Leading up to the start of the 2016 season, we’ll preview three key factors for every B1G team to have success.

Here are Ohio State’s:

1. Figure out who will stretch the field

If you asked me four months ago, I would’ve told you that I liked Torrance Gibson’s chances as a deep threat for Ohio State in 2016. But that obviously can’t happen now.

OSU always seems to have those guys who can take the top off the defense. Devin Smith and Mike Thomas did it most recently, and now it’s uncertain who will do it for this team.

Noah Brown could be that guy, but he’s still coming off a major injury and has one career catch. Parris Campbell is another option, but he still doesn’t have a collegiate catch. Former highly-touted recruit Johnnie Dixon says he’s finally healthy, but there are questions about whether or not his knees can hold up for a full season.

Curtis Samuel had quite the camp, and he figures to be regularly involved. But he’s slotted for H-back work, and probably doesn’t project as a third-and-long guy. J.T. Barrett needs a reliable target who can win a jump ball.

If OSU doesn’t get that established, Barrett will see eight men in the box all season.


2. Don’t take step back in the secondary

The most underrated element of Ohio State last year was the secondary. The Buckeyes were 16th in the country against the pass. Three of those starters are obviously off to the NFL, which means repeating that effort will be a tall task.

Gareon Conley has all the potential to be a lockdown corner and take care of the league’s top receivers. The rest of that is still up in the air. Denzel Ward, Marshon Lattimore and Damon Arnette are all battling for the other cornerback spot. Ward is considered the fastest player on the team, but it’ll take more than speed to take over for a guy like Eli Apple. In all likelihood, they’ll all see the field.

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Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell were one of the better 1-2 punches in the country. Now it’s up to Damon Webb and Malik Hooker to carry that mantra.

For the first time in recent memory, OSU’s secondary is a wild card. A non-conference showdown against Oklahoma will certainly test how ready this new group is for the big time.

3. Get back to being the hunters

I’ll save you the wolves cliché that’s been plastered all over the Buckeye facility. But it’s true. Everybody expects this team to get back to the 2014 mindset. That team, of course, was inexperienced, talented and most importantly, it was hungry.

Will this group emerge in the same way? Rare is it that a group of underclassmen emerges collectively like that 2014 team did. Urban Meyer said there might be more talent with this year’s group. That won’t be what makes or breaks Ohio State’s season.

Even though Ohio State has the least-experienced team in the country, many are confident that Meyer can maximize this team’s talent and keep the Buckeyes in the playoff hunt. A 50-4 mark will do that to a coach.

Inevitably, there will be growing pains with a team this young. Maybe it doesn’t dominate teams it should. Maybe Oklahoma kicks OSU in the teeth. Maybe there are guys who still haven’t solidified their starting spots heading into October.

The question is whether or not this team bounces back and learns from its early struggles. That, ultimately, will determine how high OSU can fly in 2016.