Just one short week ago, Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes were preparing for the 2014 season and a potential run at the first-ever College Football Playoff.
With a dynamic group of playmakers on offense and NFL talent across the board on defense, the Buckeyes still have the talent to compete for a Big Ten title.
Can Meyer and Ohio State bounce back from Miller's injury? Here are five bold predictions for the Buckeyes' 2014 season.
Ohio State Will Have a Top-25 Pass Defense
One of the biggest question marks surrounding Ohio State is its pass defense, which was shredded by opponents regularly during the 2013 season. The Buckeyes gave up an average of 268 passing yards per game, which ranked No. 110 out 123 teams nationally.
This season, it won't be so easy to pass on Ohio State.
The fast and aggressive defense will surge under the direction of new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash. With the Buckeyes abandoning their zone defense for more dynamic press coverages, opposing quarterbacks will have a much tougher time getting the ball down the field.
Doran Grant, Vonn Bell and a host of young and hungry defensive backs will fuel a Top-25 pass defense.
J.T. Barrett Will Win the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year Award
The last two quarterbacks to start as freshmen at Ohio State—Terrelle Pryor and Miller—went on to win the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award.
J.T. Barrett will continue the trend.
After struggling this spring, Barrett has made huge strides this fall to move ahead of Cardale Jones on the depth chart. Meyer and the coaching staff have confidence in Barrett to lead the team, and even some of the Buckeyes' top defenders have high praise for the young quarterback.
“Just smart decisions, makes the hard throws, makes the easy throws, controls the offense, controls the huddle," Grant said of Barrett, according to Tim Shoemaker of Eleven Warriors. "You can tell, even when we’re speeding it up, he has everything controlled, everybody’s getting set and it’s go time.”
The Buckeyes expect Barrett to be a distributor a la Kenny Guiton, which could lead to some big numbers. That will be especially true as Barrett triggers Meyer's offense.
Noah Spence and Joey Bosa Will Combine for More Than 20 Sacks
Ohio State's defense will be anchored by two standout defensive ends in Noah Spence and Joey Bosa.
In 2014, the two will terrorize opposing quarterbacks and combine for more than 20 sacks.
Bosa and the rest of the Buckeyes' defensive line will have to operate without Spence for the first two games of the season as he finishes serving his three-game suspension.
When the rising junior returns, Ohio State's defensive front will boast three potential first-round NFL draft picks. With studs such as Michael Bennett, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt on the interior, most teams won't be able to double Bosa and Spence.
The two big-time defensive ends will have big years for the Buckeyes.
Dontre Wilson Will Eclipse 1,100 Total Yards
Needing playmakers to step up in the wake of Miller's injury, Dontre Wilson's role in the offense will be even more pivotal for the Buckeyes.
The speedy all-purpose back out of DeSoto, Texas was used mainly as a decoy in 2013, but that will change in a big way this season. Wilson secured the starting H-Back spot in March, more commonly known as the "Percy Harvin position," so he'll see a lot of touches as the Buckeyes look for the big play.
Wilson will deliver. As a receiver in the slot who will motion into the backfield five times a game, Wilson will finish the season with more than 850 receiving yards and 250 rushing yards.
Ohio State Will Win the Big Ten
Even without Miller, Ohio State will win the Big Ten.
A tough non-conference slate will help the Buckeyes adjust without their star quarterback. Maryland and Rutgers will serve as tuneup games for Ohio State's prime-time matchup against Penn State—a game the Buckeyes will win 34-24.
The Buckeyes' only loss of the season will come against Michigan State. The Spartans will have the inside track to the Big Ten title game in the final week of the regular season, but Christian Hackenberg and the Nittany Lions will spoil their run in Happy Valley.
Ohio State will clinch the East Division with a 31-24 victory over Michigan. A week later, Meyer will win his first Big Ten title when the Buckeyes defeat Wisconsin 28-25.
Because of its late loss, Ohio State will not be one of the four teams selected into the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes will be picked to play Georgia in the Chic-Fil-A Peach Bowl.
All stats via NCAA.com.
David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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