There is talk in Columbus that this is the year. This is the year when all the near-misses come to an end. This is the year that all the talent comes to fruition. This is the year that Ohio State will hoist the BCS trophy when it is all said and done.
To be fair, there is a bit of an argument to be made for them. Their schedule looks winnable. The Buckeyes finally got a big monkey off their back when they popped Oregon in the Rose Bowl on New Years. The holy triumvirate is gone, with Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, and Sam Bradford headed to the NFL ranks.
Not so fast. There are some significant hurdles that stand between Ohio State and BCS glory. Here they are.
Most of the early season slate in Columbus is deliciously easy. The first four games are at home and include Marshall, Ohio, and Eastern Michigan. In the midst of that, however, week two is a different story. The Miami Hurricanes are headed to the Horseshoe.
Ohio State is thought to be the team that's already there. Common logic states that they'll handle the Hurricanes with ease. Actually, Miami is an emerging team. Or, they're a team headed back towards their prior status. Whatever take you have on it, they'll be better in 2010 than they were in 2009.
The Hurricanes of last year beat some teams they weren't supposed to beat, namely Florida State in the opener, Georgia Tech, and Oklahoma. This game falls into that same category. A Miami win would be an upset, but not a huge one.
The "X" factor for Miami is at quarterback. Jacory Harris isn't near the scrambler that Terrelle Pryor is, but he does have a more accurate arm. In Miami's wins a year ago, Harris was stellar. In their losses, he was a mindless, interception throwing machine.
We'll see which Jacory Harris shows up in Week Two.
The same schedule that could provide the Buckeyes with a two, one, or no-loss season could also work against them. Besides the showdown (at home) with Miami, there is little risk in the rest of the out of conference schedule.
Granted, schedules are set years in advance. There was no way of knowing whether Marshall, Ohio, or Eastern Michigan would be less than stellar opponents or world-beaters when the contracts were signed on these games. Then again, common sense reigns supreme...
The big problem is that Ohio State just can't count on the Big Ten in terms of providing them with quality games during the conference season. Penn State, Wisconsin, and Iowa will be the marquee games late in the year. Other than that, the slate looks pretty lame.
If there's a logjam at the top of the rankings at the end of the year with undefeated or one-loss teams, who will get the votes? Remember, the polls are still part of the dreaded BCS formula.
Watch out. The Iowa Hawkeyes may be the team to beat in the Big Ten.
Ohio State escaped narrowly last year in Columbus. There were several trends that might be disturbing, if you are pulling for the scarlet and gray.
Iowa came back from a 24-10 deficit with a little more than 11 minutes left to knot the contest. It took a field goal in overtime to clinch it for the home team.
Iowa was able to hang in without their starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi, as a 17-point underdog, on the road, in a game that was to clinch a Rose Bowl berth for the Buckeyes.
This year the teams meet up in Iowa City, on Nov. 20. Chances are there will be a conference title on the line. As there is no Big Ten title game, this matchup may well be the most important of the year.
Let's say that Ohio State does make it to the BCS Championship game. At that point, a national championship is anything but assured.
Chances are, they're going to see a team from the SEC waiting for them. There are four teams from the SEC that could well be in that spot. Alabama and Florida are the obvious choices. LSU and Auburn are longshots, but you never know...
Rules are made to be broken, but there has never been an Ohio State has never beaten a team from the SEC in a bowl game. They've certainly had their shots.
Winning a national championship by beating a team from the SEC would erase a lot of ghosts. It would go a long way towards building the myth of Jim Tressel and restore a lot of luster to the Big Ten as a whole.
Let's put it this way. The road won't be easy.