(1) Ohio State Buckeyes (-14, 52.5 o/u) at Virginia Tech Hokies
This evening, Urban Meyer and the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes (14-1, 8-0 Big Ten) will start their national title defense against the Virginia Tech Hokies (7-6, 3-5 ACC), the only team to hand them a loss last year. The Buckeyes and Hokies will hook up at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg at 8:00 PM Eastern.
The Buckeyes lost some key pieces from their championship squad, including top WR Devin Smith, top TE Jeff Heuermann, and top CB Doran Grant. But Meyer still has an embarrassment of riches on offense and defense, boasting five legitimate Heisman contenders in the form of QBs JT Barrett and Cardale Jones, newly minted WR Braxton Miller, potential no. 1 overall pick LB Joey Bosa, and power back Ezekiel Elliott. (Bosa won’t suit up for today’s game, however, due to suspension.)
The big question in the offseason wasn’t about how to fill the holes of those departing, but what to do at QB with Barrett, Jones, and former QB Miller all having legitimate claims to the starting role. The diminutive Miller was moved to wideout, but the sophomore Barrett – who started the majority of games last year before suffering a season-ending injury – and the junior Jones remain engaged in a “heavyweight battle” for the job.
Whoever gets the nod, Meyer will undoubtedly find a way to get the other some playing time. They are both too to leave on the bench. (Meyer employed the big-bodied Jones in goal line situations long before he emerged as a viable starter.)
The Hokies, meanwhile, are coming off an up-and-down 2014 season, highlighted by wins over Ohio State and no. 21 Duke, but lowlighted by setbacks against Wake Forest, Boston College, and ECU (with the latter two coming at home).
Quarterback Michael Brewer is back for his senior season in Blacksburg after throwing for a mediocre 2,692 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 15 picks in 2014. (He was also sacked 32 times.) More is expected of the Hokie offense this season. Brewer will be able to lean on another senior, running back JC Coleman, along with his top two targets from last year, sophomore WRs Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges.
But it’s the defense that really gives the team hope. The unit finished 14th in the nation in points against last year and is poised to be very strong again, boasting a tremendous pass rush and rock solid corners.
Betting-wise, it’s that Tech defense that makes the under (52.5) the appealing play. Ohio State is an offensive juggernaut and will get the win, but expect the Hokies D to come to play, keeping the Buckeyes from racking up their usual numbers.
Pick: under 52.5.
(Photo credit: Adam Glanzman (Flickr: asg.fbc.vsOSU.11.30.131225 copy) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)