Key offensive player

May: J.T. Barrett. A fourth-year starter and holder of multiple school records is surrounded by what appears to be talented cast of playmakers. The banquet table has been set for him by new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day.

Rabinowitz: Mike Weber. The running back did plenty of good things last year, but he and the Buckeyes believe there is much more for the redshirt sophomore to tap into as the starter. With J.K. Dobbins and others pressing for playing time, Weber must prove that he is up to the task.

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Key defensive player

Rabinowitz: Dante Booker. The outside linebacker missed almost all of 2016 beacuse of a knee injury. The Buckeyes believed he would have been a star last year. Instead, his replacement, Jerome Baker, became one. Now those two flank Chris Worley and have the potential to form a devastating unit.

May: Cornerback Damon Arnette. Or will it be junior-college transfer Kendall Sheffield? For the Buckeyes to play press coverage the way they want to, and be able to play aggressively across the board, the cornerback opposite Denzel Ward must be up to the task.

Key early game

Rabinowitz: Oklahoma. The Buckeyes made a huge statement last year in Norman as a young team. Now they will be favored in Columbus against a Sooners team that wants to redeem itself. Quarterback Baker Mayfield and an outstanding offensive line will test Ohio State’s defense. The Buckeyes have to have another big offensive game, and it’s worth pointing out that Noah Brown, who caught four TD passes against the Sooners a year ago, is in the NFL.

May: Indiana. It will be a strange homecoming for Wilson, who had been coach there for six years before an unamicable parting in December. It’s the first chance for him and the Buckeyes to show that they have ramped up the offense. It’s also the first time in 41 years OSU will open the season against a Big Ten opponent.

New to view

May: Freshman running back J.K. Dobbins. With Weber on the mend from a hamstring strain through most of preseason camp, Dobbins gained boffo reviews, and coach Urban Meyer said he will see action.

Rabinowitz: Chase Young. In another year, the blue-chip defensive end might be pushing to be a starter, even as a true freshman. That isn’t likely to happen on a loaded defensive line, but Young has the talent to push his way into the rotation.

Best offseason move

Rabinowitz: Hiring Wilson. The Buckeyes offense had grown stagnant and predictable, and Wilson has a proven record of directing dynamic offenses. With him twisting the knobs, look for Ohio State to ramp up the tempo and become adept at exploiting mismatches in defenses.

May: Chris Worley sliding over from outside to middle linebacker. He’s a heady player who knows the defense. With Dante Booker back from injury and Jerome Baker back after a stellar debut as a starter last year, Worley will be the glue for what should be an outstanding linebacker corps.

The pressure is on …

May: Barrett, but that’s always the case with the quarterback. The difference from last season to now, though, is that backups Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins Jr. appear capable for the job, too. Whether that means any kind of shaky or balky start by Barrett will bring a change remains to be seen, but it’s on the table for sure.

Rabinowitz: Greg Studrawa and Zach Smith. Studrawa’s offensive line and Smith’s receivers underachieved last year. Both have longstanding ties to Meyer, but results matter. Both of their units have been described as much-improved, but offseason improvement isn’t what counts.

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Stat that must change

May: Against the five better defenses the Buckeyes played last season, the team passing efficiency rating was in the 40s. That’s not even mediocre. Now there is a no-excuse clause for a veteran offensive line, quarterback and receiving corps, because Meyer made major changes in the staff to address that issue. As Clemson proved last season, a team must be able to throw with some competence to have a shot at you-know-who.

Rabinowitz: Granted, this isn’t the most important stat, but it is a head-scratcher that the Buckeyes ranked 105th nationally in punt return average (5.15 yards per return). Ohio State has enough elite athletes that it should break some long returns, at least occasionally. The Buckeyes also have had issues with fumbled punts. The hope is that Demario McCall or K.J. Hill will breathe some life into the return game.

It’s a year to remember if …

Rabinowitz: The Buckeyes win a Big Ten championship and have a better showing in the College Football Playoff. Ohio State has been the best program in the Big Ten since Meyer took over, but they have only one conference championship in his five years. They want some more hardware. And if that happens and they get to the playoff again, they want to erase the stench of the 31-0 semifinal loss to Clemson last season.

May: If they make the College Football Playoff for the third time in four years, as most experts and preseason polls have forecast. Meyer has pointed out several times in the last year that “ownership” comes for players who are part of something special, and this team has the makings for that.

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Bottom line

May: Last year there was the built-in excuse of having 16 new starters, and whether that ultimately caught up to a young team at season’s end is up to conjecture. This year’s group is a brew of experience and highly talented youth — check out Dobbins and Young — which should get better as the season rolls along.

Rabinowitz: It is the truth that there won’t be any excuses — barring key injuries — for the Buckeyes not to be one of the best teams in the country. They have talent, and the motivation from the Clemson loss, to live up to their promise. That’s not to say they will go undefeated or win the national title. Those are awfully difficult things to achieve. But they have as good a chance as anyone.