and a Conference Championship under his belt at the helm of Sparty, he’s a proven winner.

#24 Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State. The 2013 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of The Year registered 8 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 2014 while being the focal point of attention for opposing offenses to stop.

#18 Taylor Decker, OL, Ohio State. The Senior lineman will lead an offensive line that rapidly improved from game one to fifteen in 2014. Who ever wins that QB battle, he will be charged with protecting their blind side, while also opening up holes for the Heisman Trophy front-runner, Ezekiel Elliott.

#14 Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State. The Junior registered 81 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in 2014. Lee along with his counterpart Perry really burst on to the scene late in the season through the College Football Playoffs. The Buckeyes have a long-standing tradition of great linebackers from Tom Cousineau, Chris Speilman, Andy Katzemoyer, A.J. Hawk to James Laurinitus, and Lee along with Perry are admirably continuing it.

#5 Braxton Miller/J.T. Barrett/Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State. One is the two-time Big Ten Player of the Year. The other set the school record for all-purpose yards in a season in his first season. The latter, lead the team to the three biggest wins of the season. All of them are on the preseason Maxwell Award watch list and will probably be on the Walter Camp Award list when it is released on Friday July 17th. Urban Meyer has an embarrassment of riches in Columbus. Which ever one wins the job of starter will be a favorite to win many of the most coveted awards in the game, as well as expected to lead this talented bunch to another title.

#3 Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State.
He is hands down the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy this season. We’re not sure who will be lining up next to him at QB in the backfield, and it probably won’t matter. Everything in Columbus will be going through number fifteen in Scarlet & Gray.

#1 Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State. Bosa is already projected to be a top three pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, if he decides to leave Buckeye City after this his Junior season. In 2014 he had 21 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles and 13.5 sacks including this game winner that turned Beaver Stadium into “Not-so-happy Valley.”