Though a Big Ten title game or a bowl appearance won't be in the cards for the Ohio State Buckeyes this season, it will be an important year in improving the team and setting the stage for a championship run in 2013.
The success of the team this year and in the future is on sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller.
Miller struggled in 2011, but didn't get many chances to throw, running 159 times while attempting just 157 passes. When he did throw the ball, Miller completed passes at just a 54.1 percent clip. Despite this, he was still very efficient with his 13 touchdowns to only four interceptions on the year.
To improve upon the 6-7 record last season, Miller and the passing game will have to be much better. New head coach Urban Meyer has already made it one of his top priorities heading into the 2012 campaign:
The area where we're much improved is throwing and catching. Much improved. We couldn't have gone much the other way.
As Meyer alluded to, the passing game couldn't have been much worse. The Buckeyes were 115th out of 120 FBS teams last year in passing yards per game. They also were 109th in completion percentage, a big reason why Miller has to step up this season.
It will be interesting to see how the spread offense translates to Columbus. Nobody on the team caught 15 balls last season, and though their abilities certainly outweigh last year's production, the transition from a physical running team to focusing on the pass may be tough in 2012.
The postseason ban gives Ohio State a little bit of time to adjust, though, and if the Buckeyes at least make strides this season, they may be in the National Championship picture for years to come.
Right now, it all rests on the sophomore, Miller. If he can show that he's a dual-threat quarterback, then he may be leading one of the best teams in the country in 2013 and 2014.
If he proves to be a running quarterback who can occasionally throw, Ohio State may take a step back and have to reevaluate its plans for next year and beyond.