After finishing a perfect 12-0 last season, Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes have their sights set on a Big Ten title in 2013.
The Buckeyes were under a postseason ban in 2012. Now they have an opportunity to storm through the Big Ten en route to the conference championship...and beyond.
The expectations are enormous in Columbus. Nine starters will return on offense, including electric dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller, four offensive linemen, lead running back Carlos Hyde Jr. and top receivers Philly Brown and Devin Smith.
On top of that, Meyer has once again produced a stunning recruiting class, ranked No. 2 in the nation by 247Sports.com.
On offense, receivers Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson, James Clark and Corey Smith—as well as running back Ezekiel Elliott—could all push the starters come August. They are all 4-star recruits.
And while Ohio State loses a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball—including defensive linemen Johnathan Hankins and John Simon and linebackers Etienne Sabino and Zach Boren—the Buckeyes still have star linebacker Ryan Shazier and sport a secondary that could make life mighty difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
Junior cornerback Bradley Roby should contend for the Thorpe Award—given to the best defensive back in the country—and senior safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett enter their third seasons as starters. Junior Doran Grant probably has the inside track to the other starting cornerback spot.
Of course, the slew of talented defensive recruits figure to press the upperclassmen for playing time. There will be plenty of competition from the 2011 class to the 2013 class.
Four-star cornerbacks Eli Apple and Cam Burrows are early enrollees. Five-star safety Vonn Bell, the cream of the crop, will definitely make his presence felt in August. So will defensive end Joey Bosa.
Don't forget about 4-star linebackers Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson.
There is a ton of depth on Ohio State's roster, which only makes the team better. There may be holes on defense right now, but the best talent will rise to the top by the end of camp. One thing's for sure: everybody's going to be looking over their shoulders.
After a successful campaign and a wealth of options for Meyer and company to use on both sides of the ball, it would be shocking if Ohio State didn't win the Big Ten title in 2013. In fact, it would be a disappointment.