TEAMS THAT COULD BREAK THE SEC'S BCS STREAK
NO. 3, OHIO STATE
Ohio State will be No. 2 in the preseason polls. Phil Steele projected that, and it seems like the most rational assumption. The Buckeyes went undefeated last year; they'll get the proper respect in the preseason polls.
The question of whether they are the best team to knock off the SEC in a title game this year, and whether they are better than every SEC team other than obvious preseason No. 1 Alabama, is debatable.
Ohio State had a special season, but it didn't necessarily prove the Buckeyes are ready to beat the SEC. The best non-conference foe was UCF, and the only non-conference foe from a BCS league was a bad Cal team. The Big Ten was really down last year, and the Buckeyes got the two best teams other than itself, Michigan and Nebraska, at home. It needed overtime to beat Purdue and Wisconsin, and got a one-point win against Michigan State. Ohio State didn't rank better than 10th in any major statistical category. And not playing a conference championship game or bowl game might have helped. Ask Georgia or Florida how much better its season would have looked without their extra games at the end.
Was Ohio State very good? Yes, obviously. Was it on the same dominant level as the best the SEC has to offer? Maybe not just yet.
But still, Ohio State is one of the teams that has a legitimate hope of beating the SEC. The main reason is that the Buckeyes were very good last year, and should improve. Urban Meyer has a great history with that.
Ohio State has nine starters returning on offense, including a quarterback in Braxton Miller who would fit in very well in the SEC. The Buckeyes will have a great running team with Miller and big back Carlos Hyde carrying the load, as well as four starting offensive linemen returning. Miller improved a lot as a passer last year. A similar improvement for this year and the Buckeyes will have good balance on offense. They can at least attempt to match the physical nature of SEC defenses.
The defense will need to be rebuilt. The entire line from last year is gone, and there are also questions who plays alongside linebacker Ryan Shazier, another player who would fit right in on any SEC team. But Ohio State recruits as well as any non-SEC school. Most of the players on the field for the Buckeyes could have gone to about any school they wanted. The talent level is elite. And they have one of the better coaches in college football.
Meyer has already dominated in the SEC. That was with Florida's unbelievable talent, but he still did it. He understands what level Ohio State needs to be at to compete against the SEC for a national title. If he can get the Buckeyes to make another leap in his second year at Ohio State, when the players will be more comfortable with the schemes, perhaps this team can make the BCS Championship Game. Actually winning that game won't be easy, but Ohio State might have as good of a chance as just about anyone.
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