The 2014 season might be eight months away, but it's never too early to start thinking about the teams that could challenge for the new College Football Playoff. This week, we'll count down Dr. Saturday's Top 10 teams for 2014. Past entries: No. 10: LSU, No. 9 Stanford, No. 8 Oklahoma, No. 7 UCLA, No. 6 Michigan State
Ohio State Buckeyes
2013 record: 12-2, 8-1 Big Ten
Final AP ranking: 12
Bowl result: L 40-35 Clemson, Orange Bowl
Top returners: QB Braxton Miller, DE Noah Spence, DE Joey Bosa
Top losses: RB Carlos Hyde, LB Ryan Shazier, CB Bradley Roby
Overview: If quarterback Braxton Miller had decided to leave for the NFL, Ohio State would have been in trouble. The Buckeyes lose star running back Carlos Hyde and H-Back Philly Brown as well as four offensive linemen. However, with Miller back, the team should shake off the two-game losing streak that ended 2013 and look ahead to better days in 2014.
And to do that, it will rely on its defense.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Bradley Roby are gone, but the Buckeyes do return seven starters. The young defensive line had some issues in 2013, but those experiences will make it a stronger unit in 2014, especially with Joey Bosa coming into his own and Noah Spence being motivated once he gets back from a three-game suspension for a banned substance.
Also, Ohio State will welcome Raekwon McMillan, the No. 1 inside linebacker for the 2014 class. He could step in and fill the void left by Shazier.
Offensively, look for Ezekiel Elliott to handle the bulk of the rushes. He had 262 yards on just 30 carries behind Hyde last season and is poised for a breakout year now that Hyde is gone. Dontre Wilson was also an interesting offensive weapon early in the season as both a running and receiving option.
There are a lot of questions looming for this Ohio State team. Getting into the College Football Playoff is going to be a challenge, especially with a nonconference schedule that includes Navy, Virginia Tech and Cincinnati and a conference slate that’s missing Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin. But, with a veteran quarterback, a good recruiting class and one of the most successful coaches in the country, the Buckeyes are going to be difficult to ignore.
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