Ohio State is accustomed to elite expectations. However, those always-high expectations are reaching a new level in what is beginning to feel like a make-or-break season for the Buckeyes.

After dominating the Big Ten from 2017-20, Ryan Day and his program have watched as Michigan regained control of the conference with 3 straight titles. The Wolverines punctuated that streak with a 15-0 record and the 2023 national championship.

Now, Ohio State has reloaded in a major way, and many analysts are reaching agreement on the Buckeyes as the No. 1 team in the country heading into the summer. A lot of that has to do with what is shaping up to be an elite defense.

“The offseason Ohio State had and the roster they’re going to put on the field, to me, makes them No. 1 one,” said Joel Klatt during his latest episode of “The Joel Klatt Show.”

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“The defense for Ohio State is what makes them the No. 1 team in the country because they will be the best defense in the country. I think that Ohio State is going to have as good of a defense that we’ve seen in a long time. Maybe as good as the 2021 Georgia team,” predicted Klatt. “This has draft picks littered all over it in the next 2 drafts.”

Greg McElroy echoed that sentiment on his “Always College Football” show, giving the Buckeyes a better grade than Georgia on both sides of the ball:

“I have been outspoken in thinking (the No. 1 team) is Ohio State at the moment,” said McElroy. “I think Georgia’s close, but I still think Ohio State has a few more answers on both sides of the ball.”

Matt Barrie also went along with McElroy’s comments, calling the Buckeyes the “biggest problem” for other competitors this season. His one caveat includes the Ohio State offense, though he expects that unit to still be solid pending a quarterback decision.

Barrie referenced this as the biggest year for Ryan Day with the aspect of bringing in Kelly to give up playcalling duties.

“I’m telling you this: If the QB situation in Columbus figures itself out… With Chip Kelly calling ball plays and everything they have coming back, I think Ohio State is the biggest problem for the entire country,” Barrie claimed. “They are absolutely loaded. They don’t have a weakness.”

Joel Klatt shared similar thoughts in his comments about the offense. He expects Ohio State’s backfield to be the best in the country, and that’s significant since Kelly has a track record of a solid rushing performance regardless of the talent he works with.

If there’s one competitor to Ohio State’s preseason No. 1 ranking, Barrie believes that belongs to Georgia:

“Georgia’s Georgia. They reload. That’s what they do, that’s what they’ve done, that’s what Kirby Smart has,” Barrie said. “He’s got the QB coming back. He did lose Ladd McConkey, he did lose Brock Bowers, but they’re always going to have talent.”

Ohio State’s path to success

Ohio State traditionally operated under an explosive offense to begin Ryan Day’s tenure. However, the offense took a step back in 2023, and the overall dynamics of the team could be shifting — for the better — moving forward.

The Buckeyes were in a great spot at the end of the regular season last year with a defense that finished 2nd with 11.2 points per game allowed. That came in spite of the fact Ohio State’s offense was averaging just 30.5 points under Kyle McCord, a mark that ranked the team 45th in the country in scoring offense.

While the offense must be better, it does not need a major jump forward to justify the Buckeyes as the top team in the country. During the 2015 season, Ohio State finished with the No. 2 scoring defense (15.1 points allowed) and 28th in scoring at 35.7 points per game.

That team was among the best in the country all season long but had their hopes for the Playoff dashed by a 17-14 loss to Michigan State in a game of disastrous weather conditions. Though that’s a cautionary tale, Ohio State finished that season 12-1 overall and speaks to why the program is entering prestigious expectations for 2024.

In spite of missing the College Football Playoff altogether in 2 of the last 3 seasons, Ohio State hits the summer with the 2nd-best national championship odds in the country, and fans can get in on the action with Tradition’s BetMGM Ohio promo code.

In a brand-new era of college football, Ohio State has acquired the kind of depth and firepower most teams dream of. We’ll see if that pays off in an expanded Playoff and longer season this fall.

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