COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The wait is almost over. The season is finally creeping closer again, and the annual release of preseason watch lists for the biggest awards in college football confirms it -- and helps provide a useful distraction during the final month leading up to the start of training camp.
BuckeyeNation will be tracking all the Ohio State players being tracked by the various committees and handicapping their odds of bringing trophies back to campus.
DOAK WALKER AWARD
What: The nation's top running back
On the list: Ohio State senior Carlos Hyde
Credentials: At this time a year ago, Hyde was a junior who was being temporarily elevated to a starting role. The preseason attention in Ohio State's backfield was on when Jordan Hall could return from his fluky foot injury to reclaim his job. This summer, there's no question that Hyde is the top choice for the Buckeyes at tailback, even with Hall still around after redshirting last season. Hall's bad luck certainly played a part in Hyde's expanded role for the unbeaten Buckeyes, but he still had to make the most of it by consistently delivering on the physical promise that comes with a 242-pound frame that can move at a seemingly unnatural speed for his size. Hyde left little doubt that he could handle the every-down responsibility in Urban Meyer's spread offense, forming a complementary package with quarterback Braxton Miller by banging away at defenders between the tackles and blossoming into a touchdown machine in the red zone. The next phase in his development will be to make a few of those tacklers miss him instead of simply bowling them over, which should allow him to break a few longer runs and make his bid to be the first true running back under Meyer to surpass 1,000 yards a bit easier.
Head to head: Showcase opportunities against the other candidates currently being watched for the honor -- Brendan Bigelow (California), Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin), Venric Mark (Northwestern), Adam Muema (San Diego State), Branden Oliver (Buffalo), Mark Weisman (Iowa), James White (Wisconsin), Zach Zwinak (Penn State).
Odds: While Hyde is unquestionably the first option among the tailbacks, the Buckeyes have a deeper stable at their disposal this season -- including the return of a healthy Hall to help take some of the workload off the starter's shoulders. And, of course, Miller will continue to stand out as the most dynamic rusher overall for Ohio State and will be racking up plenty of yardage himself. So that could make it difficult for Hyde to make a serious push for individual hardware in his final season with the program, though cracking 1,000 yards and bulldozing to another double-digit campaign in touchdowns would surely be a nice consolation prize.