Last season was a barometer of Ohio State’s staying power as a national championship contender in the Urban Meyer era. The previous off-season it lost 12 players to the NFL draft, including three top-10 picks (defensive end Joey Bosa, running back Ezekiel Elliott and cornerback Eli Apple). With only six starters and 29% of their production, according to SB Nation, returning from 2015, the Buckeyes needed to fill their depth chart mostly with unproven reserves.
Meyer and his staff rose to the occasion by guiding Ohio State to an 11–2 record, a critical (if controversial) win over Michigan in the game of the year, and the program’s second playoff berth in three seasons. While the Buckeyes were overmatched in their 31-point drubbing at the hands of eventual title winner Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, the fact that they got there reaffirmed Meyer’s status as a top-level talent developer, roster manager and strategist. In what many programs would have chalked up as a textbook rebuilding year following critical personnel losses, Ohio State came within two games of winning it all. The Buckeyes’ accomplishments in 2016 despite a two-deep stripped of star power and so many major contributors from 2015 provide license for pundits to give them the benefit of the doubt in the preseason going forward. It’s safe to assume Ohio State is going to be very good pretty much every year.