Urban Meyer and Ohio State will have several advantages over much of the college football world in the 2013 season.
Thanks to the talent remaining from Jim Tressel's teams and the recruits that Meyer himself has brought in, there will be plenty of talent on the Buckeyes' roster. Including a QB that fits perfectly into Meyer's spread offense.
But the biggest advantage for Meyer and his 2013 Buckeyes will be the friendly schedule.
Ohio State opens their 2013 campaign against the Buffalo Bulls. The Bulls return their top passer, rusher and receiver from 2012, but even with the game being a homecoming for QB and Youngstown native Alex Zordich, it's doubtful Buffalo will present much of a challenge.
Next up the Buckeyes will take on San Diego State, a team coming off a 9-4 season. While the Aztecs may be better than Buffalo, Week 2 should give the young Buckeyes defense another week to feel good about themselves.
Gene Smith has tried to schedule one tough game every season against a top-tier opponent. This season that was supposed to be Cal, but the Golden Bears have fallen on hard times. At least the Buckeyes will get to experience a road game before conference play. Ohio State will also get used to traveling west, something they will be looking to do in early January.
The fourth game against Florida A&M should be the Buckeyes' easiest win of the season. It should be noted that Ohio State had Vanderbilt on the schedule, but Vanderbilt cancelled their trip to Columbus.
Conference Schedule—Inter-divisional Games
Meyer and Ohio State dodge Nebraska and Michigan State, which should be a positive, since the Cornhuskers and Spartans will likely be the favorites to win the Legends Division.
The only negative is that the Buckeyes will be on the road for two of their three inter-divisional games. The second week of conference play could be the sneakiest matchup of the season—Ohio State travels to Evanston, Ill. to play what should be Pat Fitzgerald's best Northwestern squad.
Kirk Ferentz and Iowa won't be expected to do much in 2013, but that seems to be when the Hawkeyes are the most dangerous. Fortunately, this game is in Ohio Stadium.
The Buckeyes will close out their regular season against Michigan, which by the end of the year could be a tough game considering the young Wolverines will have 11 games under their belt. They could possibly spoil the Buckeyes' national title hopes.
Conference Schedule—Divisional Games
The Leaders Division, which was "won" by a five-loss Wisconsin team last season, could be weaker in 2013 than it was in 2012.
The Wisconsin Badgers will have to replace Montee Ball and some offensive linemen, but that's never been a problem. But with a new coach, it will be interesting to see if Gary Andersen can keep the consistent Badgers near the top of the conference.
After their unexpected performance in 2012, it wouldn't be wise to short-change the Nittany Lions. However, anything over .500 would have to be a success, and not many .500 teams should be able to compete with Ohio State.
The Indiana schools both gave the Buckeyes a run for their money in 2012. Indiana is improving and could do it again. Purdue has a new coaching staff and is rebuilding, but the Ohio State has a tendency to struggle against the Boilermakers, especially in West Lafayette.
Illinois finished their 2-10 season with eight straight loses, with only one win over a FBS school. It's hard to imagine that a team that struggled so mightily would come back the next year and upset a top-ranked Ohio State.
The saving grace in terms of strength of schedule could come in the conference championship, where the Buckeyes could end up meeting Nebraska or Michigan State. It would certainly help Ohio State if one of those two played their way into the top 10 prior to the Big Ten Championship.
Which game is Ohio State most likely to lose in 2013?
Ohio State will be breaking in a brand-new front seven on defense, other than Ryan Shazier. The non-conference schedule should give Luke Fickell and Everett Withers a chance to break in their new starters before Big Ten play.
In conference play, the Buckeyes won't have back-to-back weeks on the road. That's partially due to a bye week in between trips to Purdue and Illinois.
The only possible negative for Meyer could be that the schedule could end up so weak that an undefeated Buckeye team could get left out of a national title. But it's hard to imagine an Ohio State team on a 25-game winning streak getting left out.
Meyer and the Buckeyes are a long way away from a 13-0 season, but with the advantage of likely being favored in every game, they will have a chance to go undefeated in back-to-back seasons.