Setting reasonable goals can be difficult for an Ohio State team that went undefeated last season. Expectations have reached new levels, and the media is hyping things up like nobody's business.
Ohio State is going to play the SEC Champion in the BCS National Championship Game!
Let's pump the breaks and let the games play out before that talk begins surfacing. The Buckeyes still have to iron out a few wrinkles and handle a tricky Big Ten schedule before booking a flight to the Rose Bowl.
Reasonable goals never hurt anybody.
Top-Two Offense in the Big Ten
If you thought this offense was good last season, wait until things unravel this year. The Buckeyes return nine starters from a unit that finished third in the Big Ten, averaging 423 yards per game.
Quarterback Braxton Miller will be a lot more comfortable in his second season under Urban Meyer. The backfield is deeper than it was last season. Three of the top four receivers return. There is also a respectable offensive line, with three of the four returning starters earning at least honorable mention All-Big Ten.
Miller was great at making plays with his legs and improved his completion percentage by 4.2 percent. He will have no problem taking that next step.
Another thing that helps him is the depth in the backfield. Carlos Hyde, Rod Smith, Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball will split carries and help relieve some of the pressure. Miller will no longer need to make every play like he often found himself doing a year ago. The offensive line should also provide better protection after allowing 29 sacks.
Ohio State was solid offensively, but should be more potent with key players returning and another year in the system.
More Consistent Pass Rush
The Buckeyes racked up 30 sacks, which was good enough for fourth in the conference, but those numbers can be misleading. John Simon and Ryan Shazier were the only players generating consistent pressure. The team also finished four games with fewer than two sacks, including a two-game stretch (Indiana and Purdue) with zero.
An improved pass rush is on the way.
A combination of Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence has the potential to become the best 1-2 defensive-end punch in the country. Of course, it would take a while to prove such a claim, but the pure athleticism and speed coming off the edge is scary. Michael Bennett and Tommy Schutt in the middle at defensive tackle is a lot to deal with and will make others' jobs that much easier.
There is a lot of young blood on the defensive front, but it is quicker and possesses more upside. Topping 30 sacks and possibly leading the Big Ten in the category is a reasonable goal for this group.
Huh? No running the table?
How many games does Ohio State win?
There isn't a football team around that can reasonably set a goal of an undefeated record. Even Alabama fans can find a possible loss or two on their schedule. Is it possible the Buckeyes finish with back-to-back undefeated seasons? Sure. But it is far from a reasonable goal.
Only four BCS programs have finished undefeated since 2005.
While some consider the Big Ten schedule to be a joke, the Buckeyes do have tough matchups against Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan. You can also count California, Northwestern and Indiana as potential sleepers.
The Buckeyes are overwhelming favorites to win the Big Ten and compete for a national championship. However, they will still have a shot to accomplish that with one loss.