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Two more draft-eligible Buckeyes opt to remain at Ohio State

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It’s been a banner day for Ohio State when it comes to staving off the NFL for another year.

Earlier in the day, wide receiver Parris Campbell announced that he would be eschewing the NFL draft and returning to the Buckeyes for the 2018 season.  Not long after, another receiver, Johnnie Dixon, along with defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones announced that they too opted against declaring in order to come back to OSU for another season.

The return of Jones is the more surprising of the two most recent ones as he had been viewed in some corners as a potential first-round pick.

Dixon led the Buckeyes in receiving touchdowns with eight and yards per catch at 23.4.  For the season, he totaled 18 catches for 422 yards, both career highs

Thus far, Ohio State has lost cornerback Denzel Ward (HERE), defensive end Sam Hubbard (HERE) and linebacker Jerome Baker (HERE) to early entry into the draft.  The deadline for the rest of the draft-eligible players to declare is Jan. 15.

A Look Ahead: CFT’s Way-Too-Early 2018 Top 25

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The last bit of confetti has barely settled onto the Mercedes-Benz Stadium turf and the carcass of the 2017 season isn’t even cold yet, and we’re already rolling out a way-too-early Top 25 for the 2018 season? Yep. Because that’s how we roll. Or were told by our bosses to roll.  Or something.

In our role as preseason Nostradumbass, the first 10 of CFT’s Top 25 consisted of No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 USC, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 Penn State, No. 6 Oklahoma State, No. 7 Washington, No. 8 Stanford, No. 9 Clemson and No. 10 Oklahoma. A little over 4½ months later?

Three of the four playoff participants, Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma, were in our Top 10; the fourth, Georgia, stood at No. 14.  Ohio State (No. 5), USC (No. 8) and Penn State (No. 9) all currently sit inside of the Top 10 of the College Football Playoff rankings heading into the postseason, while Washington (No. 11), Stanford (No. 13) and Oklahoma State (No. 19) are all in the Top 25.

The biggest swing and a miss was the one that everyone whiffed on: Florida State.  After beginning the year No. 3 in the country in both major polls as well as our little Top 25 contribution, FSU tied for its worst record (7-6 in 2006, 2007, 2009) since 1976, going 5-6 in the second season under Bobby Bowden.

The point of this whole review-before-we-look-ahead exercise? Preseason polls are meaningless — but not nearly as meaningless as polls produced nearly eight months ahead of the start of a new season. With that in mind, enjoy this way-too-early Top 25 that will put the “mean” in meaningless. And the “less” in it, for that matter.

Oh, and as always, feel free to complain/whine/moan/bitch away in the comments section below.  Not that you need permission to do that, of course.

NO. 1 ALABAMA
WHY? Nick Saban + top-ranked recruiting classes year-in, year-out + a burning desire to be the greatest there ever was at this level = a permanent spot inside the Top 10 as long as The Nicktator resides in Tuscaloosa.
WHY NOT? An NFL team (finally) entices Saban to go back and finish what he started — and abruptly ended — in the big boy league of football.  Or he gets bored with winning and abruptly up and quits.  Neither of those are going to happen, of course, but those are about the only things that could derail the Crimson Tide juggernaut — unless the looming quarterback “controversy” gets away from him.

NO. 2 OHIO STATE
WHY? 12, 12, 14, 12, 11, 12.  Those are the win totals for the Buckeyes since Urban Renewal came to Columbus.  With a No. 2 recruiting class (thus far) this year added to Top Five groups each of the past four years that have added running back J.K. Dobbins, defensive end Nick Bosa and many others, OSU, like ‘Bama, is a perennial playoff contender.
WHY NOT? With eighth-year senior J.T. Barrett‘s departure, it leaves OSU inexperienced under center since Barrett’s first season as the starter back in 1986 (or 2014 if you want to get technical).  Some Buckeye fans, though, despite Barrett’s record-setting production, will view the departure as a positive.  Road trips to Michigan State, Penn State and what’s close to a home game against TCU aren’t exactly optimal.

NO. 3 GEORGIA
WHY? Kirby Smart is Nick Saban Jr., and has taken The Process from Tuscaloosa and brought it to Athens.  Jake Fromm was in his first season as a starter and helped lead the Bulldogs to the national championship game as a true freshman.  And that upcoming schedule?  Middle Tennessee State, UMass and an FCS school along with the annual in-state rivalry game with Georgia Tech make up the nonconference slate, while they get Auburn at home as one of the two crossover conference games (travel to LSU as well).
WHY NOT? In Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, they lose running backs who have combined to rush for nearly 8,300 yards and 77 touchdowns the past four seasons, including over 2,400 yards and 31 touchdowns this season.  Losing the best defensive player in the country, linebacker Roquan Smith, to the NFL draft early won’t help either.

NO. 4 MIAMI
WHY? The Hurricanes seemed poised for a breakout 2018 campaign, then returned to the national stage ahead of projections before crashing and burning in losing its last three games.  With 2018 on the horizon, a significant amount of talent returns to a Mark Richt-led squad that played in its first-ever ACC championship game.
WHY NOT? Richt brought with him to South Beach what pushed him out of Athens: a penchant for building good teams, but teams not quite good enough to contend with the best the conference has to offer.  A neutral-field game against LSU in the opener should be a good gauge for where The U stands moving forward.

NO. 5 WISCONSIN
WHY? The Badgers are the absolute class of the Big Ten West, with no one in that division even in UW’s zip code quite yet.  Jonathan Taylor broke Adrian Peterson‘s single-season FBS freshman rushing record, and will obviously return for another run at feeding the beast that is UW’s running game.
WHY NOT? Unless Scott Frost very quickly turns around his alma mater Nebraska — and don’t count that out given his work at UCF — seemingly the only thing that can prevent the Badgers from a third straight Big Ten championship game appearance and fifth in seven years is myriad injuries.  They do, though, have to travel to Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern and Penn State, so there’s that as well.

NO. 6 CLEMSON
WHY? If Kirby Smart is Nick Saban Jr., Dabo Swinney is Saban’s twin brother from another mother.  In the makeup and building of Clemson into a veritable college football powerhouse, and especially defensively, Swinney’s teams are eerily reminiscent of what Saban has done in Tuscaloosa — albeit with a different offensive lean.  As long as Swinney is in Death Valley, you can go ahead and consider the Tigers a year-in, year-out Top-10 lock.
WHY NOT? Saban leaves for the NFL and Swinney takes over at his alma mater.  That’s about all that will keep Clemson from being a factor on the national stage yet again.

NO. 7 WASHINGTON
WHY? We’ve had Washington at No. 7 in each of the last two Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings; they ended the 2016 season fourth and are currently ranked 11th.  Chris Petersen has taken a Huskies football program and turned it into one that should be a 10-win team for the foreseeable future.
WHY NOT? Jake Browning‘s mini regression bleeds into another his true senior season.  After throwing for 43 touchdowns and finishing with a 167.5 efficiency rating in 2016, those numbers tumbled to 19 and 152.1 this past season.

NO. 8 MICHIGAN STATE
WHY? The Spartans return a ton of starting talent on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Brian Lewerke, running back LJ Scott — he’s led MSU in rushing each of the past three seasons – and 4/5ths of the offensive line.  MSU also gets Ohio State and Michigan at home, and doesn’t have to face Wisconsin as a crossover divisional opponent.
WHY NOT? 2017’s 10-win season was an aberration after a three-win 2016 season.  Then again, aside from that drop-off-the-cliff record, Mark Dantonio has won 11 or more games in five of six seasons, so 2016 was likely the aberration when it’s all said and done.

NO. 9 STANFORD
WHY? Bryce Love, the 2017 Heisman Trophy runner-up, defies all odds and returns to The Farm for one more year.  After the first month of the season, the Cardinal’s schedule sets up very favorably as well.
WHY NOT? After myriad wooings over the past few years, David Shaw final succumbs and gives in to the NFL’s advances.  Aside from that, Stanford’s September schedule isn’t exactly a walk in pastry park: San Diego State (10-3), USC (11-3), at Oregon (7-6), at Notre Dame (10-3).  In early November, they’ll also have to travel to Washington.

NO. 10 WEST VIRGINIA
WHY? Baker Mayfield gone from Oklahoma and Mason Rudolph out at Oklahoma State leaves Will Grier as the top returning quarterback in the pass-happy Big 12.  Tony Gibson won’t allow a defense that finished second in the conference in total defense in 2016 but slipped to seventh in 2017 to slip again; in fact, they’ll be closer to the season before last than this past one.
WHY NOT? They get what will likely be preseason Big 12 favorite TCU at home, but have tough road tests in Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Texas.

NO. 11 UCF
NO. 12 OKLAHOMA
NO. 13 TEXAS
NO. 14 PENN STATE
NO. 15 VIRGINIA TECH
NO. 16 AUBURN
NO. 17 TCU
NO. 18 USC
NO. 19 BOISE STATE
NO. 20 MICHIGAN
NO. 21 FLORIDA STATE
NO. 22 MEMPHIS
NO. 23 OKLAHOMA STATE
NO. 24 LSU
NO. 25 OREGON

Turnovers killing No. 8 USC at the Cotton Bowl as No. 5 Ohio State rolls to big halftime lead

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The Cotton Bowl pitting the two conference champions who didn’t make the College Football Playoff was on just about everybody’s bucket list when the matchup between No. 5 Ohio State and No. 8 USC was announced earlier this month. Now it will be lucky to be on anybody’s TV.

The Buckeyes came, saw and conquered the Pac-12 champions in impressive fashion at AT&T Stadium, leading the Trojans 24-7 at halftime and looking borderline unstoppable in making the case that they and not No. 4 Alabama should have been in the Playoff.

OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett was naturally leading the way as he closes out his college career in scarlet and gray by throwing for 75 yards but rushing for another 54 on the ground — including a pair of rushing touchdowns. The team scored so quickly that tailbacks Mike Weber (11 yards) and J.K. Dobbins (22 yards) barely had time to get going as they mostly sat on the sidelines with a big lead.

Turnovers led to the majority of those points as half of USC’s first six possessions ended in the ball going the other way. Signal-caller Sam Darnold, playing in front of numerous NFL executives in what could be his final game in cardinal and gold, looked good early on and had 170 yards going into the locker room but fumbled once and threw a bad pick-six to Damon Webb. His receivers didn’t help him all that much with drops and the scoreboard indicates that Texas native and starting running back Ronald Jones (34 yards, one touchdown) won’t be that big of a factor after the break.

We’ve seen some crazy comebacks and wild second half performances already during bowl season already but that probably won’t be the case unless Darnold magically turns into the guy everybody touted as the sure-fire No. 1 overall pick. The Buckeyes do get the ball to start the third quarter and you can bet that Urban Meyer won’t rest easy even with a comfortable margin so far in what appears to be a rout in the making.

Florida adds former Buckeye receiver to roster

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Florida head coach Dan Mullen had a pretty solid debut with his first recruiting class for the Gators this week. On Friday, things got a little better. Wide receiver Trevon Grimes has transferred to Florida from Ohio State. Mullen announced the new addition to the program with a message on Twitter.

Grimes took a leave of absence from the Ohio State program in mid-October. At the time, it was reported Grimes was leaving the Buckeyes due to an unspecified family health issue. Now, Grimes will be closer to home and be able to restart his college football career with the Gators. It had been speculated Grimes would eventually transfer to a program in the state of Florida, with Miami being considered another potential landing spot for the former standout receiver recruit from St. Thomas Aquinas.

“I just felt like [Florida] fit for me. It’s close to home. Of course, being in my situation that I’m in right now, I have to be close to home,” Grimes said, according to The Sun-Sentinel.

“I’ve talked to [Florida co-offensive coordinator Billy Gonzales] about the receiver situation, about how many receivers they have,” Grimes said. “I feel like I fit in to that offense and that program very well.”

All that remains to be determined now is just how soon he will officially be eligible to play. Grimes has filed for a hardship waiver with the hope of being granted eligibility for the 2018 season. Otherwise, Grimes will have to sit out the 2018 season and return in 2019.

Ohio State TE injured in hoops game placed on medical scholarship

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A non-football injury means A.J. Alexander‘s playing days are over, at least at Ohio State.

In June, it was confirmed that Alexander would miss the entire 2017 season because of an unspecified knee injury that needed surgery to repair.  It was subsequently reported that the tight end suffered the injury playing basketball earlier in the month.

Tuesday, the Buckeyes announced that Alexander’s career at OSU is over because of the injury he sustained over the summer.  The redshirt sophomore will be placed on a medical scholarship so he can continue his schooling.

A three-star 2015 signee, Alexander took a redshirt as a true freshman.  As the backup to starter Marcus Baugh in 2016, Alexander caught four passes for 27 yards.