The Ohio State Buckeyes are well on their way to an undefeated season, but they aren't out of the woods yet—there are still plenty of things and teams that stand in the way of the challenging accomplishment.
Despite the cloud of sanctions hanging over this season, the Buckeyes have managed to start the season a perfect 9-0. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, they won't be able to play in the Big Ten championship game or participate in a bowl game. However, the achievement of an undefeated season would still be a big deal for the program, especially in the realm of recruiting.
Urban Meyer's first season with the team has been a success, but there's still some big obstacles in the way. Here's are the challenges the Buckeyes will need to navigate to keep the loss column clean the rest of the way.
If the team that was favored on paper always won, the upset wouldn't exist. No sport sees more upsets every year than college football. So much of success comes down to focus and mindset.
At 9-0, the Buckeyes will be favored in every game from here until the end of the season and should go 3-0. However, the curse of complacency always has a way of creeping up and rearing its head at the most inopportune time.
For instance, a home game against Illinois seems like a gimme game. The Fighting Illini are 2-6 and have no business even being on the same field with the Buckeyes. However, you could say the same thing about Indiana and Purdue and those teams took Ohio State to the brink.
With Illinois and Wisconsin left before the big rivalry game with Michigan, the Buckeyes have to remain focused every time they take the field if they want to finish with a perfect season.
This doesn't really have much to do with the offense, it has been consistent all season. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the defense.
The Buckeyes defense has been uncharacteristically poor at times this season. The defense is talented to be sure, but the defense has been exposed against Nebraska, Indiana and California. Out of those teams only Nebraska has a winning record.
What's been most surprising is that teams have been able to run the ball right at the Buckeyes. In year's past, physicality has never been an issue for the Buckeyes but this year seems to be a bit different.
Both Michigan and Wisconsin are adept at running the ball and will take advantage of any weakness they may find the defense. They'll need to tighten up the defense if they want to ensure victory against Montee Ball and Denard Robinson's teams to end the season.
The Michigan Game
As long as the defense picks up and the Buckeyes keep mistakes to a minimum, they should get by the Badgers and Fighting Illini.
The most difficult game remaining on the schedule will be the rivalry game to end the season against Michigan at home.
After losing to Michigan on the road last season, you can bet that the Buckeyes will welcome their bitter rivals focused on repaying the favor. However, they can also expect Michigan to be at the top of its game as well.
The Wolverines haven't had the success they would like to have seen this season, but a win against Ohio State would make up for that. Buckeyes supporters will be quick to point out that they almost beat the Wolverines last season with the worst Ohio State team in years and a freshman quarterback.
That's true, however, the issues that plagued Ohio State in that game still exist. The defense allowed Denard Robinson and Co. to run for over 275 yards on the ground. The Wolverines controlled the clock and snapped a seven-game losing streak to their biggest rival.
If the Buckeyes go into the final game at 11-0, they will need to play their best game of the season to take the final step in an undefeated season.