OSU unanimous choice as preseason No. 1


COLUMBUS — Think expectations are high in Columbus?

Ohio State was unveiled Sunday as the first unanimous preseason No. 1 team in the history of the Associated Press college football poll.

In a landslide anointing, the defending national Buckeyes received all 61 first-place votes from a panel of writers and broadcasters. They will open atop the polls for the eighth time in school history and the first time since 2006.

Texas Christian is No. 2, followed by Alabama, Baylor, and Michigan State — giving the Spartans their first top-five start since 1967.

No. 20 Wisconsin is the only other Big Ten entry in the poll. Despite Michigan’s anticipated revival under new coach Jim Harbaugh, the Wolverines will begin the season unranked for the second straight season and the sixth time in eight years.

Ohio State, meanwhile, has not set off on a season with such outsized hopes since 1969 — and even the reigning champions Woody Hayes considered his finest team could not match this kind of buildup.

Since the preseason rankings began in 1950, no team has so unified the voters.

Florida in 2009 and Alabama in 2013 were the previous most lopsided favorites in the debut poll, with both receiving 58 of 60 first-place votes.

The Buckeyes return 15 starters, including the star quarterback who wins the starting job (Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett), Heisman-chasing running back Ezekiel Elliott, and All-American defensive end Joey Bosa.

Even among those without scarlet-colored glasses, they are widely seen as a potential all-time great team.

Now comes the hard part: proving it.

The preseason polls are often more accurate than you might think. A year ago, all four teams in the first college football playoff — Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, and Ohio State — began the year in the top five.

But as the team to beat, the Buckeyes are fighting history.

Over the past decade, four teams received at least 95 percent of the first-place votes in the preseason poll: Southern California in 2007, Florida in 2009, Alabama in 2013, and Florida State last year. None won the national title.

USC in 2004 is the most recent of only 10 preseason No. 1 teams that went on to capture the championship, while it is rarer still to go wire-to-wire atop the polls. Only Florida State in 1999 and USC in ’04 began and ended the season No. 1.

The Buckeyes nearly pulled off the feat in 1969 and 2006 but lost their final games, falling at Michigan and to Florida in the BCS title game, respectively.

Amid all the backslapping, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and his players know nothing will come easy.

“There’s all the attention and people telling you you’re better than you are,” left tackle Taylor Decker said at Big Ten media days last month. “People are saying, ‘This team is going to repeat, they’re going to be a dynasty.’ We haven’t even started the season yet and I think guys can read into that and they can become complacent.”

Still, there is no place the Buckeyes would rather be. They are embracing the view.

“People say we’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” Decker said. “I look at it like every team is going to get our best shot as well.”

By David Briggs

The Toledo Blade (AP)

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