2013 Preseason College Football Rankings: Ohio State Should Start Season No. 2

Stephen Fenech@Fenech2491Correspondent IJanuary 8, 2013

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 6:  Head Coach Urban Meyer hugs quarterback Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes after the Buckeyes defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers 63-38 at Ohio Stadium on October 6, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

When the 2013 preseason college football rankings come out this summer, Ohio State should be ranked No. 2, behind only Alabama. 

In the final AP poll of this season, Ohio State finished third, behind Alabama and Oregon. Being ranked behind those teams is nothing to be ashamed of, as each program has been the model for consistency and success in recent years. 

The Buckeyes were the only team in the nation to go undefeated this season, as they finished a perfect 12-0. Due to a postseason ban, Ohio State was ineligible for all postseason play, including the Big Ten Championship game and all bowl games. 

For Ohio State to go undefeated was remarkable, especially since the team knew they were ineligible for all postseason play. Urban Meyer and his coaching staff deserve to be praised for keeping the team focused because things could have gotten out of control quickly without anything to play for. 

According to GBERatings.com, Ohio State played the 63rd hardest schedule this season, which is a point that all Buckeyes pundits quickly vocalize. However, Ohio State cannot control how competitive the teams in its conference are and should not be punished for it. 

The Buckeyes will face a similarly easy slate in 2013, although they have to travel to the Big House after hosting Michigan this season. Only five of the teams on Ohio State's schedule for next season finished this season with a winning record, which speaks to the weak schedule the Buckeyes have on the docket. 

Outside of traveling to Ann Arbor, Ohio State's other two challenging road games figure to be against Northwestern and Cal, with neither of those teams being particularly imposing. 

Braxton Miller will be a junior next season, although he has the experience of a senior having started for the past two seasons. 

Due to Miller's dual-threat ability, he is amongst the Heisman favorites looking ahead to 2013. Behind an offensive line that improved this season, Miller will be presented with plenty of big-play opportunities against Big Ten defenses. 

Ohio State's leading receivers will be returning next season as well, with Corey Brown and Devin Smith returning to Columbus. The duo combined for 90 catches, 1,287 yards and nine touchdowns this season and are poised to improve on those numbers in 2013. 

Miller's partner in crime in the run game will also be back, as Carlos Hyde will look to build off a productive junior season. Hyde's return is important, because it will prevent opposing defenses from focusing solely on slowing down Miller in the run game.  

On defense, Ohio State will have to replace standout defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins and John Simon. The Buckeyes defense will lose five other senior starters as well, which means younger players will need to step up.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier led Ohio State in tackles this season and will likely be the face of the defense next season. 

Along the defensive line, the Buckeyes will rely on Michael Bennett, Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt, all of whom are young and have high ceilings. 

According to Rivals.com, Ohio State also boasts the third-best recruiting class in the country. With incoming defenders Eli Apple, Joey Bosa and Cameron Burrows, the Buckeyes have the young talent to reload quickly on defense. 

The Buckeyes exceeded expectations on both sides of the ball in Meyer's first season, which ensures they'll be much higher next season. Ohio State will be up to the task, as its talented roster must be eager to return to postseason play.