Big Ten Football: Top 5 Programs with a Chance to Topple Ohio State in 2013
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The Ohio State Buckeyes were one of the nation's top teams in 2012 and finished the season with a 12-0 record, which is something only the Scarlet and Grey and Notre Dame Fighting Irish were able to do this year.
Sophomore dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde will lead Ohio State's offense once again in 2013 in Urban Meyer's second season with the Buckeyes and the defense will find a way to be formidable despite losing key playmakers in Johnathan Hankins and John Simon.
There are five programs who have a legitimate chance at taking down the Buckeyes next season. They've all been ranked based upon their success against Ohio State this season, their returning talent along with the actual likelihood any one of them will be able to top Miller and Co.
Click ahead to find out which five Big Ten teams have the best chance at knocking off the Buckeyes next fall!
5. Indiana Hoosiers
The Indiana Hoosiers showed great promise in 2012 under second-year head coach Kevin Wilson.
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This one is probably a surprise to several readers, but the Indiana Hoosiers made a large leap forward in 2012 under second-year head coach Kevin Wilson. Believe it or not the Cream and Crimson have a legitimate chance to defeat the Ohio State Buckeyes next season.
The Hoosiers' fourth-quarter comeback came up just short in Bloomington this season, but nevertheless, Indiana took the Buckeyes to the wire in a 52-49 shootout.
Indiana averaged 442 total yards and just under 31 points per game this year and will return a trio of experienced quarterbacks along with virtually all of its offensive contributors from a team that finished with a 4-8 overall record.
Wilson's team struggled to say the least on the defensive side of the ball, which will give ample opportunities to three 4-star prospects to contribute early.
The Buckeyes and Hoosiers will do battle at Ohio Stadium on Nov. 23 in what will likely be another back-and-forth affair.
4. Michigan State Spartans
The Michigan State Spartans have given the Ohio State Buckeyes fits over the last two seasons.
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The Michigan State Spartans will not clash with the Ohio State Buckeyes in the regular season, but the Green and White have a favorable schedule, which could propel them to a Big Ten Conference Legends Division title and set up a pivotal clash with the Scarlet and Grey in Indianapolis.
Although the Spartans finished 6-6 this season, they were never out of a Big Ten game and lost five conference tilts by a combined 13 points, including a 17-16 heartbreaker against Ohio State in East Lansing.
Head coach Mark Dantonio's team will be one of the top defensive squads in the county once again in 2013 with middle linebacker Max Bullough leading the way for the Spartans. Their offense has the potential to give the Buckeyes fits if junior running back Le'veon Bell returns for his senior season.
Michigan State contained sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller for the most part and will have another solid game plan in place to slow him down once again if the Spartans and Buckeyes meet in at Lucas Oil Stadium next season with a Big Ten title on the line.
3. Northwestern Wildcats
Could the Northwestern Wildcats top Ohio State in 2013?
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After a four-year absence from one another's respective schedule, the Northwestern Wildcats and Ohio State Buckeyes will get together on the gridiron for an early-October tilt at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois.
The Wildcats finished the 2012 campaign with a 9-3 record. Two of their three losses came on the road against the Michigan Wolverines and the Penn State Nittany Lions. Northwestern's only other defeat came in a 29-28 contest against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who went on to win the Legends Division.
Ohio State has defeated Northwestern each of the last four times the two have played, though this is going to be a much different Wildcats team than the Buckeyes are used to seeing.
Speedy running back Venric Mark will give Ohio State's defense fits, while Northwestern's quarterback duo of Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian return along with its top-three receivers.
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has rebuilt Northwestern to what it once was at the peak of Randy Walker's tenure with the Wildcats, and the Purple, Black and White will be hungry to prove themselves against a top-notch opponent like the Buckeyes.
Much like the Indiana Hoosiers, Northwestern is going to struggle to contain Braxton Miller, but the Wildcats will pile up points against Ohio State in what should be one of the best Big Ten games in 2013.
2. Wisconsin Badgers
The three-time defending Big Ten champs have a legitimate shot at taking down Ohio State in 2013.
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One of the Big Ten's most exciting rivalries as of late has been between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Wisconsin Badgers—who are the three-time defending conference champions.
The Badgers will bring back all but four starters on the defensive side of the ball and only three offensive players are out of eligibility after the 2013 Rose Bowl.
Senior running back Montee Ball has helped make Wisconsin's rushing offense one of the nation's best, but junior James White is more than ready to replace the NCAA's all-time total touchdown leader. Freshman Melvin Gordon showed great promise this season with 570 yards and three touchdowns on 57 carries.
Wisconsin's defense limited Braxton Miller to a mere 145 yards of total offense in its 21-14 overtime loss to the Buckeyes at Camp Randall Stadium, so the Badgers have the talent to slow down one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country.
New head coach Gary Andersen will clash with Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes on Sept. 28th at the Horseshoe to open Big Ten play, and the Badgers should put a scare into Ohio State for a second straight year.
1, Michigan Wolverines
The Michigan Wolverines will give the Buckeyes all they can handle in Ann Arbor next season.
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The No. 1 threat to the Ohio State Buckeyes next season is none other than their arch-rival, the Michigan Wolverines—who will be out to avenge their 26-21 loss in Columbus this season.
The Maize and Blue will be without at least three starting offensive linemen and prolific dual-threat quarterback Denard Robinson in 2013, but the Wolverines will finally have an accurate passer with Devin Gardner under center.
The Wolverines played several newcomers in 2012 and will see several freshmen play in critical games next year as well.
What Michigan will lack on offense, it will make up for on the defensive side of the ball with a talented group of linebackers returning—headlined by redshirt sophomore Jake Ryan, in addition to an improving corps of defensive linemen and a secondary that will benefit from the return of injured sophomore cornerback Blake Countess.
Head coach Brady Hoke will have the Wolverines ready for The Game, which will be on Nov. 30, and Michigan will look to top the Buckeyes for a second straight time in Ann Arbor.
The two storied rivals could also meet for a second time in the Big Ten title game if both are able to win their respective divisions, which would give the Wolverines a second opportunity to topple Ohio State next season.