Ohio State is expected to be one of the powerhouses of college football once again in 2013, with bowl sanctions lifted and an explosive offense powered by Heisman Trophy contender Braxton Miller.
But how is a team that went undefeated a year ago supposed to be better?
Now that the Buckeyes are bowl eligible, we will find out how well they respond to tangible pressure with something more than pride to play for.
They have a shot to finally play in the Big Ten Championship Game and possibly a BCS bowl by season's end, but an undefeated season once again is a lot to ask.
There is still plenty to like about the Buckeyes' chances based largely on their returning talent and their schedule. They went undefeated a year ago and will replace Michigan State and Nebraska as crossover games with Northwestern and Iowa, meaning the schedule difficulty is going to dip quite a bit.
Road games at Cal, Northwestern and, of course, Michigan will present challenges all their own for this team, and it's conceivable that it could drop one of those.
Looking ahead at the schedule, a good over/under for the Buckeyes' regular-season win total would be about 10.5.
While the Buckeyes are one of the elite teams in the country on paper this season, remember also that they also struggled through portions of 2012, including needing overtime to beat Purdue and Wisconsin, plus giving up over 40 points to Indiana.
The team had its share of limitations that made its record a tad deceiving, although OSU without a doubt earned its perfect record.
It was the last undefeated team in the country but wasn't the best last year either.
Those weaknesses, particularly on defense, aren't going to get better overnight, and it doesn't help that only one starter in the front seven—linebacker Ryan Shazier—is back.
Luckily, nine offensive starters return for the Buckeyes, including Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, who combined to rush for over 2,200 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2012. The offense does need to improve its ability to throw the ball, which should come with Miller's continued development along with veteran receivers and the addition of talented game-breakers from this year's freshman class.
Based on the schedule, only a handful of games can be considered games where the Buckeyes won't be very heavily favored, including the three aforementioned road games and the Week 5 home game under the lights against Wisconsin.
The Badgers may have a new coach in Gary Andersen, but they always play the Buckeyes tough and shut down Miller quite effectively last season in Camp Randall. This game will very likely decide who wins the Leaders Division this season.
Penn State and Purdue will be tricky as well because of how well those teams have historically played the Buckeyes, but there's no reason to think that OSU won't be favored quite a bit.
The reality to most experts when it comes to OSU is that barring any letdowns in year two of Urban Meyer's era or major injuries, double-digit wins in the regular season and a Big Ten title are the expectations. Anything else would be a disappointment.
So for now, Ohio State's over/under on wins in the regular season should be about 10.5.
Injuries can certainly alter this number, but it seems like it could be solid because of what OSU accomplished last year and what it has ahead of itself on the schedule.
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