The Ohio State Buckeyes have put together their best football season in recent memory, or at least as good as their teams that reached the BCS National Championship Game in 2006 and 2007.
But their NCAA punishment won't allow them to parlay their 2012 success into the Big Ten Championship Game or another title match. The Buckeyes have a three-year probation and a one-year bowl ban as part of their punishment for players selling memorabilia and coaches attempting to cover up the mistakes.
Urban Meyer has done an amazing job picking up the pieces, though. He secured a talented draft class despite the probation and has led the team to a 10-0 record.
With Wisconsin and Michigan looming, Ohio State could finish the year undefeated.
Buckeye fans certainly appreciate getting the team back to its 2010 form after a disappointing 6-7 finish last season. But they will also want to know if the team can repeat its success in 2013.
Meyer's teams are all about offense, and they return most of their talent. Braxton Miller is showing himself to be an ideal quarterback for Meyer, while the big Carlos Hyde picks up the tough yards on the ground. Devin Smith leads a talented group of receivers.
All three players will be back next season, and the offense will continue to fire.
The concern for Ohio State is its defense. Etienne Sabino (LB), John Simon (DL) and Nathan Williams (DL) will be moving on. There is a concern that Johnathan Hankins (DL) will forgo his senior season to head to the NFL.
The Buckeyes have some depth on defense, but that has been an area of concern. They will need a few players to step up and show they are ready to be a critical part of an elite team.
Noah Spence was a highly touted signing and could be that guy. Fellow freshman Adolphus Washington also has the potential to fill holes in the middle of the line.
Hankins is a key component, and this would be an ideal time to have a former star discuss the merits of returning for a senior season. He could be part of a special team next year, and there are some things money and NFL contracts can't buy.
Ohio State has a solid secondary that will only be better if the line can pressure the quarterback and the front seven can control the run. Add in an elite offense, and the 2013 Buckeye team could be set for a run at the national title.
After all, Meyer has quite the track record in his second season. He guided Utah to a 13-0 record, including a Fiesta Bowl win over Pittsburgh.
He lost one game in his second season at Florida, but any avid Ohio State fan will recall how his team did in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game.
A similar season with Ohio State would make it easy to forget the issues of last season.
Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks.
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