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Ohio State football 2022 season prediction, preview, awards, 2022 bowl game


Even with a Rose Bowl victory under their belt, C.J. Stroud, Ryan Day and Ohio State football should have bigger plans for the 2022 season. 

Ohio State football had every opportunity, despite losing in September, to still make it to the College Football Playoff. And for all but one week of the season, the Buckeyes did their job. But then Ryan Day let the unthinkable happen in Ann Arbor and, as such, it was O-H-Oh-No in Columbus as the program had to settle for another Rose Bowl victory.

That won’t be enough to satisfy fans in the 2022 season, though. The Buckeyes have revamped the defense, have one of the most explosive offenses in the country, and should be dreaming of a natty and hanging a 70-burger on Michigan.

The penultimate team in FanSided’s Preseason Top 50 Rankings at No. 2, the Ohio State Buckeyes!

Ohio State football 2021 season in review

The Buckeyes got a shock to the system before they even got off the starting blocks a year ago with the upset loss to Oregon in the second game of the year. As the season went along, though, that loss looked more puzzling than ever.

Sure, it wasn’t a cake-walk through some points of the season, including some surprising scares against Nebraska and, lesser so, Penn State. But on the whole, Ohio State looked dominant, particularly after they routed Michigan State and made their way to the Big House to try and keep their ownership over Jim Harbaugh and Michigan alive and well.

That, however, was not the case.

For as good as the offense was, the Ohio State defense and its deficiencies were masked at several points by that. Michigan, however, exploited that time and again with a ground-and-pound attack that the Buckeyes had no answer for and the Wolverines ultimately pulled away to win the rivalry matchup, 42-27.

That ended Ohio State’s chances of winning the Big Ten and making the College Football Playoff. But they ended the year on a high note with a thrilling victory over Utah in the Rose Bowl — even if that wasn’t the triumphant ending fans had hoped for.

Previewing Ohio State Buckeyes offense for 2022 season

  • Returning starters (6): QB C.J. Stroud, RB TreVeyon Henderson, WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, OC Luke Wypler, OL Paris Johnson Jr., OT Dawand Jones
  • Impact player: C.J. Stroud

Despite a talented recruiting class, which is always the case in Columbus, there aren’t really any newcomers to speak of because, frankly, the offense is in a great spot with the guys they have coming back, even if there are only six returning starters.

The offensive line lost some key players in Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere but Paris Johnson Jr. is set to slide out to left tackle and the depth to fill in on the interior is quite good and something that the team can feel confident in.

But of course, it’s all about the skill guys with the Buckeyes. While Jaxon Smith-Njigba returns with sky-high expectations, particularly after his otherworldly and record-breaking Rose Bowl performance, as the only starter back from last year, Ohio State is a wide receiver factory with former highly touted recruits in Marvin Harrison Jr. and Julian Fleming set to step right up and make an impact.

TreVeyon Henderson likely should’ve been the starter for all of the 2021 season as a freshman but, even then, he still ended up with 1,200 yards on the year and should be a force, especially with the attention that must be paid to the passing game.

And that leads us to Stroud. He’s one of the Heisman Trophy frontrunners, he has shown every tool that a quarterback would need to display already, and he looks primed to have the Buckeyes on a trajectory to compete for a national championship.

Previewing Ohio State Buckeyes defense for 2022 season

  • Returning starters (4): DE Zach Harrison, LB Steele Chambers, CB Denzel Burke, S Ronnie Hickman
  • Newcomers: DB Tanner McCallister (Oklahoma State), 5-star LB C.J. Hicks, 4-star DB Kye Stokes
  • Impact player: Zach Harrison

The fact that only four starters are back from last year’s Ohio State defense might not be a bad thing. This side of the ball was a problem at several points for the Buckeyes, which is why Day and the program were so aggressive in trying to upgrade the coaching by going out and getting Jim Knowles from Ohio State.

Now Knowles has a lot of clay to mold in his image and there is a lot to like about what he has to work with, even if there is a lot of youth with this group. The experienced returners all have upside, particularly with Zach Harrison, a guy who the defense has been waiting to develop into the next great pass-rusher in Columbus, and Denzel Burke, who started all 13 games as a true freshman and seems primed to take a step forward under Knowles.

More importantly, though, we’re about to see some elite youngsters get their shot, which should excite fans. Most notably, J.T. Tuimoloau, one of the top overall recruits in 2021, is slated to start on the defensive front, as is another highly touted 2021 commit, Tyleik Williams. What those two are capable of could be special for the Buckeyes defense.

What stands out the most, though, is the effect Knowles could have. He consistently had Oklahoma State as one of the best defenses in the Big 12, but did so with far less talent at his disposal. Now armed with a treasure trove of skills to work with, he could help this unit get closer to its ceiling.

Ohio State football players awards watch for 2022 season

There are a host of Buckeyes that found their way onto preseason award watchlists, but these three players stand out as the biggest contenders for various awards.

C.J. Stroud, Heisman

Of course, C.J. Stroud is on a host of award watchlists this preseason (Maxwell and Davey O’Brien, most notably), but there’s only one that matters and it’s one he has a legitimate shot to challenge for. The OSU quarterback enters the season with a loaded receiving corps, an offense catered to him for putting up stats, and a national title contender. Sounds like a recipe to potentially usurp Bryce Young to me.

TreVeyon Henderson, Maxwell/Doak Walker

So much focus is going to be put on the Ohio State passing game, but don’t forget about the rushing attack with TreVeyon Henderson leading the way. As a freshman last season, he reeled off 1,248 rushing yards with 15 touchdowns to go with 312 receiving yards and four more scores. He could be one of the most wildly slept-on pieces of the Buckeyes’ potent attack.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Maxwell/Biletnikoff

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, on the other hand, is not being slept on and nor should he be. Smith-Njigba finished with over 1,600 yards receiving last season, including a 347-yard, 3-touchdown performance in the Rose Bowl when he became the go-to guy. That’s what he’ll be in 2022, so the production could truly be unheard of.

Ohio State football biggest game on 2022 schedule

Yes, playing that team from Ann Arbor is the obvious choice here. And make no mistake, that game should be as important as it was a year ago for both programs.

And yet, it’s hard to look at the totality of last season and not have the season-opener against Notre Dame circled as the biggest game of the year. Ohio State had their early-season test in 2021 against Oregon and, frankly, the Buckeyes failed it against a Ducks team that played extremely well but was also still beatable.

Now they can prove that they’re a different team in the 2022 season against a top-five ranked Irish team. While I might be dubious of Notre Dame myself as a contender, there’s no denying the talent, physicality and quality on a large scale of the Irish. So if Ohio State — especially at home — can make a statement in that game, it’ll go a long way in making believers of doubters, of fans, and most crucially of everyone in the locker room in Columbus.

Ohio State football best-case scenario

The best version of the Buckeyes doesn’t have a loss on this schedule. As mentioned, I think Notre Dame will be good but will be looked back at with “how were the Irish preseason Top 5?” vibes when the season’s over. Then you see Wisconsin, Michigan State and Michigan on the schedule and, at their best, Ohio State could legitimately beat those teams by 20+ points.

Ryan Day has a special group on his hands and I believe they made the necessary adjustments on defense to get the team to another level. Best-case scenario is 12-0 and much, much more.

Ohio State football worst-case scenario

Even if things go bad for the Buckeyes, I don’t foresee them going that badly for this team.

In truth, the Notre Dame game is scary because, if Jim Knowles hasn’t fixed the defense immediately this offseason and brought a new level of toughness to this team, then the Irish could clip Ohio State in the opener by playing that smash-mouth brand of football.

But after that, I don’t think Ohio State is losing. Yes, there are other teams on the schedule, most notably Wisconsin and Michigan, that could replicate that style. But the more time you give Knowles and this team as a whole to coalesce, the harder they’re going to be to beat.

This might sound outlandish, but an 11-1 regular season and a Big Ten Championship Game berth is the worst-case scenario for the Buckeyes from where I’m sitting.

Ohio State football 2022 season prediction

If you can’t tell already, I’m extremely high on what Ohio State can accomplish. And with the worst-case scenario still having them as just a one-loss team, I still believe the best-case scenario is the more likely outcome. But it goes beyond just the Buckeyes finishing the regular season at 12-0.

Obviously, if that happens, this team is going to the Big Ten Championship and no team from the West is challenging them, which would then punch their College Football Playoff ticket. After that, it’s two games to glory. And while I’m not ready to make a prediction for who hoists the natty, my gut tells me this team has as good of a chance as Alabama or any other team of doing so.

Ohio State football 2022 bowl game prediction

With a perfect season and an almost assured victory in the Big Ten title game, Ohio State will be back in the College Football Playoff. Specifically, Jerry Palm of CBS Sports has the Buckeyes squaring off with Georgia as the No. 2 seed in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31 in his preseason projections.

Up next: No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide

Other articles in this series:

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