- The post–Urban Meyer era begins in Columbus, but Ohio State's loaded roster still sets up the Buckeyes for another strong campaign.
Our college football 2019 season preview issue is here, which means we're checking in with all 25 teams from SI's official preseason Top 25 ranking. What do you need to know about each of this year's top contenders, from top-ranked Alabama down to Stanford? We'll be rolling out scouting reports for each team over the next two weeks, all of which are being collected here. Next up, it's No. 6 Ohio State.
THE BIG STORY
The post–Urban Meyer era begins in Columbus, and former offensive coordinator Ryan Day's biggest task as coach will be replacing the quarterback who rewrote the school record book. Stepping in for Dwayne Haskins is sophomore transfer Justin Fields, a former five-star recruit who was granted immediate eligibility despite playing 12 games at Georgia last year as Jake Fromm's backup. Like Haskins, Fields not only has a big right arm, but he's also more of a dual threat, averaging 6.3 yards per carry in 2018.
Two years ago running back J.K. Dobbins shattered Maurice Clarett's freshman record with 1,403 yards, but his production dipped last season as the offense leaned on Haskins's arm. The J.K. Dobbins Show should return this year: Day has vowed to take full advantage of the 5'10" 217-pounder's breakaway speed.
Can Ohio State's defense stand up against the run better than it did last year—while relying on less experienced players? In 2018, the Buckeyes allowed opponents 4.5 yards per carry, and that was before defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones and end Nick Bosa left for the NFL. The D-line will be key, led by projected first-rounder Chase Young.
Last season Ohio State had one of the best—and most balanced—wide receiving units in the country, with four pass catchers gaining between 650 and 1,100 yards. Three of them are now in the NFL. The lone holdover, 6-foot, 195-pound K.J. Hill has upped his production each year, from 18 catches for 262 yards as a freshman to 56 grabs for 549 yards in 2017 to 70 for 885 last year. The sure-handed senior, who trails David Boston by 47 catches on the school's all-time list, has been used all over the field, but with the turnover at receiver he'll need to do emerge as the No. 1 target. There will be a learning curve for Justin Fields in a new offense, and he's going to need a reliable top option.
OVER OR UNDER?
Over 10.5 wins. The Big Ten competition isn't as stiff as in years past, but the Buckeyes do have tough road trips to Lincoln and Ann Arbor.
THE BOTTTOM LINE
If Fields is as good as advertised, Ohio State will be hard to beat in the Big Ten—but then, winning the conference hasn't always guaranteed a playoff berth.