- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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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.
What: The nation's best wide receiver
Credentials: A year ago, one piled up catches but didn't quite produce as many yards as hoped. The other didn't snag as many receptions as planned, but when the ball was in his hands, Ohio State flew down the field. The Buckeyes are expecting both Brown and Smith to be more polished and to patch up some minor holes in their games from last season, with the former continuing to be more elusive with the football and the latter becoming more consistent with his hands. The combination of the two could be lethal for the Buckeyes when paired with the strides Braxton Miller has made as a passer and a dynamic rushing attack that should provide plenty of man coverage on the perimeter. Both left some room to bump up their individual numbers even while starting to blossom in their first season working in the spread offense. The Buckeyes are obviously expecting much more in Year Two, and the Biletnikoff committee appears to be, as well.
Head to head: Showcase opportunities against other candidates currently being watched for the honor -- Jared Abbrederis (Wisconsin), Jeremy Gallon (Michigan), Chris Harper (California), Cody Latimer (Indiana), Alex Neutz (Buffalo), Allen Robinson (Penn State).
Odds: Help is on the way to diversify the Ohio State passing attack, but Brown and Smith remain the top priorities and the targets Miller is most comfortable with after an undefeated season and a productive spring camp. Having a pair of receivers both jockeying for an individual award can make it difficult for either one to pull away and stand out, but like with other awards featuring multiple Buckeyes on the watch list, that works to the advantage of the program. The two targets have complementary strengths, with Smith having proved himself to be the better deep threat and Brown offering more reliability on short and intermediate routes. And if that doesn't lend itself to winning over voters for the Biletnikoff Award, it could produce hardware of a different sort at the end of the season.
5dDan Murphy and Austin Ward