B1G 2013 // Ohio State Cocktail Party Preview

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Amidst the embers of effusive hype lie a few warning signs.

It seems simple enough. One of the most successful programs in the annals of college football will take the field in 2013 fresh on the heels of one of the most successful seasons in its illustrious history with one of the most dynamic quarterbacks ever to wear scarlet and grey poised for a breakout year, one of the best coaches in the game wearing the headset on the sidelines, and one of the most favorable schedules among teams competing in the Big 5 conferences, boosted by one of the best recruiting classes in the country.

Throw in the fact that Urban Meyer-coached teams make huge strides in Year 2 and you can see why Kirk Herbstreit is already telling the Buckeye faithful to "make plans now for Pasadena."

But amidst the embers of effusive hype lie a few warning signs. A flurry of legal activity threatens to disrupt the depth chart on both sides of the ball. The departure of key team leaders has left the locker room without a clear chain of command. Promising, but inexperienced youth litter the two deep. And no matter how you dice it, the odds say 26-0 is a near impossible task. (Even if you have an 85% chance or better of winning each game in the regular season -- which is ridiculously generous -- and a 50% chance at winning the MNC, the probability of you running the table is a cool 18.6%. How's that for a cold bucket of ice water?)

Still, it's July and who doesn't enjoy a little proselytization? Here's a no-nonsense look at Ohio State heading into 2013.

About Last Season

The Good News:

It's over. I know, I know, I sound ungrateful, but let's face it, it's more fun to play when there's light at the end of the tunnel. Although I enjoyed each and every minute of Ohio State's improbable run to 12-0, the sting of the bowl ban, and the glass ceiling it placed on a team that had the core ingredients and the intangibles to do something really, really special, made calling it quits in November a bit bittersweet. Am I saying I think we were a truly elite club or that we would have beaten Alabama for the title? Hell no. But I do think it would have been fun to see what those guys could have done against a Notre Dame, or other BCS-bowl caliber opponent.

The Bad News:

John Simon, Zach Boren and Johnathan Hankins are gone. To say that they were essential personnel on and off the field is an understatement. In addition to having to fill the emotional void in the locker room, Urban's sophomore squad will have to replace all four starters on the defensive line for the first time in decades, and it's not clear whether top running back Carlos Hyde will see the field or when ESPN All-American Bradley Roby will return to shore up the secondary.

On Offense:

The Good News:

Urban isn't worried about this side of the ball, and considering this was a unit he referred to as a "clown show" less than fifteen months ago speaks volumes about the potential potency of Ohio State's attack. Junior phenom Braxton Miller will call the shots, but it's the Offensive Line led by left guard Andrew Norwell that will really set the tone for a diverse array of jet sweeps and zone read plays that should keep opposing defenses out of breath and out of answers. The maturation of wide receivers Corey Brown and Devin Smith, competence of tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett -- who Urban regards as the best he's ever coached -- return of backfield bullet Jordan Hall and likely emergence of one or more true freshman (Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott, I'm looking at you) make it likely that a unit that finished third in the B1G last year in total offense, but struggled to get in rhythm early on in games, will improve markedly in 2013.

The Bad News:

Carlos Hyde, an individual primed to be Meyer's first 1,000 yard rusher, and the starting running back in an admittedly loaded stable, is more than likely headed for pasture, pending the outcome of a disciplinary process initiated by his alleged assault of a young woman at a Columbus nightclub. While the reporting on the situation has been tentative at best, Meyer's record of discipline (or lack thereof) at Florida and 'association' with alleged murderer Aaron Hernandez, have caused a firestorm recently, making it likely (for better or worse) that he'll feel pressure to emphatically enforce his zero tolerance policy regarding violence for women if it turns out that Hyde made threatening contact with the alleged victim, whether or not charges are brought. Also, Braxton Miller still has yet to prove himself as a completely reliable passer, although all reports indicate he's on schedule.

On Defense:

The Good News:

A talented secondary with multiple individuals on the Thorpe award watch list (I don't expect Roby to miss more than a game or two for his misdemeanor assault charges), should help cover for a youthful front seven, who despite their relative inexperience on the field are still positively loaded with SEC-caliber speed and athleticism (see Spence, Noah and Washington, Adolphus).

The Bad News:

Aside from All-American Ryan Shazier, the linebacker corps is still very much a work in progress (although all indications suggest that former five-star recruit Curtis Grant is finally ready to make his mark), and if the newbloods don't pick up the system fast Ohio State could be forced to live and die by the sword (a gamble that almost never pays crystal dividends).

On Special Teams:

The Good News:

Meyer puts his best guys out on the field, which means the self-declared 'freak show,' is bound to make a few game-changing plays. Plus, Australian punter Cameron Johnson has a hell of a leg. But can he get the ball off in time?

The Bad News:

Meyer puts his best guys out on the field, which means someone is bound to get hurt at an inopportune time.

On the Schedule:

The Good News:

The toughest out-of-conference opponent on paper is a retooling California squad that went 3-9 last year and is under the tutelage of a first year coach, but don't count out Sonny Dykes, and his pass-heavy 'Bear-raid' attack and the difficulty B1G teams have playing out West. The Buckeyes miss Legends Division heavyweights Nebraska and Michigan State and will more than likely be favored in every game.

The Bad News:

A moribund out of conference slate might not completely prepare the Buckeyes for B1G play, especially when they open up with a visit from division challenger (and proverbial thorn in the side) Wisconsin and a trip to Evanston to face an under-appreciated and well-coached Northwestern squad. The perversions of the current divisional layouts mean the Buckeyes might have to beat a talented Michigan team twice in back-to-back weeks, both times away from home to make it to the promise land.

If you're talking to a Buckeye fan..

Do Mention:

How well teams perform in Year 2 of Urban's system. How Braxton Miller's skills made Quarterback Guru George Whitfield Jr. gush. How Michigan didn't cross midfield after Ohio State made defensive adjustments in the second half of the 2012 edition of The Game. Brady Hoke's overall winning percentage.

Don't Mention:

Aaron Hernandez. Clay Travis. Mark May. Sugar Bar 2. Esophageal spasms.

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