With the one-year bowl ban completed, Ohio State is loaded for a run at the national championship in 2013.
Despite having nothing to play for except pride last year, the Buckeyes went 12-0 in coach Urban Meyer’s first season, which included a win over Michigan and a 63-38 thrashing of Nebraska.
Ohio State is considered the biggest threat to the SEC’s national title streak in 2013, with the Buckeyes ranking No. 2 in Athlon’s projected final 125. Quarterback Braxton Miller is one of the top Heisman contenders, and his supporting cast should be better than it was last year.
If there’s a concern for Ohio State, it’s a defense that returns only four starters. The line was hit hard by departures, and cornerback Bradley Roby’s status is uncertain after an off-the-field incident in July.
The schedule is very manageable, but can the Buckeyes finish two straight seasons without a loss?
What will Ohio State's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Ohio State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
9/7 San Diego State
9/14 at California
9/21 Florida A&M
10/5 at Northwestern
10/26 Penn State
11/2 at Purdue
11/16 at Illinois
11/30 at Michigan
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Finishing another regular season with an unbeaten record is going to be a tough assignment for Ohio State. However, I think the pieces are in place for the Buckeyes to run the table, especially with a favorable schedule. Keeping quarterback Braxton Miller is the top priority for coach Urban Meyer, but the junior signal-caller should have more help this year. The offensive line should be the best in the Big Ten, the receivers are deeper and improved and with or without Carlos Hyde, there's a solid stable of running backs. The defense still needs some work, as the line is littered with inexperience. There’s no question Ohio State has talent on defense, but it may take a few games for this unit to perform at a high level. If there’s a positive about the rebuilding effort on defense, it’s a favorable schedule that should give this unit plenty of time to get everything sorted out. Road games at Northwestern and Michigan, and the home Sept. 28 date against Wisconsin will be the toughest challenges for Ohio State. However, I think Meyer and his staff find a way to navigate the regular season with an unbeaten record once again, giving the Buckeyes a shot at Alabama in the national championship.
Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network, (@BTNBrentYarina)
Ohio State is a popular preseason pick to make the BCS title game, and for good reason. There are three overwhelming reasons, to be exact: 1.) Urban Meyer; 2.) Braxton Miller; and 3.) a favorable schedule. And all three are equally important to Ohio State’s 2013 fate. Pretty much, all the elements seem to be in place for a very special season in Columbus, Ohio. Now, it’s all about the Buckeyes staying healthy and winning 13 games – including the Big Ten title game – all of which they’ll likely be favored to win. Not the easiest task, of course, but, remember, Ohio State has a two-time national championship coach and a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback to help it navigate its manageable slate.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I don't know for certain if it will be Northwestern, but I don't think Ohio State will run the table this fall. I think they lose one game along the way as the defensive line isn't going to be undefeated season-good just yet. This is an elite team that is the clearcut frontrunner — and my pick — to win the Big Ten, but to reach the BCS National Championship game as a non-SEC team, a perfect record is a must. With the margin for error virtually paper thin, I don't see Ohio State going 13-0. This team is the most talented in the league, has a Heisman Trophy candidate under center and a two-time national title winning head coach roaming the sidelines - but it will slip-up one time in 2013.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
On paper, Ohio State may have the best odds to go undefeated of any team in the country other than Louisville. Its toughest nonconference trip is to rebuilding Cal, and the Big Ten schedule, for the most part, is manageable. The toughest spot may be Wisconsin and Northwestern. The Badgers will be the first real test, and Northwestern will give Ohio State’s defense fits in Evanston. Don’t forget: Ohio State’s defense did not have a great October last season against Nebraska, Indiana, Purdue and Penn State. Ohio State won all four, of course, and I’ve picked the Buckeyes to do the same here with its first two Big Ten games. When it comes down to it, I’ve picked Michigan with homefield advantage and Heisman darkhorse Devin Gardner to spoil Ohio State’s title hopes.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com
You don't have to over-think it when it comes to Ohio State this season. The Buckeyes went undefeated by finding every way needed to win last season, using defense one week and offense another. Whatever the situation was for Ohio State in 2012, they responded in spite of not being eligible for any postseason scenarios. You can credit a terrific coaching staff for much of that, but having a quarterback worthy of Heisman consideration in 2013 surely helps. Braxton Miller enters a junior season already with basically two years of starting experience behind him, and he could be better in 2013. One look at the schedule and it is easy for me to call Ohio State the favorite in every game in front of them, including the season finale at Michigan. There are two road games I think will test Ohio State, at California and Northwestern, but ultimately I think Ohio State has enough talent and drive to return home with victories to help them make a run for another undefeated regular season.
Kevin Noon (@Kevin_Noon), BuckeyeGrove.com
Even with the recent offseason turmoil the Buckeyes still have a schedule that is more than manageable and the right pieces to get through the season unscathed. With apologies to Northwestern, Wisconsin and Michigan the biggest foe the Buckeyes will have to face this year will be themselves. Will a combination of being told that "you are expected to win" along with the threat of any further off-the-field issues submarine Ohio State's plans to Pasadena? I don't believe that will be the case with Urban Meyer as the master motivator and a 3rd-year Braxton Miller at the helm of the ship. Ohio State needs to find some leadership however on-the-field, and in a hurry. This season won't be the cakewalk that some in scarlet and gray glasses are calling for but the Buckeyes will be left standing with zero losses at the end of November.
I am very leery when it comes to predicting a team will go undefeated, but in Ohio State's case I'll make an exception. Recent turmoil aside, the Buckeyes are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, starting with quarterback Braxton Miller, and have had a year to get acclimated to Urban Meyer's spread offense. And don't forget this team went undefeated last season when they really had nothing to play for. This season won't be a cakewalk by any means, but when the toughest road game on the slate is in Ann Arbor to finish the regular season, it's hard for me to say where, if at all, these Buckeyes will slip up. Michigan will certainly be a tough test, especially in the Big House, but I'll take Meyer and company to find a way to come out with the win, especially if they are undefeated (and completely healthy) leading up to this one.
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