CBR's preseason No. 10 team, West Virginia, was released earlier today. Up next is one of the most polarizing programs in the country, let alone the Midwest, the Ohio State Buckeyes. Believe it or not, the attention on this program has been ratcheted up a notch or two with the hiring of Urban Meyer in November of last year. He's already ruffled a few feathers in Big Ten recruiting circles, and there's no denying he's changed the way teams look at recruiting.
Well, we're about to find out the answers to how teams deal with his coaching on the field, and all signs are pointing to a team capable of competing with and beating most – if not all of – the teams that it will face in 2012. The only thing that may be able to stop the Buckeyes? It could be themselves.
Crystal Ball Run Preseason Top 10
No. 9 - Ohio St. Buckeyes
Ohio St. in a Word: Mysterious
The addition of Urban Meyer was the worst kept secret of a hire I've ever seen, as he inherited a team that was 6-7 overall (3-5 in the Big Ten) last year but is predicted by many, including us, to be a top 10 contender. The mysterious part is how this team will perform for Meyer in game action and what affect not playing in the postseason may have on the players.
Why Ohio St. will live up to billing:
Two words: Braxton Miller. If ever there was an offense built for a guy like Miller, it's Meyer's spread-option offense. As a freshman last season, he led the team in passing (1,159 yards, 13TDs, 4INTs) and rushing (715 yards, 7TDs), and in 2012 both numbers could vastly increase. Add in a defense that returns nine starters, including one of the nation's best defensive lines, and you have a great recipe for success in Columbus. Back on the offensive side of the ball Miller will have a great group of running backs (Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde, and Rod Smith) that can help take some of the pressure off of him and could be the biggest strength of the offense.
It will also be helpful if suspended Jake Stoneburner can get out of Urban Meyer's doghouse as he's a legit weapon at the tight end position and could be a massive key to the passing game with the inexperience at wide receiver.
On the scheduling front things are a bit easier than last season as they face Nebraska, Purdue, and Michigan State at the horseshoe. That should help a team looking to rebound from what was one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory in Columbus.
Why Ohio St. will disappoint:
The biggest reason is because this is a team that starts the season with nothing to play for expect for pride. They are banned from the postseason in 2012 so they know no matter what they do on the field it means no Big Ten Championship game or bowl game. Meyer's biggest challenge will be to keep this team motivated should they lose a game or two.
I think the other biggest reason why they may not live up to this billing is the schedule. They must face both Penn State and Wisconsin on the road and the Wisconsin game comes the week before "The Game" against that team up north. All three games could be traps for the Buckeyes and navigating those 3 games in 4 weeks without a loss would be one impressive feat.
On the field they must deal with the inexperience on the offensive line and if they struggle to find consistency up front the running game out of the spread could very well fall flat. You also have to be concerned about another inexperienced group of players in the wide receivers, but freshman Mike Thomas looked great in spring drills and does provide some hope for the receivers.
Key Game: at Michigan State (Sept. 29)
This will be the first test for Meyer after facing a non-conference schedule of Miami (OH), UCF, Cal, and UAB all at home. The Spartans are also one of the teams that will have a lot to prove coming out of the non-conference portion of the schedule and this game could well set the tone for the Buckeyes as it did last year as well. A win on the road against a very quality program like MSU could propel this team to a great season, but a loss in the first game and it could be a challenge for Meyer to keep this team motivated to play at a high level each week.
On the Spot: Braxton Miller
He's simply the most dynamic player on this team and if he improves on the base that was his freshman year this team could be capable of great things. He'll have a great QB mentor in Tom Herman as the offensive coordinator and that should help him grow.
In 2011 Miller actually had more attempts rushing than passing and he'll need to show full command of the offense to make this team really scary in 2012.
This is a team loaded with talent, and with the defense that Meyer will inherit at Ohio State, the Buckeyes could be very dangerous in 2012.
However, this team must find a passing game to go with what should be a potent running game. If the Buckeyes can't, this could be a long season for OSU fans and Urban Meyer.
Overall, this team is capable of playing with any team in the country and beating most anyone on any given day. The Buckeyes need to stay motivated, and winning the challenges that will be Cal and Michigan State early on will set the tone for their season, one that should see them back near the top of the Big Ten despite the lack of postseason play.
Best Case Scenario: Leaders Division winner (11-1, 7-1 B1G).
Worst Case Scenario: Third in Leaders Division (8-4, 5-3 B1G).