Ohio State Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions
The Ohio State football team is gearing up for another national title run, but with the inaugural College Football Playoff on the horizon, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes will be navigating a much tougher schedule in 2014.
The realigned Big Ten divisions have given Ohio State a loaded league slate, and a tougher nonconference lineup will challenge the Buckeyes early.
Can Ohio State put together its third consecutive undefeated regular season?
The big question surrounding the Buckeyes during fall camp is the status of star quarterback Braxton Miller and whether he'll be ready to go for Ohio State's Week 1 matchup against Navy.
The Buckeyes' signal-caller will take center stage in Baltimore, Maryland, and put on a show.
Urban Meyer and the coaching staff will lean heavily on the running game, but Miller will complete 14 of his 18 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. That will keep Navy off balance as Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith and Curtis Samuel gash the Midshipmen on the ground.
Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds will fuel its triple-option attack with 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns, but the Buckeyes will have thoroughly prepped for the unique offense, limiting Ken Niumatalolo's squad to 17 points.
Ohio State 38, Navy 17
Virginia Tech will invade Columbus for Ohio State's home opener in Week 2, and one of college football's most dominant secondaries will challenge Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes offense. Cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson will press all night, making things difficult for Ohio State's passing game.
That's why Meyer and the Buckeyes will be content to grind this one out on the ground.
Ezekiel Elliott, who fractured his wrist in the opening week of fall camp, will be back in full swing after a lighter load against Navy. He'll carry the Buckeyes early and finish with 140 rushing yards and two scores.
Virginia Tech running back Trey Edmunds will be the driving force in his offense as well. The rising sophomore will break off a 35-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to make it a 21-17 game, but Dontre Wilson will take the following kickoff to the Hokies' 20-yard line to set up an easy Buckeyes score.
Ohio State 28, Virginia Tech 17
After opening the season with two tough opponents, Ohio State will make quick work of Kent State.
With a bye week to follow, the coaching staff will test Braxton Miller's shoulder by opening things up through the air. He'll respond in a big way, throwing for a career-high 310 yards and four touchdowns while completing 75 percent of his passes.
Ohio State's ground attack will be equally impressive, rushing for 285 yards.
The story of the day, though, will be the return of defensive end Noah Spence. Fresh off a three-game suspension, Spence will be a constant presence in the Golden Flashes backfield, registering three sacks as Ohio State's defense dominates.
Ohio State 52, Kent State 13
Ohio State will enter the Cincinnati game well rested and confident, but the Bearcats will serve as the Buckeyes' toughest test to date. While Ohio State's pass defense has surged in the first three games, Gunner Kiel and a dangerous group of playmakers will challenge the Buckeyes.
Chris Ash's defense will be up to the challenge.
Kiel will throw for 260 yards and two touchdowns, but he'll complete just 56 percent of his passes and throw two costly interceptions. Doran Grant will return one of those picks for a touchdown late in the third quarter to give the Buckeyes a comfortable cushion.
Offensively, the Buckeyes will toy with an overmatched Bearcats defense. Dontre Wilson will be all over the field and record a career-high eight receptions for 155 yards. Braxton Miller will throw for two touchdowns and run for two more as the Buckeyes cruise to their fourth straight victory.
Ohio State 41, Cincinnati 24
The Buckeyes open conference play against one of the Big Ten's new members, visiting the state of Maryland for the second time of the season.
Their second trip will produce an almost identical result.
The Terrapins return their top five pass-catchers from a season ago, giving quarterback C.J. Brown a host of dangerous weapons on the perimeter. Stefon Diggs, a former 5-star stud who was recruited by Urban Meyer, will torch the Buckeyes with 160 total yards and account for both of Maryland's touchdowns.
It won't be enough.
The Buckeyes will overwhelm the Terrapins on both sides of the ball. Jeff Heuerman will consistently find holes in Maryland's defense and finish with a game- and career-high 130 receiving yards.
Braxton Miller will take a hard hit on his shoulder early in the fourth quarter and will have to leave the game. The Buckeyes will win easily, but questions about Miller's health will rise as they enter their second bye week.
Ohio State 41, Maryland 20
After two weeks filled with questions and concern from Buckeyes fans and national media, Columbus will breathe a huge sigh of relief when Braxton Miller takes the field in a prime-time matchup against Rutgers.
Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes' coaching staff essentially take the game out of his hands, though.
Miller will throw just 14 passes, connecting on nine of them for 155 yards. For the first time all season, he won't throw a touchdown or complete a pass of 30 yards or more.
The Buckeyes won't need a lot from Miller, though, as the ground game continues to surge. The offensive line will be lauded by Urban Meyer after the game as it paves the way for Ezekiel Elliott, Curtis Samuel and a rushing attack that piles up 345 yards.
The defense will also play another solid game, holding Gary Nova and the Scarlet Knights offense to 295 total yards.
Ohio State 31, Rutgers 17
Ohio State gave Penn State a historic beatdown a season ago, thrashing the Nittany Lions 63-14 in the 'Shoe. This year's matchup will take place under the lights in Happy Valley, and while it won't be a rout, the Buckeyes will secure a two-score victory.
With another week of limited work in practice, Braxton Miller will be well rested and ready for Penn State. Dontre Wilson will make things easy for him by piling up yards after the catch on quick bubble passes. Devin Smith will be the key, though, when he gets behind the Nittany Lions defense twice for long touchdown catches.
Christian Hackenberg's struggles against Ohio State will continue. After completing just 52 percent of his passes for 112 yards against the Buckeyes last year, he'll only be marginally better, throwing for 195 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
A late 30-yard touchdown run from Bill Belton will make the final score seem closer than it actually was. The Buckeyes will cruise to their seventh straight victory, rising to No. 3 in the polls.
Ohio State 38, Penn State 24
Back in Columbus for another night game, Ohio State will dazzle the home crowd with a blowout of Illinois.
The Buckeyes will bulldoze the Illini with a steady dose of Ezekiel Elliott and Curtis Samuel, racing out to a 35-7 halftime lead.
Braxton Miller will come in for the first drive of the third quarter, which ends with a 55-yard touchdown run from Elliott, before sitting the rest of the game. Backup quarterback J.T. Barrett will shine, throwing for 145 yards and a touchdown while completing 70 percent of his passes.
For the first time all season, freshman receiver Johnnie Dixon will finish as the game's leading receiver after hauling in six receptions for 95 yards and a score.
Defensive end Joey Bosa will register two sacks, one of which will result in a forced fumble in the end zone that he recovers for a touchdown.
Ohio State 56, Illinois 17
The Buckeyes were one victory away from playing Florida State for the national title last year, but the Spartans dashed those dreams with a 34-24 upset in the Big Ten title game.
Ohio State's chance at redemption will fall short under the lights in East Lansing.
The Spartans, fresh off an upset loss to Michigan, will gain an immediate advantage when they win the toss and defer to the second half. A solid kickoff return from Dontre Wilson will be wasted by a holding penalty. Pinned at their own 10-yard line, a bad snap over Braxton Miller's head will result in a safety.
After 60 minutes of battle, that will prove to be the difference.
Connor Cook won't have as much success throwing the ball, recording 210 yards and a touchdown against two interceptions. Running back Jeremy Langford will be the first running back to rush for more than 100 yards against the Buckeyes, though, and he'll pace the Spartans' attack.
Ohio State will have a chance to win the game late. Down by two with three minutes to go, the Buckeyes will start a drive at their own 20-yard line. After a 30-yard gain from a bubble screen to Michael Thomas, Michigan State's defense will stiffen to hold the Buckeyes.
Langford will kill the clock, handing Ohio State its first regular-season loss of the Urban Meyer era.
Michigan State 26, Ohio State 24
Sluggish after the devastating loss to Michigan State, the Buckeyes will bury themselves into a hole on the road against Minnesota.
Running back David Cobb will find a few creases early, and solid play from quarterback Mitch Leidner and great field position will help the Gophers build a 14-0 lead.
Early in the second quarter, Braxton Miller will throw an interception that will be returned by Eric Murray to Ohio State's 30-yard line.
Needing a spark, Joey Bosa and Noah Spence will break free in Minnesota's backfield on the ensuing play to combine for a sack. Spence will rip the ball free in the process, and Doran Grant, who was coming clean on a corner blitz, will recover the fumble and return it for a touchdown.
That play will spark an uninspiring yet decisive rally from the Buckeyes. Ohio State will score the game's following 20 points to build a 27-14 lead, and despite a late score from the Gophers, Ezekiel Elliott and the Buckeyes' rushing attack will ice the game down the stretch.
Ohio State 27, Minnesota 21
A host of Week 12 upsets will give the Buckeyes new life in the national title race. Florida will knock off South Carolina and Georgia will get the best of Auburn, allowing Ohio State to crawl back to No. 6 in the national polls.
The Buckeyes will take that energy to the field and register a convincing victory over the surging Indiana Hoosiers.
Braxton Miller will throw three touchdowns to three different receivers and Curtis Samuel will add a pair of touchdowns on the ground. Ohio State will pile up 605 total yards of offense without throwing a single pass in the fourth quarter.
Indiana will have success on offense, totaling 405 yards and 24 points, but that will fall well short of its average numbers. Shane Wynn will scorch the Buckeyes with 130 receiving yards, but in the end, it will be Dontre Wilson's day. The speedster will register career numbers, finishing with 225 total yards to complement two touchdowns.
Ohio State 52, Indiana 24
After struggling with Al Borges in control of the offense, Michigan will surge under the direction of Doug Nussmeier in 2014. The Wolverines will come to Columbus with a 9-2 record and an outside shot of winning the East Division.
That shot will diminish quickly in Braxton Miller's final game at Ohio Stadium.
Much like the 2013 matchup, the Buckeyes will dominate the line of scrimmage offensively. That will pave the way for Braxton Miller and Ezekiel Elliott, who will combine to rush for 275 yards and three touchdowns.
The work on the ground will be set up by an early play-action pass to Devin Smith. The Buckeyes' senior pass-catcher will blow by freshman cornerback Jabrill Peppers for a 55-yard touchdown.
Peppers, though, will bounce back. Late in the second quarter, he'll give Michigan a glimpse of the future when he makes a dazzling interception to prevent a Buckeyes touchdown. Midway through the third quarter, he'll return an Ohio State punt 70 yards for a touchdown.
It just won't be enough. The Buckeyes offense will be too much for the Michigan defense, and Urban Meyer will register his third consecutive victory over the Wolverines. Ohio State will finish the regular season with an 11-1 record.
Later that afternoon, Penn State will upset Michigan State in Happy Valley, giving the Buckeyes the East Division title and a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin.
Ohio State 38, Michigan 27
David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.