CBR's Way Too Early Top 10
No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes
No post season play, no problem for Urban Meyer in year one of his reign in Columbus. They may be the least talked about undefeated team in college football history because of the post-season ban and being out of the collective consciousness of the college football fan and media.
However, moving forward this could be one of the least talked about best teams in the country heading into 2013 as well and it's a bit head scratching considering what returns for this team and how their schedule breaks down, you know, no Nebraska or Michigan State on the slate anymore from the soon to be defunct Legends division. So, with all of that said, can this team go back-to-back with undefeated seasons? Let's explore.
The Good: Ohio State has it's best player returning in quarterback Braxton Miller, they also have two of their biggest offensive playmakers returning in running backs Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall. Oh, and they return Devin Smith and Corey "Philly" Brown at wide receiver positions. To say this offense will be loaded is an understatement and we all know what Urban Meyer can do with talented offensive players, right?
Sprinkle in some pretty strong returning players like Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby on the defensive side and you have a team that will be ready to compete at the top of the Big Ten.
The Bad: As much returning talent as the Buckeyes have on the offensive side they also lose as much, if not more, on the defensive side of the ball with John Simon, Jonathan Hankins, Etienne Sabino, and Zach Boren gone. Overall they lose 4 of their starting front 7 on the defensive side of the football. I don't care if you are Alabama or anyone else, losing over half of the starters - and all four probably being NFL draft picks - in the front 7 has to give you pause at the very least and major concern at the worst.
This is also a team that got lucky on more than one occasion in 2012, barely hanging on to beat Michigan State and Wisconsin on the road as well as at home to Purdue and that's just in conference play out of conference it took the best effort of Braxton Miller to beat both UCF and Cal, so they could've easily been 7-5 instead of 12-0. Yes, it's true that along the way you need a bit of luck, but did they use it all up last season? Can luck be on their side again in 2013 to that extent?
The Uncertain: I mentioned this earlier, but who steps up in the front seven is going to be key. This will be Ryan Shazier's time to shine and you have to wonder if he can be the big time player he was a season ago without the other star players around him. So, watching to see how he handles being "the name" on the defensive side of the ball is going to be huge.
There's also the issue of the offensive line, which returns some decent parts, but it wasn't exactly like they blew folks out of the water in the trenches last season. It could be a good, or really bad thing that they have a year of experience under their belt. It'll only be good if they learn and grow, if they stay the same this is a team that can be beaten up front,
The Verdict: If there's one thing we know about college football it's that doubting Urban Meyer is one of the dumbest things you can do - about as dumb as doubting another Big Ten coach in another sport, Bo Ryan - and you can't really argue with a team that was the ONLY undefeated team in the entire country last season. It's also hard to argue against a team that returns 9 of 11 offensive starters and gets a chance to use a healthy Jordan Hall for a full season as well.
If this team can plug and play on the defensive side of the football then the 2013 Buckeyes team will be very, VERY difficult to beat and we could be talking about them being a team that's undefeated going into "The Game" against that team up north.
Be Sure to check out the rest of CBR's "Way Too Early" Top 10: