If Urban Meyer thought the coaching job at Florida was stressful, he may need to take another leave of absence after this season, as he is under the most pressure to win in his coaching career.
While the gap between Alabama and the rest of the country is quite large, Ohio State is the closest threat to taking away Nick Saban's crystal football. The Buckeyes were one of three teams in the AP Poll to receive a first-place vote, and the three first-place votes in the USA Today football coaches poll were the second most received.
Nobody cares that this is only Meyer's second season—folks believe he has the goods to win a national championship right now.
And why wouldn't they?
Ohio State has a Heisman candidate in junior quarterback Braxton Miller, who Meyer's said has more talent than Tim Tebow. Yup, the same quarterback who won two national championships at Florida and made Meyer glow from ear-to-ear every time his name was mentioned.
With a second season in Meyer's spread offense, Miller should have no problem being a top-tier quarterback and somebody who consistently scores touchdowns. He'll also have more playmakers around him with nine offensive starters returning and a 2013 recruiting class that includes many players who will make an immediate impact.
The defense is also loaded with young stars, particularly on the defensive line with Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington both expected to play big roles. Ohio State has more than enough talent to win games, but that's not going to be enough for Meyer or his critics.
It's national championship or bust, and that means enormous pressure and a few more gray hairs. Meyer will sleep many nights in his office preparing for games, and that is when he's lucky. Some nights he may not sleep at all. It's a constant grind to make sure your team is in the best position to win every game, and that's what it will take for this season to be considered a success.
But what about an undefeated regular season and a trip to the national championship game?
Is it championship or bust for Ohio State?
Ohio State ran the table last season. It also reached back-to-back national championships in 2006-07 and lost to SEC programs. Meyer was hired to win the big game, not continue down the same path that Jim Tressel left behind. Being runner-up isn't good enough.
And what would an undefeated season mean for Ohio State, anyway?
Yes, not losing a game is impressive and should be respected, but there's a reason many have the Buckeyes finishing 12-0 and qualifying for a trip to Pasadena, Calif. They don't exactly have the toughest schedule in the country. Ohio State will only play three ranked teams in the AP Poll, and all of them are ranked outside the Top 15.
Congratulations on back-to-back undefeated seasons, but nothing has truly been accomplished until Ohio State is declared national champions.
Some may argue that last season was pressure-filled for Meyer, as he was coming out of retirement and had to prove he still had the magic touch to win games. However, Ohio State was banned from participating in a bowl game. The end result was the same, regardless if the Buckeyes won two games or ran the table. If anything, last year's promise set the stage for the gigantic expectations this season.
Meyer has proven to be an elite head coach and has gone toe-to-toe with Saban before. He knows how to build a team that can compete with the big boys in the SEC. He also knows what it takes to win and has done a tremendous job of winning 83 percent of his games in his 11-year coaching career.
Now is the time for Meyer to lead Ohio State back to the glory days of when Woody Hayes was the head coach. It's what everybody expects, and anything less would be considered a failure.
The pressure to win is greater than Meyer has ever experienced.