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Take Two: Who's No. 1 in 2015, Ohio State or TCU?

2/10/2015

National signing day came and went, prompting Mark Schlabach to update his 2015 Way-Too-Early Top 25. Schlabach originally had TCU No. 1 in January, but bumped Ohio State to the top spot post-signing day while dropping the Horned Frogs to No. 2.

Below, Big Ten reporter Austin Ward and Big 12 reporter Jake Trotter debate which of the two should be No. 1 going into 2015.

Take 1: Austin Ward -- Ohio State

Slotting the defending champs at the top of the poll might not qualify as going out on a limb, but Ohio State really leaves no other choice.

This was the season that Urban Meyer was building for after taking over the Buckeyes, and the fact that they arrived ahead of schedule without losing any draft-eligible players early only strengthens their case as the team to beat in 2015.

There are three trophy-winning quarterbacks on the roster, and Ezekiel Elliott emerged as a Heisman Trophy favorite after his run through the College Football Playoff. He’ll have four returning starters blocking for him on the offensive line. Regardless of which quarterback the Buckeyes wind up starting, that signal-caller will have the deepest collection of targets at his disposal since Meyer arrived.

On defense, Ohio State showed that it was close to rebuilding its "Silver Bullets" legacy in the Oregon win thanks to an aggressive pass rush, playmaking linebackers and an athletic secondary. The Buckeyes will lose at least one critical player at every level on defense, but there is now plenty of talent in reserve ready to complement star pass-rusher Joey Bosa, do-it-all linebacker Darron Lee, and an elite safety tandem in Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell.

The coaching staff has undergone a bit of transition, but Meyer is still at the top of the organization and showing no signs of slowing down. And after already winning one championship with the Buckeyes, there’s no reason to doubt that he and a loaded roster can do it all over again next season.

Take 2: Jake Trotter -- TCU

Let me preface this by noting this isn't a Take Two about who the best team was in 2014. Even though TCU was certainly worthy of playoff inclusion, the Buckeyes proved they were the nation's top team by defeating Alabama and dominating Oregon in the national title.

That case is slammed shut.

Instead, is a debate rather about who No. 1 should be heading into 2015.

There's really nothing I can knock about the Buckeyes, so I won't. Meyer is one of the best coaches in college football history. Elliott and Bosa are superstars, and Ohio State's three marquee quarterbacks are so prolific Texas would donate Bevo to science research just to have any one of them behind center next season in Austin.

But TCU is no joke, either.

Lest anyone forget, the Horned Frogs lost just one game in 2014, by a mere field goal on the road to one of the top teams in the country in Baylor. After finishing the regular season 11-1, TCU flashed its mettle in the postseason, filleting the so-called Land Sharks of Ole Miss with a 42-3 rout in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

If you thought TCU's offense was scary last season -- it was the nation's second highest-scoring -- it figures to be a total nightmare for opposing defenses in 2015.

TCU returns 10 offensive starters, headlined by Trevone Boykin, who is the one quarterback in college football not in Columbus, Ohio, who could start for Ohio State. Boykin thrived last season while learning the spread offense on the fly. He should be even more comfortable and more decisive next season with a year in the scheme now behind him. It doesn't hurt that he has his entire complement of weapons returning, as well as the bulk of his offensive line.

The Horned Frogs do have some key pieces to replace defensively, including longtime coordinator Dick Bumpas, who is retiring. But when has a Gary Patterson-led team not played excellent defense? The answer to that is, well, never.

Sure, the Buckeyes are defending champs. But that will generate immense pressure. They also will be dealing with a quarterback controversy for the ages, which could easily disrupt the locker room.

On the other hand, TCU should enter 2015 with an edge as a team loaded with talent, but still craving respect.