This Buckeye squad will be considered one of the favorites for the national title next season; there’s no disputing that.
They return the majority of their starters, but those same players will garner lofty expectations that were nowhere to be found in a bowl-ineligible 2012 campaign.
It’s the Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl or better for this group, or morale will be at an all-time low in Columbus.
Now that Braxton Miller and Co. have reached the pinnacle of what they’ve been asked to do, they will need to do better in a repeat performance.
What other hurdles await Ohio State in their quest for consecutive undefeated seasons?
Urban Meyer’s team will have much to worry about.
The Big Ten Will Get Better
The Big Ten had one of it’s most uninspiring years in recent memory, and thanks to Ohio State’s ineligibility, a 7-5 Wisconsin team could go to the Rose Bowl.
But as they say, what goes down must come up. The Big Ten should improve towards the mean and give the Buckeyes more competitive games next season.
The proof is in the experience. Nebraska has a chance to end 2012 on a high note with an 11-2 campaign and a Rose Bowl win. They could take that momentum and to-be senior Taylor Martinez with high hopes to repeat in the Leaders Division.
Michigan and Wisconsin will lose their most-notable names on their respective rosters in Denard Robinson and Montee Ball, but the next man up shouldn’t miss a beat.
Wolverine’s quarterback Devin Gardner has filled in admirably for Robinson down the stretch, while James White looks to be a worthy replacement in the Badgers backfield. These teams will always give the Buckeyes tough games and could spring an upset any year.
Michigan State, among others, should rise from the middle of the division and challenge Ohio State as they once did.
Never fear though, Buckeye fans: This will help the team’s overall perception. A stronger conference gives them a better reputation with voters as they fill out their ballots in 2013.
Reconstructing Their Defensive Line
The Buckeyes bring back a ton of starters overall, except for one key position group in the trench: the defensive line. They lose three seniors in DT John Simon, DE Nathan Williams and NT Garrett Goebel.
Much of the Buckeyes’ success this season has hinged on their defense and whether it can give opponents fits through the pass rush.
That won’t change next year, with a whole season for Big Ten teams to watch the film of Urban Meyer’s squad and dissect how they can be beat.
With an undefeated record to their name, teams will give the Buckeyes their best shot and test this defense where they’re inexperienced.
Underclassmen Steve Miller, J.T. Hale and Joel Hale will have to grow up fast to continue this team’s history of defensive excellence for Buckeye Nation, or they’ll be swept under the rug behind the memory of the 2012 team.
Mike Shiekman is a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow his college football ramblings and random thoughts of 140 characters @TheRealShiek