Colin: What do you think is Bud Foster's best approach to yet again bottle up the Buckeye offense and shock the world?
Baver: Va Tech will have to scale back the blitzing they did a year ago against the Buckeyes. The Ohio St coaches, O-line, and QB will be much better prepared for Va Tech’s blitz packages this time around. But, if I’m Bud Foster, I think I stick with the thought that my corners can handle OSU WR’s one-on-one when the Bucks go vertical. Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson are by far the best cornerback tandem in the country; I think Foster takes his chances with those two. And I think Foster at times revisits the double eagle (with two extra nose guards) with the Va Tech D-line having so much success with that look against OSU in The ‘Shoe last year.
Colin: In light of the suspensions, what players have the best opportunity to step up take advantage of the playing time?
Baver: Braxton Miller obviously, but digging deeper….. Torrance Gibson and Johnny Dixon (if both are full-go, health wise). Torrance Gibson, who missed some of fall camp with an injury, is probably your next great pure WR at Ohio State. He is probably the best bet to stretch the field against Va Tech. Dixon has been banged up for some time, but has big upside if healthy. Curtis Samuel will get more touches as well and is always a threat to take it to the house. At DE, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes will get most of Joey Bosa’s PT. Hubbard has the makings of a future star and Holmes is a pass rush specialist who may struggle defending the run.
Colin: Sure, on paper everything looks good. But, the longest winning streak in Ohio State history is 24 games. To repeat as National Champions, the Buckeyes would likely have to win 27 consecutive games ending with wins over Michigan State, Michigan, Big Ten Title game, National Semi Final, National Title game. Do Buckeye fans have a short memory about all the surprises a college football season has in store?
Baver: I’m with you, here. The BCS title game era began in 1998, so you had 16 title games from ’98 through ’13, with only one of those BCS championship teams repeating the following year (Alabama in ’11 and ’12). 1 for 16…those aren’t very good odds. Okay, maybe the sample size is too small. But this year’s Vegas odds tell me that the Bucks have about a 2 in 7 chance of winning the Nat’l Title. So, taking Ohio State against “the field” is not a wise bet. With that being said, if Ohio State plays close to the level they are capable of, they will repeat as national champs. I tend to think it won’t happen as it’s too hard for a defending champ to avoid complacency, but Meyer usually proves me wrong when I doubt him.
Colin: A couple interesting Big Ten match-ups feature new coaches. Any chance Wisconsin or Michigan pull off a win or are they both stuck riding the Harbaugh to hell?
Baver: Certainly possible, but I see both Wisky and Michigan losing. Wisconsin is so one dimensional on offense and will have trouble moving the ball against the Tide, who has the best front seven in the country. Just a bad matchup for the Badgers and I see them getting rolled. Both teams are replacing a lot of experienced talent, but that’s so much easier to do at Bama than Wisky. Michigan should be a good football team by year end, with a major upgrade in head coaches, but they are going to struggle early. Utah is a better team than Michigan right now and Rice-Eccles Stadium is such a tough venue for schools that haven’t played there.
Colin: What lines will you be keeping your eye on in week one of the season?
Baver: I like Ohio State ….laying the 12 pts. I had Va Tech plus the points pegged a year ago, but Urban is 35-9 against the spread when he has 7+ days to prepare. Again….not 35-9 outright….35-9 “against the Vegas spread.” Unheard of. The Bucks will want to make a statement in this revenge game; I’ll say Ohio State 34-17, but I am probably being overly conservative. I like Bama laying the 10.5 against Wisky, with thoughts on that game above. Finally, I like Arizona State getting 3.5 against A&M. The so-called neutral field still heavily favors the Aggies, but I think this game will be very close and a 3 ½ pt spot is enough for me. Good looking 2015 Sun Devil team.
Colin: What teams do you think have a chance to be this year's Ohio State and rise out of nowhere to contend?
Baver: If you consider Auburn or USC sleepers, neither of which finished Top 15 last year, they would be my picks. But those 2 are among your top 7 or so Vegas favorites this year. So, looking further down, I think Clemson and LSU are two schools that could possibly win the title this year. Of course, either team could make me look silly and lose 4 or 5 games as well, especially LSU in the SEC West. But Clemson QB DeShaun Watson, when healthy, is maybe the only QB I would take over what Ohio State has right now. Kid is an absolute stud. If Clemson’s several new starters on defense can come of age quickly, this is a dangerous Clemson team. As for LSU, this is the best looking Les Miles team I have seen since the 2011 team that went to the BCS title game.
Below: How Va Tech beat Ohio State and Deshaun Watson Highlights.