Though they went undefeated in 2012 and will have a season of Urban Meyer’s curation under their belt, the Ohio State Buckeyes will likely enter the 2013 NCAA season ranked second overall per Phil Steele in a special for ESPN.
Ranking first are the reigning National Champions, the Crimson Tide of Alabama. Right on their heels, however, is the Scarlet and Grey.
Despite the NCAA probation, Urban Meyer’s first season in Columbus was a smashing success, finishing a perfect 12-0 and No. 3 in the final AP poll, and it looks like the Buckeyes will continue to ride that momentum into 2013.
For starters, voters will see the Buckeyes welcome back quarterback Braxton Miller, who figures to be one of the Heisman favorites after a season in which he had 3,310 yards of total offense. He also figures to be improved in the passing game.
Miller will have plenty of talent surrounding him, as No. 2 rusher Carlos Hyde and top two receivers Corey Brown and Devin Smith all return along with key offensive linemen Andrew Norwell and Jack Mewhort. The Buckeyes do have to replace their entire starting defensive line, but Meyer has done a great job of recruiting at that position in his short tenure. Meanwhile, the defense’s other stars in linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Bradley Roby should help carry the load as the young linemen mature.
The schedule clearly sets up for success, as the nonconference features Buffalo, San Diego State, California and Florida A&M, while in conference play the Bucks avoid both Nebraska and Michigan State and get to host Wisconsin and Penn State. The two toughest hurdles look to be road trips at Northwestern and at Michigan.
To Steele’s point, that schedule which sets the Buckeyes up for success can also be what holds them back while Alabama et al trudge through the SEC in-conference play. From a preseason perspective, the Buckeyes will be aided by the number of returning starters, coupled with the 12-0 season, that will force the Associated Press to think very highly of their contention right out of the gate next season.
Ohio State finished third in the AP Poll upon completion of the 2012 season.
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