Watching Urban Meyer’s teams is a lot like watching the “Star Wars” prequels.
At some point you’re guaranteed to go, “Dude, we’ve seen this before.”
Meyer’s fourth Ohio State team enters the season ranked No. 1, incredibly the first unanimous choice in AP top 25 history.
The Buckeyes have not one, not two but three quarterbacks with starting experience. Third-stringer Cardale Jones was at the helm for the final three games of the 2014 season – the Big Ten title game, a playoff win over Alabama, a championship win over Oregon.
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How good is Ohio State supposed to be this year? Jones might not start on Monday night against Virginia Tech.
With most coaches, two quarterbacks are one too many but Meyer won a national title at Florida in 2006 using Chris Leak and Tim Tebow.
Meyer won a second title at Florida two years later and entered the 2009 season in a very similar situation to this Ohio State team.
The Gators were a veteran team, coming off a title season, loaded with talent, and ranked No. 1 in ’09. But every week became a referendum, and no performance was quite good enough. There was no joy in starting 12-0.
The top-ranked Gators got to the SEC title game and lost 32-13 to Alabama. It was after that game, we would come to find out later, that Meyer was rushed to the hospital with chest pains.
After such a traumatic experience at Florida, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that Meyer will do his best to avoid a predictable sequel this year with Ohio State.
On the first Saturday of September, your guide to the 2015 college football season:
Five games to watch
1. Oregon at Michigan State (Sept. 12)
The Ducks love a challenge, and they’ll have plenty inside the Pac-12, but this will set the tone of the season.
2. Auburn at LSU (Sept. 19)
Show me LSU’s roster with Gus Malzahn as the coach and I’ll show you a national title. The first in a series of elimination games for Malzahn’s Tigers.
3. Notre Dame at Clemson (Oct. 3)
If the ACC wants to hold onto a spot in the College Football Playoff, the Tigers have to win this game. A win wouldn’t put Notre Dame in the clear, but it would put them ahead of the ACC.
4. Baylor at TCU (Nov. 27)
One more time the Bears and Horned Frogs hope to decide the Big XII’s “one true champion.” This time, with a CFP spot as a reward.
5. Ohio State at Michigan (Nov. 27)
The Michigan State game the week before is seemingly the bigger game, but the Buckeyes will have to avoid an emotional letdown against the Wolverines on the road. (Now imagine the reaction of Bo Schembechler or Woody Hayes to the previous sentence).
Five names to watch
1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Who’s the quarterback? It doesn’t matter as long as Elliott is around. He ran for 696 yards and eight touchdowns – in the last three games of the season!
2. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Silly numbers (3,901 passing yards, 33 TDs; 707 rushing yards, eight TDs) will probably only go up in the senior’s fourth year as a starter.
3. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
The sophomore is a taller version of Earl Campbell (6-1, 230 pounds). He ran for 1,034 yards last season.
4. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
The No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft? Cook threw for 3,214 yards and 25 TDs last season and led the Spartans to 11 wins.
5. Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona
Zoinks! Make a Shaggy and Mystery Machine joke at your own peril with the ferocious Arizona linebacker who had 163 tackles, 14 sacks and six forced fumbles last year.
Five who could win it all
1. Ohio State: Resisting the urge to simply put “duh” here, but obviously the 2014 national champions are the team to beat in 2015.
2. TCU: A veteran group that was snubbed last year. Motivation won’t be problem; the schedule probably won’t be either.
3. Michigan State: If the Spartans get to the playoff, they will have earned it with both Oregon and Ohio State on the docket.
4. Auburn: The SEC West keeps getting deeper, but the teams at the top (Alabama, LSU) aren’t quite what they used to be, opening the door for a smart coach.
5. Notre Dame: It felt like the Irish showed up for all the big games last year but slept through a couple of losses. If Brian Kelly’s group treats every team like LSU, they’ll be fine.
College Football Playoff Projection
Orange Bowl: 1. Ohio State vs. 4. Michigan State
Cotton Bowl: 2. TCU vs. 3. Auburn
National Championship Game: Ohio State over TCU
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio