In Year 2 of the post-Jim Tressel era, the Ohio State Buckeyes' schedule is rather soft.
Urban Meyer essentially gets a year to figure out his roster and decide who deserves to play as the team endures a season without bowl eligibility. The main man to watch will be sophomore QB Braxton Miller, who had a predictably up-and-down first year under center.
Now, with Meyer’s spread offense, he is expected to take a big step forward.
Meyer inherits an incredibly deep defense that looks destined to be one of the leaders in the Big Ten in most categories.
Here are the three most important games to circle on your calendar to use as a barometer for Meyer and his football team in Year 1 together.
Sept. 15: vs. California
The non-conference slate should be a breeze with Miami (OH), Central Florida and UAB on the slate, which means the biggest game before conference play should be a home game against Cal.
The Bears have a tremendous trio on offense with QB Zach Maynard, RB Isi Sofele and WR Keenan Allen.
Maynard threw for almost 3,000 yards a year ago, while Sofele and Allen both surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in rushing and receiving respectively. A shootout looks to be in order; can Miller and the offense keep up?
This will be a huge barometer for Miller and the Buckeyes defense and a glimpse into what to expect going into conference play.
Sept. 29: at Michigan State
The first road game doubles as the first conference game when the Buckeyes travel up to Spartan Stadium.
While QB Kirk Cousins may have left for the NFL, the Spartans will be returning RB Le’Veon Bell, who ran for 948 yards and 13 touchdowns a year ago. He’ll be running behind four returning starters on the O-Line. This will be one of the biggest tests the run defense will have the entire season.
The Spartie defense ranked sixth in the nation in total defense last year and has eight starters back, including linebacker Denicos Allen (11 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss in ’11). This could get ugly in a hurry for the Buckeye offense if Miller isn’t ready.
In Meyer’s Big Ten debut, this is a game that will set the tone for the remainder of the season.
Nov. 24: vs. Michigan
The biggest game of the year is always the last one.
The only thing we know is, this will be the final game of the season and will serve as the final exam in Meyer’s inaugural season.
A horrible season can be forgiven if you beat the rivals from up north, and with the way Michigan looks on paper with Denard Robinson, the Buckeyes could play a serious spoiler here.
Imagine the warm, fuzzy feeling Buckeye fans will have heading into the long offseason if Ohio State beats Michigan and denies them a BCS Bowl or a place in the Big Ten title game.
As always, this is the most important game on the slate.