The Ohio State Buckeyes are playing for little more than pride this season. However, they are making themselves one of the early favorites for a national championship in 2013.
Urban Meyer did not enter an ideal situation when he agreed to become head coach for the Buckeyes. It was revealed that the school would be put on a three-year probation that includes a one-year postseason ban.
While this negatively affects the team this year, it could end up being a blessing in disguise for the future of the program.
First, it gives the Buckeyes a chance to play games without the pressure of having the season on the line at every moment. While schools like USC and LSU were hurt by the notion that a loss ruins the season, Ohio State was able to remain relaxed and take care of business.
In addition, recruitment has not been negatively affected by the sanctions. This is the spot where probation usually hurts teams the most, but Meyer was able to get the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation last offseason, according to Scout.com.
The influx of talent mixed with the young players on the team present a great opportunity for the future.
Among those currently on the roster, there is no one more important than quarterback Braxton Miller. The sophomore showed some skill last year, but he is proving this season that he is a legitimate Heisman candidate.
Miller has been an efficient passer in 2012, completing 61.5 percent of his passes and only throwing three interceptions. However, his real skill is as a runner, where he is seventh in the nation with 763 rushing yards.
Only Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois has more yards on the ground from the quarterback position, but he is facing far inferior competition.
Ohio State has started the year 6-0, including tough conference wins over Michigan State and Nebraska. There is not another ranked team remaining on the schedule until Michigan in the last game of the year.
Still, this is only a preview of what the Buckeyes can become.
Next season, Miller will return along with a high number of impact players on both sides of the football. In fact, there are only seven senior starters on the depth chart, and most can be easily replaced.
If the team is this good as underclassmen, just imagine what can be done with a little more experience.
In Urban Meyer's second season with Utah, his team went undefeated. Florida was able to win a national championship in his second year with that program. There is no reason to believe the same cannot happen for Ohio State in 2013.