Ohio State Buckeyes football preview 2013: Best case, worst case, prediction

Photo: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows Ohio State went undefeated last year, but it wasn’t a classic undefeated team. They struggled to one-possession wins against Cal, UAB, Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan and needed overtime to finish off Purdue and Wisconsin. A major part of the problem was the inability to pass last season. Despite finishing 21st in ppg, the passing attack could barely muster 180 yards per outing and ended 105th in the nation. When the rushing attack slowed, so did the Buckeye scoring. They may have averaged 37 ppg over the course of the season, but dropping 56 points on Miami (OH), 63 on Nebraska and 52 on Illinois raised the bottom line. They failed to score more than 35 points in the other nine games. If the Buckeyes have any hope in making their first trip to the Big Ten title game, they will have to be more consistent on offense.

The return of Braxton Miller under center for another season should greatly help to stabilize the offense. Miller led the Bucks in rushing as a quarterback. Making his life a little easier in the ground game is the return of running back Carlos Hyde, who barely missed out on a thousand rushing yards last season — Hyde missed two starts due to injury. He will miss three to start the 2013 season because of suspension, but assuming he is healthy for league play his contribution will be a key component.

Miller threw for 2,039 yards a year ago and the tandem of Philly Brown and Devin Smith accounted for 1287 yards. They are both back for another season. Toss in some returning talent on the line and you have eliminated a big concern for OSU. Defensively, the Buckeyes finished 31st in the nation, but could take a bit of a step back in 2013. Depth at linebacker appears to be a weakness, but if Ryan Shazier can play all 12 games, he’ll make enough plays for two LBs.

2013 Schedule

Buffalo: 4-8 (3-5) – MAC (2012 record used for all opponents)

Best Case: OSU manhandled their lone MAC foe a year ago. An easy win with no one hurt is the best possible outcome. 1-0

Worst Case: Buffalo could do long-term damage to OSU if Shazier goes down or Braxton Miller gets hurt with something big like an ACL, but if it goes according to plan the starters should be out by half, limiting this possibility. 1-0

Prediction: The Buffs struggled to score last year, finishing just 101st overall. They won’t have the pieces to keep pace with what looks like a high-octane offense. W: 52-7, 1-0

San Diego State: 9-4 (7-1) – Mountain West

Best Case: A talented UCF team came to the Shoe a year ago and the Bucks beat them by two touchdowns. SDSU looks to be pretty good, but this is a tough road test even for the best programs. 2-0

Worst Case: SDSU hung at Washington last year and beat Boise on the Smurf Turf. Adam Dingwell replaced starter Andy Katz, who went down with an injury, and played very well down the stretch, including that Boise game. Adam Muema, who tallied 1,400+ rushing yards last season, is back, as well as leading receivers Geno Escobar and Brice Butler. Make no mistake this team is loaded and experienced. They might win the Mountain West and they might win this one too. 1-1

Prediction: I think OSU looks past this matchup a little bit for the road trip to Cal. Hyde being suspended also hurts, but in the end the suffocating crowd causes just one or two mistakes that end up biting the Aztecs. W: 28-24, 2-0

At Cal: 3-9 (2-7) – Pac 12

Best Case: OSU survives a wake-up call from SDSU and comes out a motivated bunch on their first roadie. 3-0

Worst Case: Really tough to see OSU dropping this one, especially if my upset special of SDSU comes true. 2-1

Prediction: Newly renovated stadium, new coach, new QB. Zach Maynard was way too inconsistent at quarterback to really trust the Golden Bears against high-quality opponents, but at least he was experienced.  QB remains a mystery for this Bears team. W: 31-17, 3-0

Florida A&M: 4-7 (4-4) – MEAC (FCS)

Best Case: What I would give to have A&M removed from the schedule. 4-0

Worst Case: The Rattlers were 4-7 last year and finished 4-4 in the mighty MEAC. Much like Buffalo, only a major injury that derails the season could happen. This will be a snoozer. 3-1

Prediction: FAMU’s logo is similar to UABs…maybe there is some juju in that? Here’s a serious question, would it be possible for FAMU’s famous band to do script Ohio? Now that I would watch. If only they were making the trip. W: 63-13, 4-0

Wisconsin: 8-6 (4-4) – Big Ten

Best Case: Wisconsin’s unsettled QB situation combined with a new coach results in a mixed back for the Badgers. Some weeks good, some weeks bad. This will be a bad week. 5-0

Worst Case: UW took this club to overtime and Curt Phillips played reasonably well. He, as well as Joel Stave, who provided a spark before his injury, are the two battling in camp. An upset is possible. 3-2

Prediction: Had this game been later in the season and not the Big Ten opener, an upset special could be pulled. Heck, if the game was in Madison I could stand by the Badgers. But this where it lies on the schedule and it is in Columbus. Heartbreak city for Wisconsin. W: 24-20 (A touchdown with 4:15 in the 4th seals the deal), 5-0 (1-0)

At Northwestern: 10-3 (5-3) – Big Ten

Best Case: NU will be working with an offensive line featuring a lot of new faces. OSU’s defensive line is one of the strengths. Uh-oh. 6-0

Worst Case: On the flip side, OSU’s front seven overall is a bit of a weakness. If they can break through to the second level, I’m not sure the Bucks have the linebackers to prevent the big run. 3-3

Prediction: Wildcats have the talent to win this game several times out of ten, so it wouldn’t stun me to see the upset; but I see OSU scoring too many points for NU to keep up. W: 31-21, 6-0 (2-0)

Iowa: 4-8 (2-6) – Big Ten

Best Case: The OSU hype is true, Bucks are healthy and they take care of a league foe still trying to find itself. 7-0

Worst Case: Even with Iowa improved and OSU disappointing, I don’t think the Hawkeyes offense can put enough points on the board to score a big road win. 4-2

Prediction: Iowa’s strength is the offensive line and OSU’s front seven is beatable on paper, but the Buckeyes still have better players at the skill positions and sides. OSU also has an edge in overall team speed. W: 26-14 (safety), 7-0 (3-0)

Penn State:

Best Case: PSU never figures out who replaces Matt McGloin and the Nittany Lions offense takes a big step back. 8-0

Worst Case: OSU had one of its best games last season against PSU, a 35-23 win in Happy Valley. I really like the odds of OSU winning. 5-3

Prediction: Another tough game that wouldn’t surprise me if they lost, but it’s at home and OSU has the vastly superior offense on paper. W: 28-21, 8-0 (4-0)

At Purdue: 6-7 (3-5) – Big Ten

Best Case: I’m a broken record with Purdue, but I really don’t see a seamless transition in year one of the Darrell Hazell experience. 9-0

Worst Case: Tall, tall order for the Boilers. I know they took them to OT last year, but I’m not counting on lightening in a bottle two years in a row. 6-3

Prediction: Urban plays tape of this game from last year on a loop all week and the team derails (nailed that one!) Purdue early. W: 42-21, 9-0 (5-0)

At Illinois: 2-10 (0-8) – Big Ten

Best Case: OSU won this by 30 a season ago. Zoiks! 10-0

Worst Case: Illinois keeps it close, but the Illibuck will be taken by the Bucks. 7-3

Prediction: A Buckeye team that doesn’t live up to the hype can still dispatch a team in rebuilding mode…like Illinois! W: 49-28, 10-0 (6-0)

Indiana: 4-8 (2-6)

Best Case: Indiana is in the midst of a one or two win campaign and Kevin Wilson is either a dead man walking or already fired. Either way OSU rolls and is a top-3 BCS team. 11-0

Worst Case: Even an improved Hoosiers team lacks the defensive talent to make enough stops. 8-3

Prediction: Almost impossible, even for the most die hard Hoosiers fans, to see an upset in August when you compare these two teams on paper. Good thing they actually play the games. W: 49-24, 11-0 (7-0)

At Michigan: 8-5 (6-2)

Best Case: Michigan comes in as a depressed club having gone just 6-5. Meanwhile OSU can smell Indianapolis and knows they are just eight quarters of good play away from punching their ticket to yet another BCS title game. 12-0

Worst Case: Michigan has exceeded all expectations and has really come together. The stars are living up to the hype and the role players have really upped their game. OSU meanwhile has had just a couple of injuries and not enough new faces stepping up to overcome Michigan on the road. 8-4

Prediction: The teams look pretty even to me so when that happens it is usually good to ride with the more experienced quarterback. Braxton Miller has a ton more game experience, especially at performing well in big prime-time games, compared to Devin Gardner. W: 31-24, 12-0 (8-0)

*Leaders Division Champs

Final Thoughts: I know, I know, I picked OSU to go 12-0, but I don’t think they actually will. SDSU, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Penn State and Michigan all look pretty tough and two of those games are on the road. The reason I picked them in those games were based on the individual matchups and not looking at the big picture. OSU looks like a 10-to-12 win team on paper and when analyzing those tough games, OSU has the edge and will be favored. Here’s the thing, at least one of these teams will be much better than we thought (i.e. TAMU vs Alabama). OSU will have an off week against a decent team (i.e. Stanford vs Washington). OSU will have injuries (i.e. South Carolina tailing off). Things happen in a long season and while I predict them to go 12-0 and stand by my reasoning, I think reality will sting the Bucks at least once this year.