Ohio State may have gone undefeated in 2012 despite having an entirely new coaching staff headed up by Urban Meyer, but that task will actually be more difficult to accomplish in 2013.
The argument that Ohio State can go undefeated again simply because it was good enough to do so a year ago is inherently flawed. It ignores that players regress, opposition adapts and improves, injuries occur, and—perhaps most importantly—anything can happen on the field.
Sure, Ohio State looks like a powerhouse, and it probably will be. The Buckeyes were named the No. 2 team in the nation by both the AP poll and the USA Today college football coaches poll.
On paper, the Buckeyes' schedule does not look all that formidable, but fans know it cannot (or should not) be judged that way. Here are three trap games that could put an end to the Buckeyes' pursuit of perfection.
Nov. 2: At Purdue
Scoff away, but the Purdue Boilermakers have Ohio State's number, and an upset is going to happen sooner or later.
When the two teams met in 2011, Ohio State left Ross–Ade Stadium with a loss of 26-23. Last season, the seemingly dominant Buckeyes needed overtime to beat a Purdue squad that would go on to post a 6-7 record with just three wins in the Big Ten.
In Ohio Stadium.
That doesn't necessarily mean Purdue will pull out a win in 2013, but the Boilermakers aren't slouches heading into the season. A new offense and culture are in place under Darrell Hazell, and Ohio State is the highlight of the schedule.
Combine all of that with the fact that the Purdue contest comes after what should be a tough visit from Penn State, and this matchup has all the makings of a perfect trap game.
Oct. 5: At Northwestern Wildcats
For its first conference road game of the season, Ohio State must travel to Ryan Field for the first time since 2008.
This isn't the Northwestern squad that got beat down 45-10 back in 2008.
The Wildcats won 10 games last season as the program continued to flourish under head coach Pat Fitzgerald. Oh, and they lost two of three games by just one possession. They're also returning 15 starters from a year ago, including sack artist Tyler Scott.
Northwestern went 6-1 in Evanston last year, and the Buckeyes have to make the trip after a potentially lethal encounter with Wisconsin. Urban Meyer and Co. better not overlook the Wildcats.
Nov. 30: At Michigan Wolverines
If Ohio State can somehow survive its encounters with Wisconsin and Northwestern and avoid overlooking Purdue, things should go pretty smoothly for Braxton Miller and Co. the rest of the way.
Until the last week of the season, of course.
Ohio State has won eight of its past nine games against Michigan. But remember: The one blemish came when the Buckeyes traveled to Ann Arbor in 2011.
If the Buckeyes can run the table this year, targets will weigh heavily on their backs in hostile territory. This is a Michigan team that lost to Ohio State by only five points a year ago in Columbus.
Talent exodus or not, this road game could put a trip to the championship on the line for Ohio State.
The pursuit of perfection for the second straight season will be supremely tested in Ann Arbor.
Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling