It's never too early to start thinking about the 2013 college football season. That's especially the case with Ohio State, which has a chance to finish the season undefeated but has no chance to reap any of the rewards.
When the college football rankings come out next spring, Ohio State should be one of the nation's early favorites. They could very well push the vaunted SEC for the top spot.
Urban Meyer has things back on track in Buckeye land after last season's struggles. The former Florida and Utah head coach has his team on the heels of an undefeated season, and only rival Michigan stands in the way.
The Buckeyes have put together one of college football's more impressive seasons in 2012. Despite playing in the Big 10, and all the talk that goes with conference superiority, it still takes a tremendous amount of talent and hard work to finish the season without a blemish.
Behind QB Braxton Miller and Meyer, it's a possibility in Week 13. Behind both in 2013, it's a possibility once again.
When you look at this Ohio State depth chart, the offense is going to be very similar to what it is right now. Reid Fragel and Jake Stoneburner are the only key losses.
On defense, there will be a retooling effort, but with a strong recruiting class and the offenses in the Big 10 considerably less advanced than in other parts of the country, the learning curve won't be as steep there.
Miller has had himself a season. He and Carlos Hyde team up to form one of the country's best rushing attacks at 245 yards per game. Although the passing stats haven't really been there, this offense hasn't needed Miller to be a pocket passer.
Teams will pick up on that in 2013, but with another full season—giving him two years as a starter heading into his junior season—Miller will be poised to be a top the Heisman race, and have his Buckeyes in the mix for the top spot.
The non-conference schedule shouldn't give them much problems. San Diego State and California are the two big tests there before conference play begins, and a BCS team doesn't lose games like that.
Of course, the team's first real test will come against a hungry Michigan team. Still looking for a way into the Big 10 title game, Michigan has to win and hope for a Nebraska loss to secure a berth.
Even if that doesn't happen, a win would put them in a better position for the bowl selection committees.
Up until now, Ohio State hasn't really been playing for anything. They've been lose and effective in close games—as evidenced by another overtime win, this time against Wisconsin.
Now that the reality of the undefeated season is sinking in, will Meyer's team be able to hold off the personal doubts that go along with not making the postseason?
My guess is yes.
This is like a bowl game for Ohio State. It's a rivalry game against the school's most hated opponent, and will be on college football's biggest stage. No doubt Miller and the offense come ready to play, but the defense will have to contend with new starter Devin Gardner.
If Ohio State can survive this last test, it will give them major momentum heading into the offseason. Not the, "We'll get 'em next year!" motivation, but a true belief that this team can compete for a national championship next season.
Things are looking bright for the Buckeyes.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.
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