The case for
Urban Meyer's teams usually make major strides his second season. (Utah went to a BCS bowl in 2005; Florida won a national title in '07.) The Buckeyes were undefeated in Year 1, but there's room for improvement. The multiskilled Braxton Miller is entering his third year as a starter, and he's ready to emerge as a complete quarterback and Heisman contender. Miller has a wealth of weapons: senior running back Carlos Hyde (suspended for the first three games) receivers Devin Smith (junior) and Corey (Philly) Brown (senior), and speedy but injury-plagued senior Jordan Hall, who should return to play the Percy Harvin role, the key to a Meyer offense. Miller will also operate behind four returning starters, led by senior left tackle Jack Mewhort. Meanwhile, after struggling on defense for much of the past two seasons, the 2013 D more closely resembles the upper-echelon units of Jim Tressel's heyday. Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier is among the best in the country at his position.
The case against
Ohio State lost six of its front-seven starters from a year ago, but sophomore defensive ends Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence are being billed as stars. While talented, the Buckeyes lack experience, which could leave them susceptible to big plays.
Is Braxton Miller making the same second-year progression as your previous quarterbacks?
I've seen signs of it. He looks more like a quarterback. I'm not taking away his incredible athleticism, but that's not incredible quarterback play, that's incredible athleticism. I'm seeing a quarterback now, and that's the values of leadership and fundamentals.
Ideally, what would the offense look like?
If you have to say what's the bar, it's the 2008 Florida offense—very balanced run-pass ratio, very multidimensional. A lot of guys touched the ball. That was the best offense I've been around.
How much can your defense improve?
Lack of athleticism hurt us last year. The teams with the little bubble screens and all that, the teams that forced us to play in space, we had trouble defending. I think we'll be better equipped this year.
What is your biggest concern?
When a guy sprains his ankle in practice, I can feel the difference. Our twos need to start acting like ones. There's a significant drop-off.
Player to Watch
The 6'3", 292-pound sophomore Adolphus Washington takes the place of John Simon and has the makings of an elite pass rusher. He had a sack and a forced fumble in last year's Michigan game and bagged four sacks in the Buckeyes' spring game.
Projected 2013 Stats
QB Braxton Miller
Pass: 2,400 yards, 20 TDs
Run: 1,200 yards, 12 TDs
RB Jordan Hall
Run: 400 yards, 3 TDs
Rec.: 280 yards, 2 TDs
WR Corey Brown
Pass: 770 yards, 5 TDs
Run: 45 yards, 0 TDs
A Sept. 14 trip to Cal could be tricky now that the Bears, 3--9 in 2012, have installed an Air Raid offense under new coach Sonny Dykes. But the Big Ten opener at home against Wisconsin on Sept. 28 and a night game at Northwestern the next week represent the biggest challenges before the season-ending visit from That Team Up North.
SI Power Ratings
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