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Ohio State Football: Championship Hopes Hinge on Defense

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 8:  Storm Johnson #8 of the Central  Florida Knights is tackled by John Simon #54 of the Ohio State Buckeyes and C.J. Barnett #4 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the third quarter on September 8, 2012 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio defeated Central Florida 31-16. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
Kyle NewportFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2013

If the Ohio State Buckeyes are going to make it to the BCS National Championship this upcoming season, the defense will need to be much improved.

In Urban Meyer's first season as coach, the offense put up over 37 points per game. Michigan State was the only team to hold the Buckeyes under 20 points all season, but it wasn't enough to win.

On the other side of the football, the defense had a hard time stopping opponents. The defense allowed 22.8 points per game against a mediocre schedule. In seven of their eight conference games, the Buckeyes allowed more than 20 points per game.

The most shocking total of the year was the 49 points the team allowed against the Indiana Hoosiers, which was the most they scored all year. The Hoosiers finished the season 4-8 but were able to put up the most points they have ever scored against the Buckeyes.

Ohio State's offense put up points in a hurry, but the defense would allow teams back in the games. Close calls against Cal, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan were all blowouts early but got close as the defense sputtered.

Buckeye fans should be extremely pleased with the team's 12-0 season in 2012. The team was the only undefeated team in the country, but it will be even more difficult to repeat perfection. With the Big Ten Championship Game and BCS title hopes now in the picture, the Buckeyes need big improvement on defense.

Linebacker Zack Boren started the season as the fullback, but he quickly became a playmaker on defense. Johnathan Hankins and John Simon were studs on the defensive line last year. All three players are moving on, so the team needs new players to step up this year.

Corner Bradley Roby was an absolute stud in the secondary last year. He will need to be an even bigger playmaker with several defensive stars leaving.

One player who will need to play a much bigger role this season is linebacker Ryan Shazier. He finished the season with 116 tackles and five sacks, but he will need to be the leader on defense this year. He has the talent to be a star player, so the team will be expecting him to live up to his potential.

C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant combined for three interceptions last season, and they will need to create more turnovers if the defense is going to improve in 2013.

The Buckeyes will have a soft non-conference schedule, which includes Buffalo, San Diego State, Cal and Florida A&M, to get the defense figured out. Once the team opens conference play with Wisconsin, it needs to be ready to play defense. 

No team on Ohio State's conference schedule ranked in the top 40 in the nation in points scored last season. Now that Meyer has had a year to work with this team, his defense should be much improved.

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