Note – This is the 2012 information. Please check the 2013 Ohio State page for a look at this season.
The Urban Meyer Era Begins in Columbus: Can He Possibly Live Up to the Hype?
Urban Meyer coached Florida to 2 National Titles. Then his team went 7-5 in 2010 and was headed for another mediocre season by Florida standards. Coincidentally, he decided football was no longer most important to him. His family and health were. After a year of not coaching, football is again important to him. And, coincidentally, his passion for coaching just so happened to arise right when one of the best coaching gigs in America came open.
Meyer takes over for Luke Fickell, who kept the seat warm after Ohio State canned Jim Tressel amid NCAA sanctions following the 2010 season. Urban will get a free pass in 2012 since Ohio State is barred from competing in the postseason. But after this year, he better win at the highest level or face the wrath of the Buckeye Nation. Tressel set the bar sky-high. Meyer must take the program to outer space heights. Even with the lofty expectations, Urban Meyer has proven he’s more than capable of surpassing them. He won twice as many National Titles as Steve Spurrier won at Florida, in about half the time.
Tim Tebow isn’t taking snaps for the Buckeyes, but that doesn’t mean Urban can’t win. His current quarterback – sophomore Braxton Miller – figures to be a big playmaker in Meyer’s spread offense. Much like Tebow, Miller can run and throw. He doesn’t have a cannon arm, but it’s good enough to force defenses to respect his passing abilities, just like they had to do for Tebow. Although Miller is a seemingly good fit for Meyer’s system, it’s unreasonable to expect him to become a star overnight. There is a learning curve when switching from one system to another. Plus, Miller was highly inconsistent – as most freshmen are – last season.
Jim Tressel won a lot of ballgames in Columbus. He won a National Title, 7 Big-10 Conference Titles, and 3 BCS Bowls in 11 seasons. Despite that amazing success, he was often criticized for his style of play. “Tressel Ball” wasn’t a crowd pleaser because he rarely took any risks and ran the football more than most college teams nowadays. But, in the end, wins and losses are all that really matter. Tressel did win, and he won big. Urban Meyer steps in with a completely different offensive system and coaching philosophy. The days of playing not to lose are over. Meyer plays to win and isn’t afraid to take a risk on 4th down. Does that mean Ohio State will have more success under Meyer? Will the Buckeyes no longer lose so many BCS Bowls and big games against top teams? All of that is yet to be determined.
The Cupboard Isn’t Bare
The Buckeyes finished the 2011 campaign 6-7, following a Gator Bowl loss to Meyer’s former squad – Florida. It wasn’t Fickell’s fault for the poor record. The Buckeyes were young and suffered key losses due to suspensions to players such as Dan “Boom” Herron, DeVier Posey, and Terrelle Pryor. Pryor never played a down for the Buckeyes last year. Instead, he took his act to the NFL where he’ll probably sit the bench for the next few years before completely flaming out.
Posey (WR) and Herron (RB), and Mike Adams (LT) were big-time stars for Ohio State the past few years. They too have moved on to professional football. No doubt, those losses will hurt. But they are replaceable. Ohio State doesn’t fold when players graduate. They substitute someone of equal talent. That’s what they will do in 2012. The Buckeyes landed a great recruiting class and return a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. The biggest issue with Ohio State this season will be getting adapted to a completely different style of play.
18 of 24 starters return (including the kicker and the punter). From a statistical standpoint, there isn’t much coming back. Ohio State’s top returning receiver – senior Devin Smith – had just 294 yards receiving. Their top returning rusher is the quarterback – Braxton Miller. He amassed just 715 yards and threw for only 1,159 yards. Don’t let those numbers fool you. Ohio State went through a transition year in 2011 and many of their team leaders were seniors. The players replacing them are fully capable of putting up big numbers despite not doing so in 2011.
Defense Will Still Win Games in Columbus
Defense will still be the name of the game for the Buckeyes in 2012. That’s how they’re going to have to continue winning games until Meyer’s system is fully implemented. Ohio State has long been known for having dominant defensive lines. Expect much of the same in 2012. They return 4 D-line starters, including All-American pass rusher John Simon.
The secondary is filled with experience, talent, and athleticism. Bradley Roby is the Buckeyes most proven cover corner, but Travis Howard is physical and has the quickness to stay with speedy receivers. There’s no Andy Katzenmoyer or James Laurinitis in the linebacking corps. But there are a few capable Big-10 linebackers that know how to hit and can get to the ball quickly. Look for sophomore Curtis Grant to become an impact player on this defense right away.
2012 Ohio State Football Picks
Ohio State appears to be one of the easiest teams in the Big-10 to project. We know they’re going to play great defense. We just don’t know how efficient the offense will be in Urban Meyer’s first season. Regardless of how well the offense plays, Ohio State should win a decent amount of games with their defense. Defense still wins ballgames, despite what some football fans nowadays seem to think.
Ohio State plays one of the toughest schedules in the Big-10. Their non-conference schedule isn’t terribly difficult, but they do face a quality California team at home on September 15. Because of the question marks on offense, don’t expect the Buckeyes to be heavy favorites in many games. The only games they could be underdogs will be against Michigan State, Nebraska, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Now let’s take a look at how we project the Buckeyes to perform in 2012…
Sept 1 vs Miami(OH) – WIN
Sept 8 vs Central Florida – WIN
Sept 15 vs California – WIN
Sept 22 vs UAB – WIN
Sept 29 at Michigan State – LOSS
Oct 6 vs Nebraska – WIN
Oct 13 at Indiana – WIN
Oct 20 vs Purdue – WIN
Oct 27 at Penn State – WIN
Nov 3 vs Illinois – WIN
Nov 17 at Wisconsin – LOSS
Nov 24 vs Michigan – LOSS
Overall Record: (9-3)
Big-10 Record: (5-3)
Games Favored: 9
Games Underdog: 3
Ohio State Buckeyes: Final Analysis
If Ohio State can get through their non-conference schedule unscathed, that will set them up for an 8+ win season. 8-9 wins at Ohio State usually isn’t anything to excite the fans, but this year is different. Buckeye fans would likely be ecstatic with a 9-win season in Urban Meyer’s first year. Besides, Ohio State can’t compete for the Big-10 title or play in the postseason this year thanks to Jim Tressel’s crooked ways.
Ohio State fans are ready to put the Jim Tressel violations behind them. Unfortunately, they’ll have to wait a year to do that. Ohio State probably won’t be affected by the sanctions long-term. By 2013, expect Ohio State to be in contention for a Big-10 title and potentially a national title. Everything hinges on the development of Braxton Miller and how quickly Ohio State catches on to Urban Meyer’s spread offense.