Expectations are always high in Columbus for the Buckeyes. This year marks the biggest set of expectations yet for Ohio State, even with a questionable and undisciplined offseason at best.
At face value the expectations are not unreasonable. Ohio State was the only team to go undefeated last year and is returning 13 starters on both sides of the ball. The team is already ranked No. 2 overall in the USA Today coaches poll as a result. Quarterback Braxton Miller is a serious contender for the Heisman Trophy.
Yet, it may be best to temper those high expectations.
The Buckeyes had an iffy offseason marred by off-field issues with key players that shows a certain level of immaturity. Perhaps Ohio State is simply not ready for a serious national championship push this year.
Star running back Carlos Hyde, after acting as the team's leading scorer last season and falling just 30 yards short of a 1,000-yard campaign, will now miss at least the first three games of the season. Hyde is one of a host of others out the first game of the season, per Ben Axelrod of Yahoo! Sports:
Between Carlos Hyde, Bradley Roby, Marcus Baugh, and Rod Smith, at least four Buckeyes have been suspended for the team's opener vs. Buffalo— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) August 17, 2013
The defensive side of the football has recently taken a major hit as well with cornerback Bradley Roby being slapped with a one-game suspension by head coach Urban Meyer for an arrest in July resulting in misdemeanor charges of assaulting a bar bouncer.
The worst part about Roby's suspension? Meyer may not be done yet, as he told the media, per USA Today, that "I don't think it's done yet...He'll be suspended one game just because there's an issue. I'll make a further determination once...I don't think it's done."
The chargers against Roby have been recently reduced to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, according to Bruce Feldman on Twitter, but the fact remains—Meyer may not be done with Roby just yet.
Meyer is right to take such a stiff stance with his players. The team will not suffer a lot without four of its important players in the season opener against Buffalo. But if he wants the Buckeyes to have a serious shot at a title, he's going to need to take control of the locker room.
The good news for Meyer and Co. is next year's schedule itself is a bit soft. Outside of an underrated tough matchup in Week 6 when the Buckeyes have to take on Northwestern on the road, the main source of concern should stem from the year-ending matchup with Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Offensively, the team can get by without Hyde, especially early in the year. With both Hyde and Rod Smith missing time, other backs on the roster will have the chance to step up.
Once again the focal point will be on Miller and his pursuit of the Heisman. After throwing for over 2,000 yards and rushing for over 1,000 more, Miller finished fifth in Heisman voting a year ago.
As Chris Huston of HeismanPundit.com points out, Miller's ability to lead the Buckeyes to an undefeated mark again will play a large role in his Heisman chances:
No.1 thing going for Braxton Miller's Heisman hopes is the good possibility he'll be 25-0 as a starter when the vote comes due.— Chris Huston (@HeismanPundit) August 12, 2013
Defensively, the Buckeyes will miss Roby. That said, the duo of defensive ends Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, both rising stars with high ceilings, will help keep the defense playing at an elite level. That's especially the case with proven linebackers like Ryan Shazier cleaning up anything that gets past them.
All signs on the field point toward Ohio State going undefeated again, but it is the off-field discipline that has to be stellar in order for it to translate into on-field success.
The elite talent has to actually be on the field for the Buckeyes to make some noise. Meyer can excel at bringing on elite talent all he wants (he even just landed elite running back recruit Curtis Samuel, per Fox Sports), but if he cannot keep the talent in line and on the field, then his tenure with the team will be a disappointment.
Do you agree with Urban Meyer's message via suspensions?
Meyer is doing his part by handing out the suspensions. An unusual amount of criticism has been leveled his way as of late thanks to the Aaron Hernandez saga. He can help silence the critics by putting an end to the issues in Columbus.
The message Meyer was attempting to send with the suspensions better be loud and clear to his players, which was his main objective as he told further told the media:
That's our job. They've been told...There's two ways (to punish them): Take their money or take their playing time. If it was early summer I'd take all their scholarships, but it's the end of summer so we'll just take all their playing time away.
A championship run is in the cards if players get in line with Meyer's authority. If not, 2013 could go down as nothing more than a disappointment after a ridiculous amount of buildup.
Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling