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BIG 2014 // Ohio State Cocktail Party Preview

So what's the deal with Ohio State? Are they the 24-0 juggernaut that had the longest winning streak in the country, or are they the 0-2 team that closed out the B1G Championship Game and the Orange Bowl? Or are they something in between?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

//Guitar Riff

//Sound of glass breaking

BUSINESS IS ABOUT TO PICK UP HERE...THAT MUSIC...BAH GAWD KING...THAT'S TED'S MUSIC

BAH GAWD

First off, hi everybody! In all seriousness, thanks to Graham and Jesse for letting me come in and say hello, and to help out during the Empire's most important and substantial week. I'm not back for good, so this isn't going to be some weepy welcome back with hugs and tears.  I just wanted to say hello, and give you enough information to impress your boss at a cocktail party.

That is, before you hit on his wife, throw up in the library, and piss in his pool. So drop this knowledge bomb before you drop trou and ruin the Ph level of his saltwater, custom made cement pond, and find yourself in the unemployment line with the Rutgers graduates.

There's still plenty of lawyers on this blog, one of them would love to represent you pro bono.

The last two seasons under Urban Meyer have seen recruiting move to a level that even a place like Ohio State considers elite, as they are now in contention for the consensus top recruiting class year in and year out. The amount of talent that Meyer is bringing into Columbus is almost mind boggling, dominance of the conference schedule, a 24 game winning streak, and two straight wins over Michigan. Yet a porous defense almost caught up with them in Ann Arbor, and played a large part in their undoing in Indy and down in Miami. Still, it's been an impressive two years for Meyer, and with his recruiting classes ready to make an impact on defense, this could be a season that takes them all the way to the inaugural College Football Playoff.

About Last Season

The Good News

As flawed as Ohio State was at times, there was an awful lot to like. Between Braxton Miller's explosive play at quarterback, Carlos Hyde going HAM precisely when he needed to for most of the year, and a defense that was just good enough, OSU ran their winning streak to 24 games and an undefeated regular season.  Although their defense was sketchy at times,  Ohio State was a serious national championship contender until late in the year.

The Bad News

Yeah, that 'late in the year' part.  A pedestrian Michigan offense lit up Ohio State's defense for about 1,000 yards of total offense, and were it not for a Tyvis Powell interception on a two point conversion attempt late in The Game, Michigan would've pulled one of the biggest upsets in the history of  that rivalry.  The defensive troubles continued into the B1G Championship Game and the Orange Bowl, and a puzzling decision by Ohio State to go away from Carlos Hyde at key points helped end the season on a two game losing streak. So once again, OSU's had to hear the term 'paper tiger' all off-season.

On Offense

The Good News

The best news ever was when Miller announced he was returning for his senior season. His presence alone makes OSU's offense formidable, and he'll have a slew of weapons to throw to and hand off to.  Dontre Wilson was a freshman fireplug last year, and he's expected to really step it up as a receiver this year.  WR Devin Smith is also back, and I would guess that Ezekiel Elliott will be the first guy given the chance to take over for Carlos Hyde in the backfield.  EzE flashed some serious potential last year, and he looks to be a slightly faster version of Hyde. Behind those guys, look for guys like WR Corey Smith, RB Brionte Dunn, and RB Rod Smith to all push for sserious playing time.

The Bad News

Hyde is off to the NFL, and his between the tackle power running is going to be sorely missed. As talented as Elliott appears to be, it's going to be his first time as the top guy, and whether or not he can actually do it remains to be seen. And it's not so much that he can't do it, it's that OSU's offensive line is going to be almost a completely new unit, having to replace four of five guys from last season. For all the improvement we saw in Miller last year as a QB, he slumped badly down the stretch, putting up his worst passing numbers against Michigan, Michigan State, and Clemson. He's going to have to be more consistent later in the year, or OSU is going to run into problems against elite competition again.

On Defense

The Good News

Former Wisconsin and Arkansas DC Chris Ash has come in to shore up the Buckeyes defense.  Luke Fickell wasn't fired, but there was a reassignment of roles, if you will. Fickell is still a well thought of and valuable member of the staff, especially as a recruiter, but a change needed to be made after a very lackluster 2013 season. Ash has a history of turning around under-performing defenses, and he has the athletes to return the Buckeyes to the top of the heap. It starts at the line, and the tandem of Joey Bosa and MIchael Bennett might be the best two player combo on what might be the best defensive line in the B1G.

The Bad News

A bad defense lost two of it's best players last year, and they now have to learn a new system under a new coach. The biggest playmaker (LB Ryan Shazier) and the most experienced defensive back (CB Bradley Roby) are now in the NFL, and there are huge questions on that side of the ball in the back seven.  There are some ridiculously talented freshmen like Raekwon McMillan coming in, but for all the accolades heaped on them during recruiting, they have yet to play significant time.

Special Teams

K Drew Basil, who was 9/10 last year, is gone, but uber-punter Cameron Johnston, he of the Sidd Finch-like Australian punting video, is back. For the return units, Dontre Wilson comes back as the primary kick returner, and he should be solid to pretty darn good in that role.  The punt return job is up for grabs though, as the top four guys that returned punts for OSU are all gone.  Historically, the return units are pretty good, so whoever the punt return guy is should do an okay job.

On The Schedule

The rallying cry against OSU potentially playing in the BCS title game all of last year was 'but they don't play anybody PAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWLLLLL immahangupanlissen.' And to some degree, OSU's detractors had a point.  Their toughest non-con opponent in the Meyer era has been...who, exactly? UCF? Cal? That's not the case this year, as OSU's non-con will be the most challenging it's been in awhile, and with the new East-West divisions, they're going to have a tough conference schedule as well.

Navy and their maddening triple option came into Ohio Stadium in 2009 and damn near pulled off the upset. The Midshipmen are a well disciplined team and always a tough out. It's also being played in Navy's backyard, so it's essentially a home game for them.  They have Virginia Tech at home, and then play Cincinnati at home as well.  So yeah, the days of Florida A and M are over.

The conference slate is going to be pretty tough, too.  They don't have a stretch of brutal games, and the cross divisional games are manageable (illinois, Minnesota), but Michigan, Michigan State, and The Jolly Franklins are going to be yearly contests.  And so are Maryland and Rutg-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Hey, I tried to say those two with a straight face. I really did.

If You're Talking To An Ohio State Fan

Do Mention

Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer recruiting

24 game winning streak

The Ending Of The Cooper Curse. Since 2001, Ohio State has gone 10-2 against Michigan, with losses in 2003 and 2011.  John Cooper was 2-10-1 against Michigan. Coop may now rest easy.

The Best Damn Band In The Land

Don't mention

Tattoos. Still.

Papa John's Pizza on a golf cart

4th and 2 in Indianapolis

Sammy Watkins just caught ANOTHER pass

Luke Fickell lead defenses