This is the year for the Buckeyes. If you look at the competition and the way the schedule sets up for Jim Tressel and Ohio State, they have a favorable lineup that could earn them a spot in Glendale, Arizona in early January.
Terrell Pryor is starting to become a dual-threat quarterback who is equally effective throwing the ball in the pocket as he is tucking it and running. Coming in as a true freshman with the expectations he faced, it was a tough stage to have to produce on.
Now, after two years, Pryor is ready for a breakout year and he has the supporting cast that could make this team a national title contender. He was the No. 1 overall recruit out of high school two years ago, and Buckeye nation is expecting him to come up huge this year.
Brandon Saine and Dan Herron will form a one-two punch at tailback. Both have strength and speed to contribute to the running game. Running the football has been a large part of Ohio State's success in recent years. It has given them a formula to win Big Ten championships. At the same time, in the highly featured non-conference games, it has let them down.
This year will be no different when Ohio State plays Miami at home the second week of the season. This is the rematch of the controversial 2002 national title game.
Ever since that game, besides Ohio State getting killed against Florida in the 2007 National Championship 41 to 14, Buckeye nation has dealt with some heartbreaking losses. This season, Ohio State has the experience and coach that could lead them to win a BCS championship.
On defense, look for Cameron Heyward to have a monster year at defensive end. Brian Rolle and Ross Homan are expected to be big-time linebackers in the 4-3 defensive scheme. For Buckeye fans, the optimism of this year has to be that the back seven on defense all returns.
Having a rock solid secondary is something you need to have in order to stop the passing game of opponents. If a team becomes one-dimensional, it is much easier to stop. Tressel realizes this and has his team focused as practice begins.
It's almost guaranteed this team is in the top five in the opening poll. It deserves that ranking and has the schedule that, if they are able to run the table, they will be playing for a national championship.
Ohio State fans desperately want to get revenge for the last time they were playing for a championship in 2007. At the end of the day, there are a few tough games this team is faced with this year.
Their immediate test comes at home September 11 vs. the Miami Hurricanes. After that, their next tough opponent is at Wisconsin October 16th.
The last three games may be as tough a stretch for any team in the nation. Lucky for them, two of the three are at home—November 13 vs. Penn State and November 27 vs. Michigan.
Both of those are big conference rivals and are sure to get a ton of fans rooting for both teams. Those games always mean even more when one of the teams is undefeated, because it's so late in the season. One loss is all it takes.
In my mind, the game that will decide the season is on November 20. That Saturday is when Ohio State goes on the road at Iowa. They have derailed Buckeyes' championship aspirations in the past and it could happen again.
The big difference here is this season I see Iowa as Ohio State's biggest competitor when it comes to the Big Ten crown. Take that into consideration and this battle on November 20 should be one to remember.
Tressel will have his team ready to go. He has to, because he knows that one loss is all it could take with the BCS System.
Ohio State could very well end up playing for the BCS National Championship come January 2011.