The Navy Midshipmen are just days away from a trip to Baltimore to kick their season off against the heavily-favorited Ohio State Buckeyes.
This is an Ohio State team with an excellent coach in Urban Meyer and one that is loaded with talent. But with star QB Braxton Miller out for the year and the unfamiliarity between Navy and Ohio State, questions came up.
Can the Buckeyes make a playoff run without Miller? How good is his backup? What's the defense look like? How will they stop Keenan Reynolds and the triple option?
I didn't have the answers to these questions, so I called an expert.
Matt Brown is the assistant league manager for SB Nation's college football coverage and a co-manager at the Ohio State blog, Land-Grant Holy Land.
He has the answers.
Mitchell Northam: We all know Braxton Miller is out and J.T. Barrett is in. What impact does Miller's absence have on Ohio State's playoff hopes, and how do the Buckeyes match up against Navy without him?
Matt Brown: Losing Miller robs Ohio State of one of the most dynamic offensive players in college football, and will substantially change their gameplan, and certainly it HURTS their playoff chances, but I don't think it totally eliminates them. Rather than building a scheme out of Miller's elusiveness and playmaking ability, look for Barrett to sit in the pocket a little more and be more a distributor, letting Ohio State's bevy of skill talent at WR and RB handle the roles that Braxton used to have. Barrett was a 4 star recruit and the 2nd highest rated Dual-Threat QB in his class, and projects to be a more physically gifted version of last year's backup, Kenny Guiton.
There are going to be some bumps in the road, but Ohio State's offense is deeper than one player.
MN: On paper, Ohio State has one of the best defensive line's in all of college football. How does the rest of the defense look this season and what will they have to do (or, which players will have to step up) to stop Reynolds and the Triple Option in week one?
MB: Those who watched Ohio State last season noted a decidedly un-Buckeye like secondary, which was lit up by Michigan, Michigan State and Clemson to end the season. New defensive coordinator Chris Ash, via Arkansas (and previously Wisconsin) rebuilt the entire scheme, looking to focus on a more attacking philosophy, that will take advantage of ohio state's advantage with athleticism on the ends. Passing is always an uphill battle for Navy, but doing so against Ohio State might be even harder.
The Buckeyes will rely on their linebackers, from Josh Perry to Curtis Grant, to play disciplined, assignment football, and for their talented defensive line, paced by preseason All American Michael Bennett, to blow up Navy's line and prevent runners from getting into space.
MN: Navy's defense wasn't great last season, and they're still shuffling around the linebackers to try and fill holes left by two seniors who graduated. What Buckeye should Navy's defense be most focused on stopping on Saturday?
MB: It sounds trite, but Ohio State has speed all over the field. Jeff Heuerman is a preseason All Big Ten candidate at tight end, and is a major mismatch over the middle. Dontre Wilson is one of the fastest players in college football, and will be a threat to take any swing pass to the house. Michael Thomas at wideout is a big target who is looking to turn back to back excellent spring games into a breakout performance. He's also a big threat.
MN: Prediction for Saturday's game?
MB: I can see this game being close for a while, especially if Ohio State turns the ball over, but their overwhelming athletic and speed advantage should trump the schematic advantage from the option and Navy's excellent coaching staff. I like Ohio State to cover, and win something like 38-21.
You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattSBN and follow Land-Grant Holy Land at @Landgrant33.