In 2012, Ohio State went 12-0. I think they were rather lucky last season, and playing with reckless abandon because they virtually had nothing to play for, unless you count pride. This year, the expectations for the Buckeyes to give an encore performance are as high as they’ve ever been. In reality, they should be higher. I expect Ohio State to be playing in Pasadena; not on January 1 in the Rose Bowl, but on January 6 in the last BCS National Championship Game. Expectations are high not because of what Ohio State and first year coach Urban Meyer did last season, but because of the few obstacles in their path this year. A quick evaluation of their schedule presents only three challenges, of which only two are significant.
Their first challenge comes against Cal in Berkeley at night on September 14. Cal isn’t awesome, and they have a new coach, but Cal is a team in a good BCS conference. The real challenge is travel. Ohio State hasn’t played a regular season game on the west coast since 2009 against USC. I don’t know what Ohio State’s travel plans are, but resting after travel between several time zones is a requirement. NFL teams that travel from the west coast to east coast teams generally aren’t awesome, and the same goes for teams traveling west.
Their second challenge is Penn State. Yes, I’m dismissing Wisconsin because the team is obviously unproven with a new head coach and I fully expect Meyer’s Buckeye’s to be ready for their opening Big Ten game versus the Badgers. I believe Penn State is a bigger challenge for obvious reasons: they have nothing to play for except for pride itself. They’re ineligible for the post season, and Head Coach Bill O’Brien still needs to find recruits. Beating Ohio State at night in Columbus is a big deal not only for Penn State, but for any collegiate program. Despite beating the Nittany Lions by 12 in Happy Valley last year, Penn State will be a good team and will provide a significant challenge this year.
The last and most obvious challenge is Michigan. One has to think with Devin Gardner becoming the starting quarterback the team will perform more consistently on offense. I’m not saying they’ll be better, but consistency is and continuous improvement is more important than being. Michigan and Ohio State is one of the biggest rivalries in sports, and anyone can win this game any year. Ohio State needs to win this game.
With the lack of highly competitive talent around the Big Ten and Ohio State’s non-conference schedule set them up to be virtual locks as long as they’re able to navigate their conference schedule and conference championship game. The 2013 bar was set by going 12-0 in 2012, and anything less than an appearance in the 2014 National Championship Game is a failure.
tl; dr is a tech nerd term for too long; didn’t read. the purpose of these posts is to provide a quick summary and analysis of something interesting in the sports world.