3 games to watch
■ Sept. 6 vs. Virginia Tech: An Ohio Stadium-record crowd in excess of 108,000 fans is expected for the Buckeyes’ biggest non-conference test — and a first look at the remodeled Horseshoe.
Nov. 8 at Michigan State: ■ How anticipated is this rematch of last year’s Big Ten title game? ABC moved it to primetime likely opposite Alabama-LSU. A pair of tickets to the showdown of the conference season — and the biggest game in East Lansing in years — are starting at $150 each on the online secondary market.
Nov. 29 vs. Michigan: ■ This will always be The Game, but college football’s best rivalry needs CPR. Ohio State is going for its 12th win in 14 years and seventh straight in Columbus over the Wolverines, although last year the Buckeyes escaped 42-41 in Ann Arbor.
3 causes for concern
Quarterback: ■ The preseason loss of a Heisman-grade quarterback on a national title contender may be unprecedented. While oddsmakers estimate three-year starter Braxton Miller was worth a touchdown to OSU, backups J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones have a combined two career pass attempts.
Offensive line: ■ The Buckeyes must rebuild a line that moved heaven, earth, and rival Big Ten defenses to clear the way for the nation’s most dangerous rushing offense (6.80 yards per run). The unit returns a combined 20 career starts — third-fewest in the FBS.
• The defense: Ohio State may have the best defensive line in the country, and new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash should help fortify the back end. But is a unit that allowed a combined 115 points and 1,617 yards in the final three games last year — then lost first-round NFL picks Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby — suddenly going to resemble the program’s feared defenses of yore?
■ Barrett evolves into a more athletic version of former backup Kenny Guiton and OSU’s depth of talent carries the day. The one-loss Buckeyes just miss the first four-team playoff but, with Miller returning, are the preseason No. 1 in 2015.
■ The Buckeyes make their triumphant return to ... the Gator Bowl. Urban Meyer’s honeymoon ends as Barrett and a rebuilt offensive line endure growing pains and an improved defense can’t make up the difference. Ohio State loses at least three regular-season games for just the second time since 2004.
— David Briggs