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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

The Countdown

No. 21: Ohio State

Not that Luke Fickell didn’t have his hands full. And not that this wasn’t one of the youngest Ohio State teams in recent memory. And not that the team, planning on having Terrelle Pryor and company in the fold in time for the heart of Big Ten play, wasn’t thrown a loop when the old guard didn’t ride into town and save the day in October. But there’s one fact that can’t be ignored: not counting the forfeited season of 2010, Ohio State finished with a losing record for the first time since 1988 and for only the second time since 1967. The slide was inevitable, perhaps, and so was the glee with which it was greeted by the rest of the Big Ten. Here’s guessing that Ohio State will have the last laugh: Enter Urban Meyer — and you can hear the collective giggles over Ohio State’s slide catch in the collective throat of the Big Ten.

Conference
Big Ten, Leaders

Location
Columbus, Oh.

Nickname
Buckeyes

Returning starters
15 (7 offense, 8 defense)

Last year’s ranking
No. 17

2011 record
(6-7, 3-5)

Last year’s
re-ranking

No. 54

2012 schedule

  • Sept. 1
    Miami (Ohio)
  • Sept. 8
    U.C.F.
  • Sept. 15
    California
  • Sept. 22
    U.A.B.
  • Sept. 29
    at Michigan St.
  • Oct. 6
    Nebraska
  • Oct. 13
    at Indiana
  • Oct. 20
    Purdue
  • Oct. 27
    at Penn St.
  • Nov. 3
    Illinois
  • Nov. 17
    at Wisconsin
  • Nov. 24
    Michigan

Last year’s prediction

There’s just too much swirling around this program for Ohio State to maintain its legendary run atop the Big Ten. And that’s a problem for Ohio State – not a 6-6 problem, but this sort of youth and inexperience would lead me to think closer to 8-4 or 9-3 when taken in conjunction with the coaching changes. What will O.S.U. get at quarterback? Will anyone step up at wide receiver? Depth along the offensive line? These are pretty meaningful questions for any team, let alone one entering a period of great unknown: no real idea of who its next coach will be, no idea about the future of its athletic department, Ohio State is in a state of transition. For now, until everything becomes settled, O.S.U. can’t be viewed as the Big Ten favorite. It’s been a long time since anyone’s uttered that phrase.

2011 recap

In a nutshell An ugly season. There were four wins against B.C.S. conference competition, led by a glorious last-minute victory over Wisconsin. But the three remaining wins came over Colorado, Illinois and Indiana — in other words, nothing to write home about. A fifth win came over Akron, the worst team in college football. The sixth came by the skin of Ohio State’s teeth: Toledo came with 20 yards of notching an historic upset in the Horseshoe on Sept. 10. On the other hand, six of the seven losses, all those outside of Miami (Fla.), could have gone Ohio State’s way. But one of the seven included a loss to Michigan.

High point The 33-29 win over the Badgers on Oct. 29. Braxton Miller threw for 89 yards on the evening, 40 of which came on his touchdown pass to Devin Smith with 20 seconds left.

Low point The loss to Michigan. It had been 2,926 days since Michigan last beat… and so on.

Tidbit Each of the three head coaches who led Ohio State to a national championship were born in Ohio and graduated from a college located in Ohio. Paul Brown, who led the Buckeyes to the 1942 national title, was born in Norwalk and educated at Miami (Ohio), in Oxford – Brown tried to play in Columbus as a walk-on but didn’t make the cut. Woody Hayes, a five-time title winner, was born in Clifton and went to college at Denison, in Granville. Jim Tressel, the head coach in 2002, was born in Mentor and went to Baldwin-Wallace, in Berea. Urban Meyer: born in Toledo, raised in Ashtabula, undergraduate at Cincinnati, Master’s at Ohio State.

Tidbit (Fickell edition) While Meyer hired a nearly brand-new coaching staff – more on the new staff below – he did bring back Fickell, the former linebackers coach who took on the daunting task of serving as Jim Tressel’s interim replacement last fall. Fickell will now serve as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator, meaning that Meyer has retained a program’s coordinator at each of his four head coaching stops. And it’s a pretty impressive list: Tim Beckman was retained at Bowling Green, Kyle Whittingham at Utah and Charlie Strong at Florida – Illinois, Utah and Louisville, respectively.

Tidbit (coaching tree edition) Considering that he didn’t land his first top job until 2001, Meyer has a pretty impressive coaching tree. Seven of his former assistants are head coaches: Strong, Wittingham, Beckman, Dan McCarney, Steve Addazio, Doc Holliday and Dan Mullen. Another seven are currently coordinators on the B.C.S. conference level: Greg Studrawa, Billy Gonzales, Vance Bedford, Chuck Heater, Scot Loeffler and Greg Mattison. Current running the show on defense for Michigan, Mattison was Florida’s defensive coordinator and defensive line coach from 2005-7.

Tidbit (rare loss edition) Ohio State lost two games last fall when averaging more than 5.9 yards per play, against Nebraska and Michigan. How rare is that? It had happened only once in the previous four years, in a bowl loss to L.S.U. to cap the 2007 season.

Former players in the N.F.L.

51 OT Mike Adams (Pittsburgh), S Will Allen (Pittsburgh), TE Jake Ballard (New England), OT Alex Boone (San Francisco), OG Justin Boren (Baltimore), C Michael Brewster (Jacksonville), OG Bryant Browning (Carolina), LB Bobby Carpenter (New England), CB Chimdi Chekwa (Oakland), CB Nate Clements (Cincinnati), S Kurt Coleman (Philadelphia), C Jim Cordle (New York Giants), S Nate Ebner (New England), CB Chris Gamble (Carolina), LB Thaddeus Gibson (Chicago), WR Ted Ginn (San Francisco), LB Larry Grant (San Francisco), WR Brian Hartlin (Miami), TE Ben Hartsock (Carolina), LB A.J. Hawk (Green Bay), RB Dan Herron (Cincinnati), DE Cameron Heyward (Pittsburgh), S Jermale Hines (Indianapolis), WR Santonio Holmes (New York Jets), S Malcolm Jenkins (New Orleans), WR Michael Jenkins (Minnesota), LB James Laurinaitis (St. Louis), C Nick Mangold (New York Jets), LS Jake McQuaide (St. Louis), K Mike Nugent (Cincinnati), DE Ryan Pickett (Green Bay), WR DeVier Posey (Houston), QB Terrelle Pryor (Oakland), DE Jay Richardson (New York Jets), WR Brian Robiskie (Jacksonville), LB Brian Rolle (Philadelphia), S Anderson Russell (Miami), RB Brandon Saine (Green Bay), WR Dane Sanzenbacher (Chicago), OT J.B. Shugarts (Cleveland), OG Rob Sims (Detroit), DE Will Smith (New Orleans), LB Austin Spitler (Miami), CB Devon Torrence (New York Jets), S Donald Washington (Kansas City), RB Beanie Wells (Arizona), S Donte Whitner (San Francisco), CB Antoine Winfield (Minnesota), DT Doug Worthington (Washington), CB Ashton Youboty (Jacksonville).

Arbitrary top five list

American male Olympians (only Summer Games)
1. Jesse Owens.
2. Jim Thorpe.
3. Carl Lewis.
4. Michael Phelps.
5. Greg Louganis.

Coaching

Urban Meyer (Cincinnati ’86), entering his first season with Ohio State. He spent last season out of coaching, working as an analyst for ESPN, after posting a 65-15 mark over six seasons at Florida. It was nearly five years for Meyer, who momentarily stepped down from the position following Florida’s loss in the SEC title game in 2009, citing health issues and a desire to spend more time with his family. His sabbatical lasted only a few days, though Meyer did not lead the Gators onto the field in their Sugar Bowl win over Cincinnati. This period was confusing, raising a few doubts over Meyer’s ability to continue serving as a long-term answer as the face of the program. Looking back on his 2010 season, you can easily make the case that Meyer should have stuck with his initial decision – that last team was his worst with the Gators, an eight-win squad that took a significant step back on offense and lacked the same fire, anger and determination of his vintage teams with the program. Overall, however, all Meyer achieved over his five seasons with the Gators – all, with tongue in cheek – was win a pair of national championships, each with a different starting quarterback, and raise Florida squarely into the nation’s elite after a short lull of mediocrity. While it is his work with the Gators that has earned him his national stature, Meyer was a highly successful coach at two non-B.C.S. conference stops prior to arriving in Gainesville. His first stop was at Bowling Green, from 2001-2, where Meyer and the Falcons went 17-6 overall and 11-5 in MAC play. From 2003-4, Meyer led Utah to a 22-2 record, including a perfect 12-0 season in 2004 that culminated in a B.C.S. bowl win over Pittsburgh. There are a handful of coaches from this generation who will be remembered for decades to come: Meyer is one. With a recharged battery and newfound dedication, look for Meyer to lead O.S.U. back into the national title picture once he installs his system over the next two seasons. This is going to be exciting.

Tidbit (coaching edition) Three assistants were held over from the previous staff: Fickell, who now carries the coordinator title; Mike Vrabel, who will work with the defensive line after leading the linebackers a year ago; and running backs coach Stan Drayton, who spent last fall with the wide receivers. As you might expect, there are no holes on this staff – every new hire is an ace. Everett Withers, the other interim head coach in the F.B.S. last fall, comes over as Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator; that’s a big addition, as Fickell isn’t ready to take full charge of a defense. Defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs comes over from Cincinnati, where he spent the last five seasons in the same capacity.

Zach Smith, a former Florida graduate assistant and quality control coach, will coach the Buckeyes’ wide receivers. Smith is a young assistant to watch: he’s moved fast, going from Marshall to Temple to O.S.U. over the span of three seasons, and, in my opinion, is someone who will move up Meyer’s staff over the next half-decade. Former Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Herman is a professional – I mean that in the most positive way possible. He’ll share coordinator duties with new line coach Ed Warinner, who comes over from Notre Dame, but Herman, who is one of the nation’s most cerebral coaches, is running the show. Warinner is one of two former N.D. assistants, joining tight ends and fullbacks coach Tim Hinton. Two things you see immediately: experience and Ohio ties. Seven of Meyer’s nine assistants were either born, raised or educated in the Buckeye State; I bet a few know a high school coach or two.

Players to watch

Meyer has worked with Tim Tebow, he’s worked with Chris Leak, he’s worked with Alex Smith and a slew of others, but he’s never had a quarterback like Braxton Miller. In Meyer’s words: “Miller is the most dynamic quarterback I’ve ever coached.” That’s a good term to throw at Miller, especially now, as a sophomore, and it does provide some differentiation between Meyer’s quarterbacks past and present – because there’s only one Tebow, and only one combination like Tebow and Leak, but Miller is unquestionably the finest athlete Meyer has ever had the pleasure of lining up at the heart of his old-new offense.

Old-new: Ohio State’s system is new in a sense, in how the Buckeyes will approach formations, alignments, tempo and more, but it’s also a system grounded in a decades-old offensive philosophy – as many have noted, Meyer’s system does incorporate parts of the single-wing offense, which helped Paul Brown and the Buckeyes win the national title in 1942. While there will be growing pains, O.S.U. will look like Florida in every way but one: Miller, unlike Tebow, won’t be an inside running threat. Instead, the Buckeyes will need their backs to do the dirty work between the tackles while Miller chews up yardage outside of the box. That’s a major difference.

But you’ll see the similarities. Up-tempo, no-huddle, shotgun; under center near the goal line; three receivers; zone read and counter trey; speed outside, strength up the middle; and play-action in the passing game, with nearly every running play joined by a matching pass, mostly off of play-action. It’s a slippery offense, one that’s hard to define, but at its most basic, it’s a down-to-down system – meaning that every play folds into the next, with one play setting up the next play and so on down the line until Meyer and Herman have identified the one weak spot capable of being exploited for 60 minutes.

Now, back to Miller. The reason why Meyer is excited about his potential is simple: Miller is one of the most dangerous running quarterbacks in the country. He started the final 10 games of last season, from Colorado through Florida, and rushed for a team-best 715 yards and 7 scores, cracking the 100-yard mark three times. He brings a different dimension to Meyer’s running game, as noted; Miller is electric – dynamic, in Meyer’s words – in the open field. And he handled a tough situation admirably, serving as the centerpiece of last year’s team despite his youth and lack of experience.

You know Miller can run. But like most young quarterbacks, especially those with a run-first background, Miller needs some fine-tuning as a passer. While Ohio State’s underwhelming receiver corps played a role, Miller’s inexperience in the passing game led to one of the weakest performances in program history – O.S.U. was not only inefficient but also ineffective, negating any semblance of team speed out wide. A light turned on late, against Michigan and Florida, but Miller’s mechanics and overall passing acumen remain a work in progress as the Buckeyes prepare for September. Once that gets in order – and it’s something this staff is working on non-stop – Miller will be a Heisman candidate. With his skills, this staff and this system, the sky is the limit.

It’s not about a lack of talent at receiver: Ohio State has speed and athleticism to burn out wide and at tight end, but this assets went unused a year ago. Look for a vastly improved performance from receivers like juniors Corey Brown (11 receptions for 144 yards) and Chris Fields and sophomores Devin Smith (14 for 294), Evan Spencer and Verlon Reed, the upper slice of the rotation. Another player to watch is true freshman Michael Thomas, who enrolled early and impressed the staff with a strong spring. You’ll even see senior Jake Stoneburner (14 for 193, 7 touchdowns) split out wide, which presents any number of looks and mismatches for O.S.U. to exploit in the passing game.

Stoneburner is also extremely dangerous in the red zone, as he showed over the first month of last season. As at Florida, Meyer is going to place added emphasis on utilizing multiple tight ends both as blockers and in the passing game, which should mean action for sophomore Jeff Heuerman and redshirt freshman Nick Vannett. Another thing to watch for is how Meyer uses his receivers’ speed in the running game; the sweep is one of his staples, and players like Smith and Brown look like potentially dangerous weapons on the outside.

The Buckeyes have identified a starting front, more or less; next comes a crash course in the intricacies of Meyer’s system. The team’s biggest issue isn’t depth, as Warinner should have at least eight linemen at his disposal. I’m more worried about tackle play: Jack Mewhort moves from right guard to left tackle, which will test his footwork and agility, and the Buckeyes can go with either senior Reid Fragel or true freshman Taylor Decker on the right side – it’s Fragel’s job to lose, but Decker is clearly the future. Inside, O.S.U. will flank junior center Corey Linsley, one of the great surprises of the spring, with junior left guard Andrew Norwell and junior right guard Marcus Hall. Four of these five would-be starters made at least three starts last fall, with Mewhort and Norwell starting every game.

One thing you notice right off the bat: this line is smaller than last year’s group. That might help the starters keep pace with the faster, more up-tempo offense. But while there is depth – and more coming, once the freshmen get into the mix – most is young, and doubly so at tackle. While the staff is high enough on Decker to survive an injury to Fragel, O.S.U. cannot afford to lose either Mewhort on the blind side and Linsley in the middle. Those injuries could be devastating.

There aren’t many defensive lines in college football with this much talent, let alone this much depth. It’s a group anchored by two potential all-Americans in senior end John Simon (53 tackles, 16.0 for loss, 7.5 sacks) and junior Johnathan Hankins (67 tackles, 11.0 for loss) – at least one will be a consensus all-American, and I could see both earning some heavy postseason honors. Simply put, Texas is the only other team that puts forth such a one-two line pairing; the Longhorns’ duo are ends, however, while O.S.U. can line Simon and Hankins next to each other and watch offensive linemen’s knees buckle.

The Buckeyes also return senior nose tackle Garrett Goebel (33 tackles, 4.0 for loss) and junior Adam Bellamy (25 tackles), rounding out the starting lineup. But what’s as impressive as the Buckeyes’ starting line is the depth Fickell and Withers can trot out along the second level: Michael Bennett is pushing Hankins for snaps at tackle – and could shift outside when O.S.U. wants to get big; Steve Miller and Joel Hale will see extensive time at end and nose tackle, respectively; and if healthy, senior Nathan Williams could push Bellamy into a reserve role. Williams, a starter in 2010, missed all of last season following knee surgery. While a dangerous situational rusher at 100 percent, I wonder if Williams’ knee injury is going to rob him of his quick first step. And before I forget: O.S.U. also signed a pair of five-star ends in February – Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence.

The line should be filthy. And having a stout and deep defensive front will help O.S.U. land increased production at linebacker; this group was a massive disappointment last fall, perhaps because of coaching – Fickell was the new head coach and Vrabel, while knowledgeable, was in first year with the program. Looking ahead to September, Ohio State’s hope for an improved performance lands on the shoulders of sophomore Curtis Grant, who takes over in the middle for Andrew Sweat. While the more ballyhooed of the program’s two incoming recruits, Grant was a non-factor while his classmate, Ryan Shazier (57 tackles, 3.0 sacks) grabbed a starting role on the weak side.

Shazier has retained his starting role, as expected, as has senior Etienne Sabino (62 tackles, 6.5 for loss). This pair will flank Grant, helping him slide into a starting role, but it’s on the sophomore to carry his strong spring over to September. The line will occupy blockers, especially Hankins, who will be double-teamed at every opportunity – and Simon, and the rest. That will leave Grant in a position to make plays in space. The question isn’t talent, because Grant, like many others on this defense, has all-conference ability; the issue is experience, or lack thereof, and Grant is holding one of the key roles on this entire team. While Simon and Hankins are stars, this defense will not reach its potential unless Grant proves himself to be up to the task.

Last year’s secondary was uncharacteristically inconsistent. But as with T.C.U., the Buckeyes were working with a high standard: Ohio State wasn’t terrible against the pass, but last year’s performance paled alongside the program’s recent efforts – that’s one of the drawbacks of annual defensive excellence, I suppose. Three things to like about this year’s group: the returning experience, the new position coach and Ohio State’s pass rush. All should help O.S.U. recover much of its lost momentum, even if I’m not convinced that we’re going to see a classic showing from the secondary.

As along the line, the Buckeyes will have the ability to play as many as six or seven defensive backs. This depth is evident at cornerback, where O.S.U. returns three starting-caliber defenders for two spots: senior Travis Howard (41 tackles, 2 interceptions) and sophomores Bradley Roby (47 tackles, 3 interceptions) and Doran Grant. Roby’s a future star, even if his all-conference days lie a year down the road, but I’m not entirely sold on Howard – I’m sold on the senior as a third cornerback, a spot he filled wonderfully two years ago, but he was underwhelming in a starting role last fall. That opened up the door for Grant to make a push during the spring, and I wouldn’t be totally surprised if the sophomore eventually pushed Howard out of the starting lineup.

While cornerback remains a slight concern – less of a worry than it was last fall, I should add – look for vastly superior safety play. A year ago, then-sophomores C.J. Barnett (75 tackles, 2 interceptions) and Christian Bryant (68 tackles) scuffled as they broke into the starting lineup. While you saw some steady improvement over the course of the season — from Barnett in particular; he earned all-Big Ten honors — Barnett and Bryant are ready to take a major step forward. What you’d like to see is greater leadership from the back end of the defense; I think Barnett’s ready to take on that mantle, giving O.S.U. steady and experienced play along each level – Simon and Hankins up front, Sabino on the second level and Barnett along the back. Senior Orhian Johnson’s starting days are behind him, but he’s a very valuable third safety.

With his time at Florida as our evidence, Meyer will quickly rebuild Ohio State’s special teams into one of the nation’s best. He has weapons to work with from the start, though the Buckeyes must get ample production from Fields while Hall recovers from his foot injury; for now, Fields should be the go-to return man on kickoffs and punts. Junior kicker Drew Basil heads into September with confidence, having made 12 straight field goals to end last season. And senior punter Ben Buchanan was one of the few returning starters on last year’s team to actually make a drastic improvement: Buchanan was far, far better in 2011 than he was as a first-year starter in 2010.

Position battle(s) to watch

Running back I was prepared for nearly anything when it came to Meyer’s handling of the Buckeyes’ offensive two-deep – outside of Miller not being the starter, perhaps – but I was not quite prepared for this: Meyer, a big proponent of a by-committee rushing attack at Florida, plugging junior Carlos Hyde as a likely every-down back. While Meyer loves Hyde’s “body type” – I think stocky is one word that fits – Hyde’s build was one reason why I though he wouldn’t be a great fit for this offense outside of short-yardage duties. Still, Hyde (566 yards) did the fill a role as the Buckeyes’ top back for the first six or seven games of last season before disappearing over the second half.

But it’s looking more and more likely that Hyde is the 15-carry back for this offense, especially with senior Jordan Hall (408 yards) expected to miss the first month of this season due to a foot injury. It’s on Hyde to take this opportunity and run with it, as Meyer himself pointed out earlier this month. With Hall out of the picture for the foreseeable future, O.S.U. will need to land more consistency from sophomore Rod Smith, who played himself far, far out of the rotation last fall due to sloppy ball control, and get some help from at least one of the two incoming freshmen, Warren Ball and Bri’onte Dunn.

While Ball has been forgotten, perhaps due to his early commitment to last year’s class, he may be needed early while Dunn deals with the potential ramifications stemming from his recent arrest on minor charges – while Dunn was not indicted on what would have been a very serious charge of drug possession, Meyer’s recent handling of off-field missteps might cost Dunn the first game or two of this coming season.

In the early going, O.S.U. will need a shiftier back to lend some speed to Hyde’s ability between the tackles. When he’s healthy, Hall can join Hyde to give the Buckeyes a very nice one-two punch in this offense – a pairing perhaps not unlike what Florida had in 2009, when Emmanuel Moody was the bigger back to Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. Another thing to keep in mind: Ohio State’s receivers are also going to get into the mix, and there’s speed to burn out wide, if not proven production in the passing game.

Game(s) to watch

In order of importance: Michigan, Wisconsin and, surprisingly enough, U.C.F. and California — because O.S.U. needs to start strong. Both of those teams are going to provide a sterner test than most realize, even if I’d be a bit surprised if Ohio State doesn’t win both by at least a touchdown. They’re half of a home-only non-conference slate, sandwiched by Miami (Ohio) and U.A.B., and that should get the Buckeyes into Big Ten with a perfect 4-0 mark. The Leaders division will go to the Badgers either way, but the back story to this year’s meeting includes not only the chance for O.S.U. to send a message – you can have your divisional title; it’s really ours anyway – but also an on-field meeting between Meyer and Bret Bielema. If you recall, the pair were at odds during the most recent recruiting cycle over what Bielema termed Meyer’s violation of the Big Ten’s “gentlemen’s agreement” when it comes to recruiting committed prospects. The final game of the season is at home against the Wolverines, and win or lose, that’s what O.S.U. will carry into the offseason.

Season breakdown & prediction

In a nutshell And so begins one of the most exciting pairings of a head coach and a program in college football history – not recent history, not the last generation, but history, from Rutgers and Princeton until today. At a crucial juncture, fresh off a losing season and still under a bit of a cloud following the previous staff’s missteps, Ohio State went out and nabbed one of the finest coaches to ever stalk the sidelines: Meyer is a star, a headline-grabbing, detail-obsessed, grind-it-out coaching legend – and an Ohioan, no less – and his system, style and skill set will quickly lead Ohio State out of its short-lived malaise and back into the national title hunt. This isn’t merely exciting; this is trip-to-Disneyland exciting, day-before-Christmas exciting.

But you’ll also notice that I’m not as high on this specific team as most – and that wasn’t a seamless transition, I know. While it’s obvious that O.S.U. is going to take a nice step forward after last season’s seven-loss finish, the Buckeyes remain not only young and fairly inexperienced but also completely new to Meyer’s system. It’s an overly simplistic breakdown, but to expect this offense to hit the ground running in September ignores the inevitable learning curve; more likely, it’s going to take one full season before every piece of this offense starts running in concert. That includes Miller, who has all-everything potential but remains in-progress as a passer. And don’t sleep on the difficult road ahead for this offensive line, which breaks in three new full-time starters, shifts a former guard out to left tackle and must adapt to the new up-tempo feel of this offense.

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a paragraph. Say that Miller skyrockets from uneven freshman to Heisman-worthy sophomore – he runs for 1,200 yards and adds another 2,000 through the air. The offensive line adapts more quickly to this offense than I imagine it will. The receiver corps steps up in the passing game and adds another wrinkle on the ground. The front four dominate the line of scrimmage. Grant solidifies the second level. Howard and Roby earn all-conference honors at cornerback. Eleven wins, right? That’s what Meyer is working with: Ohio State is wonderfully talented, amazingly gifted and just young enough for the dream situation to come to pass.

But how many of those above scenarios might actually occur? Only one, in my mind: dominating defensive line play. In fact, this defense should regain much of its lost luster thanks to linemen like Hankins and Simon, two of the best in the country at their respective positions. But in all, I see a younger team that will need time to acclimate itself not only to Meyer’s system but to the new standards set in place by this staff. What’s a successful season, all things considered? The Buckeyes should take eight wins and be happy. But the potential is there for much more – Meyer is the new captain, after all, and you’d almost expect nothing less than excellence right from the start.

Dream season How about this: Ohio State beats everyone, including Michigan. Especially Michigan, and the win comes by 24 points.

Nightmare season The offense doesn’t click. The Buckeyes lose to California and Michigan State in September, Nebraska and Purdue in October and Wisconsin and Michigan in November, the latter by 24 points.

In case you were wondering

Where do Ohio State fans congregate? Begin with Eleven Warriors, which is absolutely superb — it’s one of the very elite college football sites. For message board chatter, take a trip to Buckeye PlanetThe-OzoneBuckeye Grove and Buckeye Sports. For additional coverage, check out Land-Grant Holy Land — a new addition that’s done great work over the last few months – The Buckeye Blog and Our Honor Defend.

Ohio State’s all-name nominee TE Jake Stoneburner.

Word Count

Through 104 teams 423,420.

Up Next

Who is No. 20? Tomorrow’s program has won one more game than its fiercest rival over the last seven seasons.

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Comments

  1. Probably some overrated SEC team says:

    BYU has won 2 more games than Utah over the last 6 seasons.

    Michigan St. has 2 more wins over the last 6 years than Michigan.

    I don’t know the “fiercest rival” of South Carolina or Georgia or Arkansas (Don’t follow SEC football).

    It’s not Nebraska or Texas or Florida State.

  2. Doug says:

    BYU is next

  3. Stefen says:

    BYU 60 Utah 58? Did I do my math wrong

  4. Bronco Mendenhall says:

    Paul,

    Our program (BYU) has won 60 games in the last 6 years and our fiercest rival (Utah) has won 58 games.

    Did you miscount? Or is there a different rivalry?

    There is probably I different rivalry, but I don’t have time to look it up.

    Bronco

  5. KDRLAX says:

    Thought the clue was for MICHIGAN STATE, but I keep doing the math and they had TWO more wins than Michigan over that time period….

    back to the drawing board….

  6. Jeff says:

    I was thinking BYU but they also have TWO more wins then Utah over the last 6…

  7. Eksynyt says:

    Either BYU or Utah.

  8. Eh says:

    BYU has two more wins over Utah going back to 2006. BUT Utah has one more win the past five seasons. So, it’s either an error or it’s not either.

  9. jdwvu says:

    #20 is Kansas State

  10. David says:

    It is not BYU or Utah. BYU has two more wins than Utah in the last 6 years.

  11. Funny says:

    USC has 1 more win than Oregon over the last 6 years.

    But I doubt that USC is next because I don’t think that Oregon is its “fiercest rival” plus it is too early for USC.

  12. Dr. Nick says:

    It’s BYU. BYU is 66-24 over the past six seasons. Utah is 65-25.

  13. Funny (Again) says:

    South Carolina has 1 LESS victory than Clemson.

  14. Not a Doctor of Mathematics, I see says:

    SIX comes before Seven and after Five.

  15. jdwvu says:

    #20 is KANSAS STATE!

  16. Kajdin says:

    It’s not BYU or Utah their records over the past 6 seasons are BYU 60-18 and Utah 58-20. 66-24 and 65-25 go out to the past 7 years.

  17. Patrick says:

    And that’s what the clue says — seven seasons.

  18. How K-State? says:

    For those claiming Kansas State is next, who are you counting as their fiercest rival?

    They do not fit the clue if that foe is Kansas, Iowa State, Nebraska, Colorado, etc.

    It’s not West Virginia (backyard brawl), it can’t be Oklahoma, or Boise State.

    Va Tech doesn’t seem to fit the clue either.

  19. Paul changed the clue. says:

    Brigham Young University is next.

  20. Kajdin says:

    it just got changed it was 6 earlier

    Paul: Sure did. Now “seven seasons.” Since 2005 equals seven years, not six, as you count both 2005 and 2011. So, “seven seasons.”

  21. Bob says:

    Just a minor nitpick: It’s not Jake Heuerman, it’s Jeff. Great assessment, otherwise.

  22. Hokieshibe says:

    Paul,
    Do you think Urban Meyer at OSU will be the same coach we saw win all those games in Florida? That almost killed him (literally). Is he going to be able to maintain that intensity? I’m interested to see if he runs the program the way he did before, and if he is just as successful as he was before because of any changes…

  23. Dr. Nick says:

    #20 looks just about right for BYU. Now I’m interested to see where the Utes land.

  24. Dr. Nick says:

    Hokieshibe,
    I have to think that getting out of the SEC will help. Ohio State, and the B1G in general, tend to be a little more reasonable with their coaches than the SEC. Also, in the SEC he was up against 3 or 4 coaches with national titles under their belts, compared to 0 in the current B1G.

  25. Hokieshibe says:

    Dr. Nick
    That’s reasonable. I’m just wondering if he was so successful because he micromanaged his team and was so aggressive and involved with every aspect of it. If that’s the case, then new scenery/competition isn’t going to change that. And if that’s why he was successful, then he’ll either burn himself out again, or be less successful when he eases off (see his last year at Florida)… Again, I could be totally mistaken here, but I think it bears watching.

  26. Scott Wallace says:

    16 days to game day

  27. Gotham Gator says:

    Hokieshibe,

    Your question is the right one – it is THE existential question for Ohio State football.

    From 2005-2009, Urban Meyer at Florida was a great coach, one that won games, graduated players, and embraced and enhanced school tradition – a true collegiate legend. Urban Meyer in 2010 was closer to Ron Zook – a charismatic guy who could recruit, but couldn’t manage his team – not on game day, and not during the week.

    Which Urban Meyer is Ohio State getting? It’s impossible to know for sure. He doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy who can go at anything short of 100% and be happy. I think he knows that after a year outside the game, so my guess is that Ohio State gets the great coach for at least as long as he lasts this time.

    I wish him luck.

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