I began by taking a broad overview of the Ohio State program, what it has done over the last five years and what that might tell us about what the Buckeyes will do this season.
Two weeks ago, I scanned the 2012 Ohio State offense and how it projects.
Last week, I looked at the 2012 Ohio State defense and how it is shaping up.
This week, I'll look at the Buckeyes' specialists, recruiting class and schedule; then I'll give a final breakdown and my prediction for Ohio State in 2012.
Jordan Hall's foot injury (per ESPN) is just as big a blow to the special teams as it is to the offense. If Hall misses more than the out-of-conference (OOC) portion of the schedule, it will have a notable impact on a kick return game that finished third in the Big Ten last year.
Other players on the roster with kick return experience include wide receivers Chris Fields, Corey Brown and Devin Smith; running back Carlos Hyde and defensive back C.J. Barnett.
Hall was also the Bucks' top punt returner, though Fields was impressive in limited opportunities.
Junior Drew Basil finished first in the conference in field-goal percentage—84.2 percent on 19 attempts—and tied for fifth-best touchback percentage with 22.22 percent. He will lock down the placekicking duties.
Senior Ben Buchanan came in third in the conference in punting average, and he will contend for all-conference honors this year.
2012 Recruiting Class
Ohio State brought in 25 new Buckeyes, putting an emphasis on offensive linemen, as the Bucks signed five.
One freshman that has a good chance of seeing immediate playing time is running back Bri'Onte Dunn. He graduated high school early to participate in spring ball, and if he can stay away from his mother's pot-infested car (per the Canton Rep), he could push for carries in the new offense.
Offensive tackle Taylor Decker is 6'8" and 313 pounds, and thus is physically ready for the Big Ten. It also appears he's mentally ready as the most recent depth chart (per SB Nation's Cleveland blog) has him as the backup right tackle.
As mentioned in the defensive breakdown, linebacker depth is an issue. This has presented opportunities to the Buckeyes' newest linebackers and Lancaster, Ohio's Luke Roberts has taken advantage of them.
Roberts was listed as second-string weak-side linebacker on the aforementioned depth chart.
A pound sign (#) indicates must-win for Ohio State.
An exclamation point (!) indicates a probable loss.
A dollar sign ($) indicates a swing game.
09/01: Miami (OH) RedHawks #
09/08: Central Florida Knights #
09/15: California Golden Bears $
09/22: UAB Blazers #
09/29: At Michigan State Spartans $
10/06: Nebraska Cornhuskers $
10/13: At Indiana Hoosiers #
10/20: Purdue Boilermakers #
10/27: At Penn State Nittany Lions #
11/03: Illinois Illini #
11/17: At Wisconsin Badgers $
11/24: Michigan Wolverines $
Best-Case Scenario: 12-0
In order for this to happen, OSU needs:
- Braxton Miller to become the leader and offensive phenomenon that Meyer needs from his quarterback.
- The receivers and running backs to immediately take to and flourish in the new system.
- The offensive line to come together and provide a foundation for a dominant running game.
Worst-Case Scenario: 8-4
In order for this to happen, OSU needs:
- Miller to have issues adjusting to the new scheme. This is complicated by the playmakers around him failing to live up to their potential.
- The offensive line to have issues—both physical and mental—in adjusting to Meyer's more athletic schemes.
- The defense to get slammed with injuries, particularly to the linebacker corps. Said defense will still be amongst the best in the conference, but there is a sizable difference between allowing 12 points per game and 18 points per game.
The Season Will Be a Success If...
The Buckeyes field a dominant defense, win nine games and beat Michigan.
This season, Meyer has little to lose. The Bucks can't win the conference and can't go bowling. Also, expectations are lowered due to last season's poor performance and the transition from one staff to the other.
It is unlikely Ohio State, under its new head coach, will flop, but even if it did, there isn't much lost.
In effect, this year the Buckeyes are playing for three things: respectability, the future and the Michigan game.
A return to form on defense, nine wins and a win over Big Blue would more than deliver on all three counts.
Ohio State is the most talented team in this season's Big Ten, but adversity—they're not playing for anything tangible—the schedule and the transition from Tressel/Fickell to Meyer could keep the Buckeyes from living up to their potential.
The Buckeye offense will have some early-season sputters that will lead to close calls against tougher-than-they seem out-of-conference (OOC) opponents Central Florida and Cal.
In fact, if the Cal contest were away from the safe confines of Ohio Stadium, I'd be tempted to call it a loss.
Nevertheless, OSU will get out of the OOC unscathed.
The Bucks will lose to Michigan State by two scores, come back against Nebraska, and tear through the rest of the conference heading into their bye week.
Following the bye week, OSU will have its biggest two-game stretch of the year. Urban Meyer has an 11-1 career record following a bye week, with his only loss coming in his first season with Bowling Green.
He will keep his streak alive by beating the Badgers in Madison, thereby ending what will be a 22-game home win streak record for UW.
He will then cement his successful first season by beating Michigan in Columbus.
11-1, but, due to sanctions, no Big Ten crown.
Check out past installments of 2012 Big Ten Breakdown, beginning with the most recent, the Michigan Wolverines.