On Thursday I got a PR pitch about an article from Paul Bessire and John Ewing of PredictionMachine.com on who the Ohio State Buckeyes should start this season at quarterback among Braxton Miller, Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett. To try to determine it, the authors simulated Ohio State’s regular-season 50,000 times with each quarterback as the starter.
Regardless of which quarterback starts, the Buckeyes win more than 11 games on average. By the numbers, Barrett would be the starter since OSU was more efficient offensively, both passing and rushing the ball. The difference between Barrett and Miller starting for Ohio State is nearly a field goal per game. OSU averaged 44 points per game with Barrett, 42 ppg with Jones and 41 with Miller. I tweeted out this info and my colleague Clay Travis marveled at the notion the Buckeyes have three quarterbacks capable of running an attack that averages over 40 points per game — and that 95 percent of FBS teams don’t have one. (I agree.)
Then in a very Clay fashion, he tweeted this at me and Vegas insider Todd Fuhrman:
So let’s actually do that. How many starters on the SEC’s top team – Auburn, according to the league’s media — would start for the Buckeyes this year?
My hunch: Only about six of the Tigers’ 22 starters would beat out their Buckeyes counterparts.
Wideout Duke Williams and right tackle Avery Young would start on O. Auburn has some impressive talent on offense, but as good as quarterback Jeremy Johnson is, I don’t see him being the guy who’d overtake everyone at OSU. Former five-star RB Jovon Robinson is a stud, but him starting over Ezekiel Elliott — the dude who ran all over Bama and everyone else in the postseason? Nope. LT Shon Coleman’s good but over Taylor Decker, a projected first-rounder who allowed only one sack last season? Nah. LG Alex Kozan was a Freshman All-American for Auburn in 2013 before missing last year with a back injury, but I’m not sure he’d trump Ohio State’s Bill Price, a powerhouse the Buckeye staff raves about and a Freshman All-American last year.
On defense, I figure the Tigers may have four who would win starting jobs. DT Montravius Adams, a 330-pounder, can be dominant at times and would be one of the Buckeyes’ top two interior guys (along with Adolphus Washington — 10.5 TFLs last year). DE Carl Lawson, coming off injury, also can be special and should emerge as one of the top DEs in the country. I wouldn’t start him over OSU’s Joey Bosa, but I suspect he’d be the Buckeyes’ second-best DE.
I like OLB Kris Frost, but the Buckeyes may have the best linebacker crew in college football, especially since the outside guys are so good (Darron Lee and Josh Perry). Young MLB Raekwon McMillan is a future star inside, but I’ll give the Tigers’ 253-pound senior Cassanova McKinzy the edge now. He had 91 tackles last year and led the team in tackles the year before. Auburn’s other starter is CB Jonathan Jones (six INTs, 11 passes broken up) who gets the nod over OSU’s sophomore speedster, Gareon Conley.
Obviously, like the Prediction Machine piece on the Buckeyes QB situation, this isn’t scientific, but I do think it gives folks an even better sense of just how much talent Urban Meyer’s team has coming back to try to repeat.