I’m a huge Ohio State fan. I knew how to say Buckeyes before I even knew how to say my own name.
But I’m also a realist. I’m not expecting Urban Meyer to led this beloved football team to an undefeated season. I understand that there will be struggles. I understand that there will be growing pains.
Sadly the 2012 season will be a hiccup in an exciting era.
This team isn’t playing for the present. It is playing for the future. For starters, Ohio State won't be bowl eligible in 2012 due to NCAA sanctions. This punishment goes back to 'Tattoo-Gate' when former booster Robert DiGeronimo provided a total of $2,405 in benefits to nine Ohio State players.
The talent will be in Columbus but the will to win will be nonexistent. Every athlete wants to win just for the sake of winning but which player will give every play 100 percent if there is no short-term goal in sight?
I think the 2012 Ohio State season will end up similar to USC last year. USC ended the 2011-2012 season with a 10-2 record (7-2 Pac-12) but also was not bowl eligible. This year the Trojans will most likely start off the year by being the preseason No. 1 team.
USC shocked the world with its stellar play and entered 2012 on a high note. Ohio State won’t be as amazing in 2012 but let's take a look at the Buckeyes' schedule in order to make a fair prediction:
Ohio State starts off its season with a home game against a MAC school that finished 4-8 last season. Quarterback Zac Dysert is the only bright spot for the RedHawks. The Bucks start off the season with a bang.
The party in Columbus continues as Meyer should easily led his team to a victory over the Conference USA bottom dwellers. QB Blake Bortles looked good in the Knights' spring game but the Ohio State defense should handle him.
This game will be slightly tougher then the previous matchups. It could go either way but the excitement in Ohio Stadium will prevail and the Golden Bears upset bid will get shot down. Keep in mind that this is a good team.
The Blazers played spoiler to No. 20 Southern Miss last year. That won’t happen again. This is a team that finished 3-9 a year ago. No one expects big things from it.
at Michigan State
This is where things get a little bit dicey. Michigan State is not the same team as last year: Kirk Cousins and his receivers are gone. But Sparty could prevail with a very stout defense. The Bucks' offense isn’t where it needs to be and the Spartan defense is unparalleled in the Big Ten. They return eight starters from the best defense in the conference. Junior QB Andrew Maxwell is hyped to be a great signal caller and Sparty could pull this one out.
Ohio State returns to the safe haven of Columbus for this game and it will be a good one. Rex Burkhead is an elite running back for the Cornhuskers but the Buckeyes should be able to take advantage of problems elsewhere. Alfonzo Dennard declared for the NFL draft and leaves the defense with a big hole. Will Meyer’s on-and-off offense take advantage of that? Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez is troublesome. Sometimes he’s incredibly talented while other times he can’t convert a fourth down. Which persona will show up?
Could Go Either Way
If only this was a basketball game then maybe it would be interesting. But, in football, the Hoosiers can’t hold a candle to Ohio State. This is a team that finished 1-11 last year and doesn’t show signs of improving. Indiana finished last in the Big Ten in 2011. That is the only stat you have to know.
Last year the Boilmakers beat Luke Fickell 26-23 in overtime at home. This year it won’t be that close. Purdue has to travel to Ohio Stadium. One could argue that it could pull out the win but I have Braxton Miller and company edging this one out.
at Penn State
Happy Valley is amidst a huge scandal and playing actual football is not first priority. Bill O’Brien is walking into a very strange situation and may not get very far without decent quarterback play. The offense will relay on running back Silas Redd to rack up yards but this is still a hap-hazard team with a very good linebacker unit. I think Ohio State can get by.
I want to pick the Fighting Illini just because I have been playing it very safe. In truth there are a lot of these games that Ohio State could drop. But it won’t be this one. Last year Illinois was undefeated when it faced the Buckeyes in the middle of October. It lost 17-7, and didn’t win after as it dropped games to Purdue, Penn State, Michigan and Wisconson.
Russell Wilson is gone for the Badgers but the rest of the squad looks good. Montee Ball and receiver Jared Abbrederis will be able to carve up the Ohio State defense. The solid linebacker corps and deep defensive roster will prove necessary in stopping the Bucks' offense.
As an Ohio State fan, it pains me to write this but Michigan is just the better team. That was hard, but Denard Robinson can electrify any stadium. He is incredibly fast but can also throw. The Wolverines' secondary will limit Miller to making bad throws and will be a hazard all day. Brady Hoke put an increased focus on this game and it will pay off.
After that whole rundown it is easy to see why Ohio State could end the year at 9-3 or 8-4. But a 7-5 or 6-6 finish is not out of question.
The year will be a struggle. The team will have to learn how to adapt to Urban Meyer’s system and the growing pains will be ever so present.
The future is bright but the present is looking bleak. Going back to the whole USC metaphor, I think that Ohio State can build on this struggle of a season.
Miller will be able to use this season as a way to grow and develop much like Matt Barkley did. Miller isn’t going to be able to step on the field and be a NFL-ready prospect, but give him time and he can be a capable leader. I’m excited for his stay in Columbus, but this is a team built for the future.
Urban Meyer and the coaching staff will be able to use the struggles in 2012 to better the program going forward.