Ohio State Football: 7 Bold Predictions for the Buckeyes' 2012 Season
A lot of excitement and expectations are surrounding the Ohio State football team for 2012.
New head coach Urban Meyer brings a track record of success with him to Columbus and fans are anxious to see what kind of product he will put out on the field. Meyer has already made an immediate impact on the recruiting trail, retrieving multiple big-name recruits to play for Ohio State.
While these recruits will shape the future of the Ohio State program, what can fans expect from the current roster for next season?
Here are seven bold predictions for the 2012 campaign.
Ohio State Will Enter Conference Play Undefeated
The Buckeyes open their 2012 season with four consecutive home games against non-conference opponents in Miami (OH), Central Florida, Cal and UAB. These four teams combined for an overall record of 19-30 in 2011, with Cal being the only team to make a bowl appearance.
With Ohio State having more talent and depth on the field in all of these games while also playing in front of 105,000 plus fans donning the scarlet and gray, the Buckeyes will not have a problem sending these teams home with a loss.
The first four weeks of Urban Meyer’s inaugural season in Columbus will end with a zero in the loss column.
Ohio State's Defense Will Be the Identity of Team
There is no doubt there's been a lot of hype surrounding the spread offense Urban Meyer will implement to this year’s team. Buckeye fans will be very eager to see a much more aggressive offensive style rather than the ultra-conservative approach in past seasons.
Overshadowed by the excitement this offense will bring is the point that the defense will be the major strength of the team. This year’s squad will see 10 of its 11 starters from 2011 return, with the only loss being LB Andrew Sweat. The defensive line is absolutely loaded with talent and possibly has the best defensive line recruiting class seen in years waiting in the wings.
The linebacker corps displayed inconsistency throughout the 2011 season and was not the dominating strength that OSU linebackers have been in years past. However with another year of experience gained by these players and linebackers coach Mike Vrabel staying on Urban Meyer’s staff, this group should have a solid showing in 2012. The secondary showed a lot of promise last season ranking 14th nationally in pass defense and grabbing 10 interceptions respectively. Expect this group to give opposing quarterbacks a lot of trouble in the passing game.
While the offense may be electric and grab the majority of headlines, make no mistake the defense will be the determining factor in the multiple victories Ohio State will achieve during the 2012 season.
Power Running Game Will Add Second Dimension to Offense
The first thought many fans have when it comes to Urban Meyer’s spread offense is speed. While Ohio State will have an abundance of speed, it will also have a power running game that Meyer has not had in the past. This aspect of the offense will be needed against the defenses seen in the Big Ten.
Ohio State possesses two very good players in FB Zach Boren and RB Carlos Hyde that will add a bruising running attack to the arsenal of weapons already on this offense. Similar to Chris “Beanie” Wells, Hyde has the ability to either run by defenders or through them. He may not be the fastest running back on the roster but he does have the speed and explosiveness to make big plays happen. Expect to see special packages made for these players that will keep defenses on their toes as both also have the ability to come out of the backfield to catch passes if needed.
These players will be vital in red-zone possessions as well as short-yardage situations to move the chains and keep the offense on the field.
Braxton Miller Will Lead NCAA Quarterbacks in Rushing Yards
Braxton Miller finished with 715 rushing yards in the 2011 season. Nine other quarterbacks had more rushing yards than Miller, who was 664 yards behind leading quarterback Chandler Harnish of Northern Illinois.
This may seem like a large differential, but remember the fact that Miller was not given the starting role until week 4 against Colorado and did not stop sharing major playing time with fellow QB Joe Bauserman until week 6.
Urban Meyer made no secret how excited he was to coach Miller in his introductory press conference back in November. He should be excited as Miller is the type of quarterback needed to make his offense thrive and other defenses shudder.
Miller’s elusiveness and speed will be utilized to create a dynamic rushing attack. Look for plenty of quarterback draws and options to be called, giving Miller plenty of opportunities to run the ball. With Meyer’s track record of developing quarterbacks and a young Ohio State receiving corps, you will see Braxton Miller as the top quarterback on the list of rushing yards at the end of the season.
Ohio State Will "Win" the Big Ten Leaders Division
The Big Ten Leaders division only saw two teams finish with a conference record above .500 in 2011. Early signs are pointing towards a similar scenario for the division in 2012 as well.
Wisconsin loses its Heisman-candidate QB in Russell Wilson along with other key offensive players such as WR Nick Toon. Illinois fired head coach Ron Zook after going 34-51 in his seven years in Champaign and now hands the reins to former Toledo head coach Tim Beckman. Purdue finished 4-4 in the conference last year but has not shown the talent to consistently compete with the traditional powerhouse programs in the Big Ten. Indiana went winless in the conference last year and everyone knows how extremely difficult the past few months have been for the Penn State program.
Ohio State will have a better all-around team than the other members of the Leaders division but will have difficult road trips to Wisconsin and Penn State late in the season. Ohio State should easily dispose of Indiana on the road along with Illinois and Purdue at home. The bye week before the game at Wisconsin and Penn State’s current state of transition will be huge factors in Ohio State pulling off the victories against these teams.
Although the NCAA postseason ban prohibits Ohio State from clinching a division championship, the Buckeyes will do enough to defeat all five of its Big Ten division opponents and will “win” the Leaders division.
Ohio State Will Avenge the Loss to Michigan
The loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor last season definitely left a sour taste in the mouths of Ohio State players and fans. This was the first loss to the Wolverines for every player on the roster after winning the previous seven matchups.
With the postseason ban assessed by the NCAA for the 2012 season, this game is Ohio State’s bowl game. Ohio State will have the home-field advantage this year and the fans will be ready.
The 2011 game saw the oft-anemic Ohio State offense put up 34 points against the Michigan defense that ranked sixth in the nation for points allowed per game. If OSU had this much success scoring points with the very conservative play calling seen last year, it is hard to imagine Meyer’s aggressive offense having trouble putting up points.
The defense will focus on keeping Denard Robinson in the pocket and make him win the game by throwing the ball. Unfortunately for Robinson, who led the Big Ten in interceptions last year, the talented Buckeye secondary will be waiting for him.
The game will be an offensive highlight reel but a late turnover forced by the secondary seals the deal for Ohio State and allows the partying to begin in Columbus.
Ohio State Will End the Season 11-1
The schedule heavily favors Ohio State by giving them eight out of 12 games at home. The only blemish during the season will come by the hands of Michigan State. This week 5 matchup versus the Spartans will be early enough in the season when the Buckeyes will still be working out some of the kinks in the new offense while facing a phenomenal MSU defense.
Michigan State loses a lot of offensive weapons from last year, but the game will be played in East Lansing, where they have not lost a game since November of 2009.
A key matchup versus Nebraska will be played in Columbus and a much-needed bye week before traveling to Wisconsin will translate to wins for the Buckeyes. Ohio State’s superiority in talent and coaching will dispose of the remaining teams on the schedule leading to the season finale against a rising Michigan program. “The Game” will live up to its name and be one for the ages with Ohio State winning a close one.
The Urban Meyer era begins with a successful 11-1 season and will set up the blueprint for a potential National Championship run in 2013.