Despite the title of my article, in order for the Ohio State Buckeyes to win the 2010 BCS title, all 22 starters, the majority of the second-team players that add depth to each unit, and the players that help to comprise the special teams units (kicker and punter included) will all have to contribute significantly.
That being said, there are three players from the defense and three players from the offense who will individually have the biggest roles in making sure their respective units succeed in ultimately giving the Buckeyes the best chance to win every game up to and including the BCS championship game.
I will reveal them one at a time for your viewing and reading pleasure, after the jump.
A year ago, the Buckeyes had to replace three-time All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis.
Enter Brian Rolle.
Rolle, a senior from Immokalee, Fla., is entering his second season as a starter and a solid middle anchor for the Ohio State defense.
Prior to last season, Rolle was a special teams veteran, having seen significant playing time in that role in both 2007 and 2008.
At just 5'11'' and 220 pounds, Rolle is fast, compact, yet deceivingly powerful when it comes to separating a receiver from the ball.
Rolle was the hero for the Buckeyes last year when he intercepted Navy QB Ricky Dobbs' pass attempt on a two-point conversion and returned it 98 yards for the defensive PAT with just 2:23 remaining to seal the win in the season opener.
For the season, he was the second leading tackler for Ohio State with 94 solo take downs.
He is expected to make key contributions and will bring invaluable senior leadership to a defensive unit once again expected to be the best in the Big 10 and one of the best in the nation.
Homan returns for his senior season and his third as a starter at LB.
If experience truly is priceless, Homan is worth his weight in gold.
In 2006 as a freshman, he was not a starter, but saw action in all 13 games that season and recorded 28 tackles.
He missed the 2007 season due to injury and took a medical redshirt.
When he returned in 2008, he earned a starting role and was fourth in solo tackles that season with 67.
In 2009, Homan assumed the role of the top LB at Ohio State and led the team in tackles with 108.
All signs point to him once again leading the team in tackles and will likely continue the tradition of linebackers from Ohio State finding themselves heading to the NFL.
At 6'0 and 225 pounds, Homan has excellent speed and big-play ability.
All Homan has done is work hard, improve every year, and become the quiet leader of a great defense.
He may not be flashy or have the household name of some of his predecessors, but he's silently as good, if not better.
He is yet another star linebacker in-the-making at Ohio State, the real linebacker U, and opposing QBs and WRs would do well to take note.
The son of the late Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, Cameron Heyward is a 6'5, 290-pound defensive lineman for the Buckeyes.
To the pleasant surprise of many Buckeyes fans, Cam decided to skip the NFL for one more season and return for his senior year...one he intends on making his best season yet.
Heyward has had starting experience since his freshman year of 2007, but he seized that role permanently in 2009.
A year ago, he had 10 tackles for loss and 6.5 QB sacks. With the talent along the defensive line, Heyward will look to post double digits in each of those categories this coming season.
Recently named to the 2010 Nagurski and Lombardi watch lists, Heyward is blessed with size, agility, and excellent speed for his size.
Clearly, he has all the physical tools to be one of the best defensive lineman in the country in 2010.
Saine, now a senior tailback, played high school football and ran track for the Piqua, Ohio, Indians.
He was compared favorably to Reggie Bush while entering his freshman year at Ohio State due to his ability to be a jack of all trades—running, blocking and even spending time in the slot as a WR, which he may also do this season in Columbus due to the depth behind him in the Ohio State backfield.
Saine has been officially timed at 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash, although he has been unofficially timed at 4.25 seconds.
After being stuck in the shadow of Beanie Wells in 2007 and being injured in 2008, Saine was finally healthy for most of the 2009 season. He split carries with Dan Herron, who had impressed coaches in 2008 when Beanie Wells went down with injury, but is expected to be featured more as the top back in 2010.
Last season, Saine finally showed flashes of brilliance and the potential greatness Buckeye fans expected from him when he committed to OSU in 2007.
For those who doubt Saine is a potential top RB, consider that as a healthy featured back during his senior year of high school, he ran for 1,895 yards and scored 27 touchdowns on 259 carries, while recording 30 receptions for 412 yards.
Last year, Saine averaged 5.1 yards per carry while rushing for 739 yards and scoring four touchdowns. He also had 224 yards receiving and caught two touchdown passes.
He will definitely be a featured option for OSU this year and if he stays healthy, he will be one of the top backs in the Big 10.
Not a newsflash: Junior wide receiver DeVier Posey will be the top WR target for Ohio State in 2010.
Posey wasn't always great in 2009, but he was almost always good, improving his game from week to week, culminating in the Rose Bowl with his eight catches and 101 yards receiving, including a picture-perfect touchdown pass and catch to help seal the victory.
Overall, Posey caught 60 balls for 828 yards in 2009. What is best for the team is what matters most, but anything less than 80 receptions and over 1,000 yards receiving in 2010 for Posey will be somewhat of an individual disappointment.
I believe the running game will open up the passing lanes for Posey and those numbers should be attainable.
Dane Sanzenbacher, Taurian Washington, and Chris Fields are also other talented receivers that should help prevent defenses from doubling up on Posey.
Of course, Posey's overall success will also depend heavily on the play of the quarterback...
Surprise, Terrelle can pass too...
Junior QB Terrelle Pryor is clearly the centerpiece of the Ohio State offense and the face of the program.
I wonder if any other quarterback that boasts a 19-3 record as a starter has ever had to face the level of criticism that Pryor has had to endure since taking over for the Buckeyes in week four of his freshmen season.
It's not all negative, though. Pryor is considered by several notable sources as the preseason 2010 Heisman Trophy favorite.
It hasn't always been perfect or pretty, especially when it comes to mechanics and footwork, but this kid is a winner, pure and simple.
As advertised when he was the No. 1 overall recruit in the entire 2008 recruiting class, he's also an amazing freak of an athlete.
It's not often that a 6'6, 240 pound quarterback can run a sub 4.4 40-yard-dash and shove countless would-be-tacklers to the ground.
Defensive coordinators may want to pull their hair out when defending against Pryor and the Buckeyes as 2010 unfolds.
In his 22 career starts, Pryor has amassed 3,405 passing yards, 30 touchdown passes, 1,410 rushing yards, and 13 rushing touchdowns.
With his improved footwork and mechanics, it's safe to expect a similar path for Pryor that Troy Smith took from 2005 to 2006 as Coach Tressel gains more and more confidence in him, just he did Smith.
Pryor came to Ohio State because he wanted to become a pro-style QB and he should take significant steps towards that goal this year. His passing stats are sure to increase and his rushing numbers should decline somewhat.
One thing that is for sure...
He still has the ability to scramble away from pressure and keep a drive alive if need-be, but he is improved and will continue to improve as a passing QB with each passing week. Opposing defenses are going to have few options when it comes to game planning against him.
In closing, I just want to add that I am not guaranteeing or predicting that the Buckeyes are going to win, or even play for the BCS title.
I am only suggesting that they have a very high probability of accomplishing that goal if they remain healthy and the six players I mentioned live up to the hype.
I know I will enjoy the journey no matter what. It's going to be a great season and hopefully expectations meet reality and it culminates in another national title for the Buckeyes.