The Ohio State Buckeyes finished a perfect 12-0 last season and Urban Meyer needs his X-factors to shine through for his team to finish with a perfect record yet again this season.
Last season, quarterback Braxton Miller led an explosive offense to new heights. While he was a difference-maker in 2012 and is still immensely important this season, he won't be an X-factor. He's expected to build off his great showing and lead the Buckeyes in their hunt for a national title.
Meyer has turned the Buckeyes into one of the scariest teams in the nation. His offense is potent and his defense is tough. Meyer has young players playing big-time roles and veteran players acting as the perfect mentors.
He's built a stellar program at Ohio State, and now it's time to add some hardware to show off the hard work.
If the Buckeyes want to take down perennial powerhouse Alabama this season and compete for a national title, then they'll need everybody to perform at their best. With their X-factors firing on all cylinders, the Buckeyes are difficult for any team in the nation to beat.
These X-factors will decide the fate of Ohio State's upcoming season.
Ohio State is lucky enough to be bringing back much of its secondary for this upcoming season. The team released an initial depth chart on Tuesday, and it's no surprise to see the likely starters.
At cornerback, Doran Grant and Armani Reeves will start opposite each other. Grant played in all 25 of the team's games over the past two seasons, while Reeves played in six games as a true freshman last season.
Their knowledge of the defensive schemes and expectations will help ease their transition into starting roles.
At the safety positions, Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett return to reprise their roles on the team. Bryant, the free safety, is a senior who started all 12 games for the Buckeyes last season. Barnett is a fifth-year senior that has started 24 of the 32 games he has played for Ohio State.
This type of veteran presence on defense will be huge for the Buckeyes. They will be able to capitalize on errant passes that are forced by the strong defensive line.
With a line headlined by Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, having a steady secondary is key.
If the secondary can secure some takeaways and deflect passes, then there will be no stopping the Buckeyes. With such a potent defensive scheme up front, all the secondary needs to do is play good coverage and get its hands on the football.
The H-Back Position
Meyer's hybrid running back/wide receiver position has been a key to his offensive game plans ever since his time at the University of Florida.
Percy Harvin made the position famous and he can still be seen filling the same role in the NFL.
Last season, the Buckeyes were overpowered at times at the line of scrimmage by defenses putting several men in the box. Meyer lacked a guy with the abilities to fill the H-back position, so the team was susceptible to these defensive setups.
Not having a Harvin-like player prevented Ohio State from being even more explosive. A player like Harvin can line up all over the field and wreak havoc on defensive coordinators. Players like that can catch, run, break tackles and find running lanes.
Without that type of player on offense, Meyer's team lacked a familiar spark.
Bringing that position back to prominence will be a key for this upcoming season. If he can find a capable player to fill the role, then it wouldn't be out of the question to see the Buckeyes make a run at Alabama.
Nick Saban's team is the favorite yet again after winning its second straight national title last season. Meyer will most assuredly be looking to change that.
He'll need an H-back to do that, though, as Alabama is simply too stacked in all areas for Ohio State to attempt to match up. The team will need an extra element to take the Crimson Tide down, and that could be the H-back.
Dontre Wilson, RB
Dontre Wilson is the player that is likely going to fill the H-back role for Meyer and his ability to play there will be perhaps the biggest key to the team's season.
Ohio State can certainly be successful without the H-back, but what Wilson brings to the table could be the difference between a 12-0 team and a 12-0 team with a national title.
Jordan Hall was expected to be the guy last season, but injuries have changed the team's expectations for him moving forward. He's a talented player that fits the requirements for the H-back perfectly, but Wilson is the best bet this season.
He's healthy, explosive and ready to contribute on offense.
Which X-factor is the biggest key to Ohio State's success?
Wilson is a true freshman, which usually doesn't bode well for players at big-time schools like Ohio State. He's got veteran talent, though. During team workouts and training camps, Wilson has shown off his great hands and fantastic speed with the football.
Miller, the team's offensive leader, told Rob Ogden of The-OZone.net that Wilson "better be starting" this season. If that's any indication of how good he is, then Meyer may have found his next Harvin.
An offense that already led the Big Ten in scoring last season will be even more potent if Wilson lives up to the hype. Opposing defenses, beware. Ohio State is looking to go for it all this season.