Can Urban Meyer possibly top his first season in Columbus?
Buckeyes fans had reason to expect some success in 2012, but few, if any, could have foreseen Ohio State finishing the season unbeaten.
Given the players coming back and the relatively easy non-conference schedule, it's realistic to expect the Buckeyes to go through the regular season unscathed again.
If that is to happen, OSU will have to make it through what is a gauntlet of a conference slate. Ohio State has no respite from September 28 to November 30. Of the eight Big Ten games, these four will give the Buckeyes the most problems.
October 5, at Northwestern
This is one of the best Northwestern teams in a long, long time, and it's certainly the best Pat Fitzgerald has ever had. If the Wildcats want to be contenders in the Legends Division, they must have the perfect homecoming and pick up a victory.
Fitzgerald should be at somewhat of an advantage for this game, as Northwestern has a bye week before facing off against OSU. That gives him extra time to try and devise a game plan to slow down Braxton Miller. Plus, the Buckeyes will be fresh off what should be a tough game against Wisconsin.
Northwestern has a very experienced team. The Wildcats return 15 players from a team that finished 10-3 last year.
One of those players is Venric Mark, who had the third-most rushing yards in the conference, with 1,366. If Mark can get going, he'll help to ease the pressure on the Wildcats and set the tempo of the game.
October 19, vs. Iowa
Kirk Ferentz has seen better days in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes had previously been locks to earn a bowl bid before, but a 4-8 record in 2012 was Ferentz's worst record at Iowa since 2000.
Although Ohio State has the advantage in almost every facet of the game and is playing at home, this could be a trap game for the Buckeyes.
Seven days on from their matchup with the Hawkeyes, they welcome in the Penn State Nittany Lions. That one will have some serious implications on the race for the Leaders Division title. The players might get caught looking ahead a little bit.
November 23, vs. Indiana
Last year's meeting between the Hoosiers and Buckeyes was an unexpected dogfight. Ohio State's defense was lethargic the entire game. There's no excuse for surrendering 49 points to Indiana, whose second-most points scored was 39 against Ball State.
Urban Meyer should have his players a little more focused this time around. It may not be enough, though.
Much like the Iowa game, OSU's date with Indiana could be a bit of a trap. With Michigan just one week away, the Buckeyes can't afford to look past the Hoosiers.
Kevin Wilson is welcoming back 19 starters from last year's team. One of those starters is Cody Latimer. The junior wideout led Indiana in receiving yards with 805 and tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns with six. He's a big-play threat who averaged 15.8 yards per catch last season.
November 30, at Michigan
Do you really need any reasons as to why the Wolverines will be a tough opponent for Ohio State? For the unconvinced, here you go.
Michigan's passing attack might actually be better off with Devin Gardner. Denard Robinson became a turnover machine last year. While nowhere near the same kind of runner as Robinson, Gardner is a far superior passer.
Freshman running back Derrick Green could be a game-changer as well. He looked great in the spring and should get plenty of carries despite his inexperience.
Jake Ryan is no doubt a big loss on the defensive side of the ball. The Wolverines do still have Cameron Gordon and Desmond Morgan in that linebacking corps. You can't overstate the return of Blake Countess, either, to the secondary.