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Fact or Fiction: Ohio State is the favorite to win the national title

Rivals national recruiting analyst Greg Smith is joined by national recruiting analyst Adam Friedman, Jeremy Birmingham of and Josh Henschke of to tackle three topics and determine whether they believe each statement is FACT or FICTION.


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1. Ohio State's returning players make the Buckeyes the favorite to win the national championship.

TreVeyon Henderson
TreVeyon Henderson (© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Birmingham: FICTION. Ohio State has been, depending on your perspective, within feet and yards of winning a national title in each of the last two seasons and the Buckeyes are returning the bulk of their 2023 roster as superstars JT Tuimoloau, TreVeyon Henderson, Emeka Egbuka, Jack Sawyer and more have elected to delay their NFL futures for a chance to correct the “wrongs” of the last two seasons.

And those returnees, especially when buoyed by additions like Quinshon Judkins and Will Howard on offense, should once again put the Buckeyes firmly in the conversation as a top choice to be preseason No. 1 and a national title favorite heading into 2024. However, Howard’s development and the Ohio State offensive line will ultimately tell the tale of the 2024 season for Ryan Day’s program and until we see exactly how those two things shape up, it’s hard to put the Buckeyes ahead of Georgia which returns Carson Beck and a dominant offensive line to go along with their own group of defensive stars.

Smith: FACT. Ohio State is going to occupy an interesting space next season in college football. It’s a blue blood program with a legitimate chip on its shoulder. Coach Ryan Day’s team lost again to Michigan and watched its rival win the national championship. That has at least in part fueled a lot of the stars of the team to “run it back” for another season in Columbus.

This is a program that is always in contention for a national championship. That added motivation could be a powerful addition to the collection of talent that is on campus. Howard’s development and the offensive line are important in the discussion. So is the mounting pressure on Day. How he handles that will be a key to the potential championship run.

The only caveat I’d add is that Georgia is building a Death Star and could also land Caleb Downs. The Bulldogs are going to be in the conversation for national championship favorites, too.



2. The battle atop the 2025 quarterback rankings will be the most competitive in years.

Bryce Underwood
Bryce Underwood (Nick Lucero/

Friedman: FICTION. Julian Lewis and Bryce Underwood will no doubt battle for the top quarterback spot in the Rivals250 for the duration of the 2025 rankings cycle but I'm not sure it will end up as close a race as we've seen in other classes. Dylan Raiola and Julian Sayin sit two spots apart heading into the final rankings update of the 2024 class. Arch Manning and Nico Iamaleava finished 1-2 in the 2023 class and Dante Moore was just behind them at No. 4. Bryce Young and D.J. Uiagalelei finished 2-3 in the 2020 class. Lewis and Underwood will certainly be a fun race to track as the rest of this rankings cycle plays out but I'm not sure we won't have a strong idea of which quarterback is the top one in this class by the time the season begins.

Smith: FACT. Now that five-star quarterback Julian Lewis has reclassified to the 2025 class things have gotten very interesting. Fellow five-star quarterback Bryce Underwood was the No. 1 quarterback in the country before Lewis joined the party. Underwood, who is young for his class and a multi-year varsity starter, also has a high upside.

In recent years, it doesn’t feel like the race for the top spot was as competitive as this one might be. This cycle, Dylan Raiola was the clear No. 1 all cycle long. The year before that, the honor belonged to Arch Manning.

Mississippi signal-caller Duece Knight could also push for a fifth star this cycle and we’ll see if he can catch up to Lewis and Underwood. It’d be terrific to get Lewis and Underwood to an event together where they could duel it out on the gridiron. That would be a great data point in the evaluation.


3. Jim Harbaugh’s yearly dance with the NFL has jumped the shark.

Jim Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh (© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Henschke: FACT. The same song and dance can’t continue in its current form. Let me be clear, Jim Harbaugh absolutely deserves to explore his options and chase his dreams, no one is faulting him for that. But if things go through a third hiring window and he still remains in Ann Arbor, how many more times will this be a distraction in January before the NFL comes calling, if it even does at all at this point? He still very well could leave, and no one would fault him. He achieved everything he was brought to Ann Arbor to do but, instead of relishing a national championship and maybe regain some recruiting momentum, many are left wondering if this is the year that he leaves for the pros.

Smith: FACT. I feel for Michigan fans here. The team just won a national championship and the two dominant storylines right now are: Who is leaving for the NFL, both players and potentially the head coach.

No one would fault Harbaugh much if he came out and said it’s his dream to win a Super Bowl. But he does a lot of dancing around questions about his future when it’s been clear that he would at least interview for NFL jobs. He’s earned that right but it does get tiresome now that it’s a yearly thing.

It feels less like a cool achievement and more like “fine just go” at this point. That’s unfortunate for a true Michigan Man who has meant so much to his alma mater but it’s not a stretch to say that feels like the sentiment right now.