The ink is barely dry on the Ohio State Buckeyes' 12-0 performance in 2012, which won't include a bowl game due to sanctions levied against the program from the Jim Tressel regime, but things set up quite nicely for the team to make another run at perfection next season.
Urban Meyer's first season with the program was an unqualified success. He took over a team that finished 6-7—the worst performance by an Ohio State team since a 4-6-1 record in 1988—and was in complete disarray.
The talent was still there thanks to Tressel's ability to recruit, but the coaching staff in 2011 had no idea what to do with any of it. There was no structure and plan in place and it was very much a case of putting a lot of pieces together and hoping they would fit.
As Dick Weiss of the New York Times wrote in his assessment of the 2012 Ohio State team, fans and analysts will always look back at this team and wonder what might have been. A self-imposed bowl ban last season could have avoided this whole situation.
Now, after the first undefeated season the program has seen since winning a BCS championship in 2002, the Buckeyes are poised to do great things again in 2013.
First, the schedule is not exactly riddled with world beaters. As things stand right now, the only games that look like they could be problematic are against Wisconsin, at Northwestern and at Michigan.
Here is a look at the Buckeyes' full 2013 schedule:
|Aug. 31||vs. Buffalo|
|Sep. 7||vs. San Diego State|
|Sep. 14||at California|
|Sep. 21||vs. Florida A&M|
|Sep. 28||vs Wisconsin|
|Oct. 5||at Northwestern|
|Oct. 19||vs. Iowa|
|Oct. 26||vs. Penn State|
|Nov. 2||at Purdue|
|Nov. 16||at Illinois|
|Nov. 23||vs. Indiana|
|Nov. 30||at Michigan|
To go along with a favorable schedule, the Buckeyes could have their leading quarterback, running back and top two receivers back on offense. We know Braxton Miller, who had over 3,300 yards of total offense and 28 touchdowns, will be back.
Running back Carlos Hyde, who ran for 16 touchdowns and 970 yards, is a junior and could return for his senior season. Wide receiver Philly Brown led the team in receptions (60) and yards (669), and is just a junior. Devin Smith averaged an astounding 20.6 yards per reception and is just a sophomore.
With the exception of seniors William McCary and Kharim Stephens, the Buckeyes could return as many as seven defensive linemen.
Not to mention the incoming crop of talent that Meyer and his staff will get this recruiting season. Rivals.com already lists the Buckeyes as having the No. 8 class in all of college football, with 17 total commits and 12 four-star prospects.
Meyer's track record in his second season with a team is also reason enough to be optimistic about what's in store for Ohio State next year. In 2002, his second season with Bowling Green, Meyer went 9-3. In 2004, his second season with Utah, Meyer led the Utes to a perfect season and Fiesta Bowl win.
Then, in 2006, Meyer led the Florida Gators to a 13-1 season and a BCS Championship Game victory over, interestingly enough, Ohio State.
The foundation is in place for the Buckeyes to be great again in 2013, with more pieces coming in during the national signing period.
More importantly, the Buckeyes have the right schedule to make it back-to-back undefeated seasons. Michigan is losing Denard Robinson. Wisconsin is losing Montee Ball. California, the toughest non-conference opponent on the schedule, just fired Jeff Tedford and finished 3-9 in the Pac-12. Penn State figures to take a step back thanks to its own NCAA sanctions.
Scheduling is everything in college football, and as things stand right now, the Buckeyes are sitting pretty waiting for their opportunity to put the rest of the Big Ten on notice.