Ohio State football: Advanced metrics like the Buckeyes

Feb. 20—With a majority of starters returning on both sides of the ball, Ohio State is expected to be good at football this fall.

How good remains to be seen, but at least one advanced metric is high on the Buckeyes.

Ohio State is No. 2 in the first release of SP+ rankings for 2024, trailing Georgia.

Hosted by ESPN, the SP+ is culled from a variety of efficiency statistics during the season. The preseason projections also take into account recruiting rankings and results from the previous four seasons with adjustments made for transfers.

Like anything else, it is not a perfect picture of what's going to happen this fall, but it is something to talk about between now and August.

Here are five takeaways from the first projection for this season:

1. SP+ predicts the Buckeyes will have the No. 1 defense in college football.

That probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise given that seven at least part-time starters return this fall, including four seniors on the front and four players in the secondary.

The unit might also get a further bump from being in Jim Knowles' scheme for a third season.

2. The offense is ranked No. 20.

This unit is more of an enigma, but there is plenty of reason for optimism.

Ohio State returns the Big Ten's leading rusher in TreVeyon Henderson and added All-SEC running back Quinshon Judkins via the transfer portal. They will run behind a line that returns four starters from last season, and No. 2 receiver Emeka Egbuka should also be one of the best in the country at his position.

The ceiling of the unit figures to be decided by the quarterback, which could be senior Kansas State transfer Will Howard if he beats out sophomore Devin Brown and redshirt freshman Lincoln Kienholz.

3. Four teams from the new Big Ten are in the top 10.

Oregon checks in right behind the Buckeyes at No. 3 followed by No. 5 Michigan and No. 7 Penn State.

The Ducks, who will also have a new quarterback, have the No. 1 offense along with a defensive unit ranked 15th.

Despite losing nearly everyone from last year's national championship squad, Michigan's offense is projected to be No. 32 while a Michigan defense that returns a majority of its major contributors checks in at No. 2.

Penn State, which will have offensive and defensive coordinators, is 19th on offense and No. 4 on defense.

4. The rest of the Big Ten ranges from 25-90.

Coach Luke Fickell's second Wisconsin team is 25th overall, thanks mostly to the No. 7 defense.

Rival Iowa is right behind the Badgers at No. 26, again mostly because of the No. 3 defense.

Next comes Washington (29), UCLA (37), Nebraska (39), Minnesota (41), Rutgers (43) and Maryland (45).

The projected bottom five of the conference are No. 55 Northwestern, No. 62 Illinois, No. 79 Michigan State, No. 86 Purdue and No. 90 Indiana.

5. Ohio State's schedule includes five of the top 40.

The Buckeyes will play Oregon, Michigan, Penn State, Iowa and Nebraska in the regular season.

They also get the bottom three from the Big Ten (MSU, Purdue and Indiana), and the nonconference slate isn't expected to add much.

Akron is projected at No. 132 (out of 134) while Western Michigan is 111th and Marshall is 89th.

The Thundering Herd might have been higher if not for losing two-year starting quarterback Cam Fancher, a Wayne High School product, to the transfer portal (Florida Atlantic).