It’s a program deep in history and tradition, but the Ohio State football team is hoping for a fresh start in 2017.
The Buckeyes open the new season on Thursday night, when they take on the Indiana University Hoosiers inside Memorial Stadium in Bloomington.
It’s Ohio State’s first chance at that fresh start since a 31-0 shellacking by Clemson last New Year’s Eve in the first round of the College Football Playoff.
That loss was the Buckeyes’ first time being shutout in a postseason game, and their worst-ever loss in a bowl game.
The Clemson loss marked the end of an odd season for the Buckeyes, who finished the regular season 11-1 but missed the Big Ten championship game because of a midseason loss to Penn State.
As 2016 wore on, Ohio State's offensive struggles became obvious. They put up big points against inferior teams, but struggled to score against top conference opponents. They narrowly won several games, including Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Michigan.
Despite the offensive struggles and the loss to Penn State, the playoff selection committee chose OSU over Penn State for the postseason tournament.
As always, the 2017 version of the Buckeyes is loaded with highly-touted prospects, but not as full of proven contributors. Ohio State had six players selected in last spring’s NFL Draft, including four on defense.
Ohio State is once again led by quarterback J.T. Barrett, who’s entering his fifth season in the program after being redshirted his freshman year. He’s a proven leader who put the team in position to win the 2014 national title. But he struggled with passing accuracy at times in 2016.
He’ll be flanked by new starting wide receiver in Austin Mack and Johnnnie Dixon.
Mike Weber, Jr. returns as the starting running back, but he’s expected to be challenged for carries by freshman running back J.K. Dobbins.
The offense will be coached by new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, the former Indiana head coach who was fired after the 2016 season amid reports of player mistreatment.
The defensive side of the ball is considered more of a sure thing, with the Buckeyes boasting one of the best defensive lines and linebacker corps in the country.
Ohio State enters the 2017 season ranked second in preseason rolls, behind the University of Alabama. Alabama lost in last season’s national title game against Clemson.
Ohio State and Indiana kick off at 8 p.m. on ESPN.