College football: 7 Big Ten takeaways from preseason projection

The Big Ten has the reigning college football national champion but not the projected No. 1 team in the country.

The latter is according to SP+, an advanced metric that ranks college football teams by how efficient and explosive they are on the field while also taking into account roster composition and recent history in preseason projections.

Here are seven takeaways relevant to Ohio State, the Big Ten and beyond:

1. Ohio State is No. 2 overall behind a more balanced Georgia.

The Buckeyes have the No. 1 defense but come in just 20th on offense.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are the only team with both units in the top five as their offense is second and defense fifth.

Two other teams have both units in the top 10: Alabama is seventh in offense and eighth in defense while Notre Dame is 10th and ninth, respectively.

2. Michigan is No. 6.

The Wolverines and Bulldogs had nearly identical SP+ figures to end of last season, but Michigan took home the hardware by beating Alabama and Washington in the College Football Playoff while Georgia was left at home because of a loss to the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship game.

Heavy losses in the coaching staff and on offense haven’t hurt Michigan’s SP+ standing much, though. The Wolverines are projected 32nd on offense and third on defense, where they return some key faces but lost standout safety Rod Moore of Northmont High School to a spring knee injury.

3. The Big Ten has four teams in the top 10.

Ohio State is one, and the Buckeyes play the other three. They are set to go to No. 3 Oregon on Oct. 12 and play at No. 7 Penn State three weeks later before finishing the regular season with a visit from Michigan.

4. The Big Ten has 11 teams in the top 50.

Ohio State misses most of them, though, at least in the regular season.

The Buckeyes host No. 22 Iowa, but the next-highest-ranked team on the schedule is No. 40 Nebraska.

Ohio State’s other Big Ten opponents are No. 82 Michigan State, No. 72 Purdue, No. 74 Northwestern and No. 85 Indiana.

USC is 21st followed by UCLA at 26, Wisconsin at No. 27, No. 35 Washington, No. 44 Maryland, No. 45 Minnesota, No. 49 Rutgers and No. 66 Illinois.

5. The Buckeyes’ nonconference schedule is weak.

Ohio State opens the season against No. 133 Akron before playing No. 106 Western Michigan and No. 103 Marshall.

6. Oregon has the only top 20 offense on Ohio State’s schedule.

Projecting the Buckeyes to have the No. 1 defense in the country makes sense for a variety of reasons. They are entering their third year under coordinator Jim Knowles, whose units got better progressively at Oklahoma Sate, and they return almost every starter while also adding Freshman All-American safety Caleb Downs.

The Ohio State defense also might not be challenged much before December.

Oregon is No. 1 despite losing quarterback Bo Nix to the NFL, but the next-best offense on the Ohio State schedule belongs to Penn State at No. 23. Then comes Michigan at No. 32, and the Wolverines are the only other offense in the top 70.

Seven OSU opponents are projected to have offenses ranked 95th or worse: Indiana, Northwestern, Iowa, Michigan State, Nebraska, Western Michigan and Akron.

7. Points could be at a premium in the league.

Hopes are high new offensive coordinator Chip Kelly can restore the roar in Ohio State’s offense, but there is no shortage of challenges if SP+ is to be believed.

With the Buckeyes leading the way, the new-look Big Ten includes 12 teams projected to be 30th or better in the country on defense, including five of the top six.

On their schedule are No. 2 Iowa, No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Penn State, No. 6 Nebraska, No. 14 Oregon and No. 30 Michigan State.

Also in the top 30 are Wisconsin (7), Maryland (17), Rutgers (20), Minnesota (22) and UCLA (27).

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