Ohio State Football: Which Big Ten Teams Should Scare the Buckeyes in 2013
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Thanks to players like Braxton Miller and John Simon—the offensive and defensive Big Ten Player of the Year, respectively—Ohio State went from 6-7 to 12-0.
Under Jim Tressel, the Buckeyes went 64-14 with seven conference titles—three outright and four shared. In Ohio State's first season without Tressel, the Buckeyes went 3-5 in Big Ten play, the worst conference record since 1999.
But don't let the 8-0 conference record fool you; Ohio State didn't dominate its Big Ten foes. The Buckeyes won their eight conference games by an average of 11 points, but won five of their games by a TD or less.
While Meyer and the Buckeyes will likely enter the 2013 season as the favorite to win the conference, they are certainly not untouchable. In fact, there are five teams in the conference that should scare the 2013 Buckeyes.
James White is experience and should be able to step in for Montee Ball.
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Ohio State doesn't play a tough non-conference schedule and will be coming off a game against Florida A&M when the Badgers come to Columbus.
But with QB Joel Stave returning from injury, James White and Melvin Gordon returning as a solid one-two punch in the backfield and Jared Abbrederis at receiver, the Badgers will be able to score.
On defense, the Badgers will once again be led by Ohioan Chris Borland at linebacker and will once again be solid against the run.
The Badgers' defensive coaching staff laid the blueprint to slowing Braxton Miller late in 2012. If they can do it again—if they even stay in Madison—the Buckeyes' season could be derailed early.
Kain Colter (2) and Venric Mark (5) will give the Wildcats a chance to beat the Buckeyes.
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Pat Fitzgerald has been building Northwestern since he took over in 2006, and 2013 might be the year the Wildcats can get over the hump and compete for a Big Ten title.
The Wildcats will have some advantages going into that game; they will be at home and will be coming off a bye week. Meanwhile, Ohio State will be coming off a physical battle against Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, the Wildcat defense will also lean heavily on linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo and safety Ibraheim Campbell to try to slow down the Buckeyes offense.
Northwestern hasn't played Ohio State since 2008 and hasn't beat the Buckeyes since 2004. The win in 2004 snapped a 24-game losing streak to Ohio State that started from 1971.
If Northwestern can snap its current four-game skid to Ohio State, it might just catapult itself toward a BCS bowl.
Chris Fields celebrates his late game TD catch against the Boilermakers.
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In this seven-game run, the Buckeyes are a mere 1-3 in West Lafayette.
Purdue will have to replace both its QBs, as well as All-Big Ten defensive tackle Kawann Short, but lately, it doesn't seem to matter who the Boilermakers line up, they always seem to give the Buckeyes a tough game.
Devin Gardner sparked Michigan's offense after the injury to Denard Robinson.
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The 2013 season will be a huge season for Brady Hoke and the Wolverines. They will no longer be able to lean on the playmaking ability of Denard Robinson to overcome shortcomings in other areas.
It will also be Michigan's first year with a more pro-style offense. In Hoke's first two seasons, the running game has been predicated on Robinson running or being the decoy.
In 2013, the Wolverines will need a runner to emerge as a go-to back like Mike Hart was for four seasons at Michigan. Fitzgerald Toussaint was expected to be the guy, but a late-season broken leg may hurt his chances.
But with Ohio State being the last game on the schedule for the Wolverines, they will have plenty of time to figure out their offense and work in replacements on their defense before "The Game."
Michigan will have home-field advantage in this game and will be battle-tested come November 30. This matchup could decide the winner of one or both divisions in the Big Ten.
Big Ten Championship Game (Nebraska or Michigan State)
Nebraska's Taylor Martinez was able to led the Cornhuskers over the Spartans in 2012.
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The Michigan Wolverines and Northwestern Wildcats will certainly have something to say about who wins the Legends Division in the Big Ten.
But since they are both already on Ohio State's schedule, the Buckeyes don't need to be scared of them twice.
However, the Cornhuskers and Spartans are not on the Buckeyes' schedule in 2013, which may be a good thing for the Buckeyes, because both teams suffered tough losses to Ohio State in 2012.
The Spartans, who will return most of their key players, although running back Le'Veon Bell, tight end Dion Sims and defensive end William Gholston may opt to declare for the NFL, lost to Ohio State by one in 2012.
While the Cornhuskers were embarrassed 63-38 when they visited Ohio State, the 2012 Legends Division champs return QB Taylor Martinez and all-purpose back Ameer Abdullah, but will have to reload on the defensive side of the ball.
The November 16 matchup between these two teams in Lincoln could be tough for Nebraska, which will be coming off back-to-back games against Northwestern and Michigan, while the Spartans will be coming off a bye week.