2011 record: 6-7 overall, 4-5 in Big Ten (4th in Leaders)
2011 postseason: Gator Bowl (24-17 loss to Florida)
2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked
Head coach: Urban Meyer (104-23 overall, first season at Ohio State)
2011 offensive rankings: 27th rushing offense (191.1 ypg); 115th passing offense (127 ypg); 107th total offense (318.1 ypg); 81st scoring offense (24.5 ypg)
Returning offensive starters: seven
Defensive coordinator: Luke Fickell (11th season at OSU, first as DC)
2011 defensive rankings: 50th rushing defense (141.5 ypg); 14th passing defense (182 ypg); 19th total defense (323.5 ypg); 27th scoring defense (21 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: nine
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Stadium: Ohio Stadium (102,329; FieldTurf)
Last league title: 2010 (co-champs with Michigan State and Wisconsin)
2011 statistics: [view]
A total of 16 starters returning from a season that the Buckeyes had to navigate its way through without long-time coach Jim Tressel. In comes two-time BcS-winning coach Urban Meyer, injecting some much-needed enthusiasm and optimism to a program dealing with NCAA sanctions. Part of that enthusiasm and optimism, especially from Meyer, comes from Braxton Miller, the true sophomore who showed flashes of brilliance in his first season as a starter at this level in 2011. The best part when it comes to Miller may be — likely will be — yet to come as his dual-threat ability is a hand-in-glove fit for Meyer’s spread offense. Add in a defense was above average in 2011 and returns nine starters in 2012, and you have a team hellbent on playing spoiler early — or very late in the season as the case may be — and often.
Regardless of how well the Buckeyes adapt to Meyer and his new coaching staff, OSU will be ineligible for the postseason — Big Ten championship game and a bowl game — thanks to NCAA sanctions levied for the actions of the previous regime. Keeping his squad focused on improving throughout the season — especially for what will be their bowl game, The Game vs. Michigan — will be Job One for Meyer & Co.
How much of an impact will Jordan Hall‘s freak injury impact the running game? Last season’s third-leading rusher was expected to provide half of a 1-2 RB punch with Carlos Hyde, but the senior cut the bottom of his right foot from stepping on a piece of glass. That injury could have Hall, listed as the No. 1 RB on the depth chart prior to his injury, out through the middle of September if not longer. While it’s certainly far from devastating, watching how Hyde and sophomore Rod Smith handle the running-game workload will be interesting to say the least.
Make-or-break game: vs. Michigan, Nov. 24
In a normal year, The Game would be the make-or-break game for either side. With Ohio State on probation and ineligible for the postseason of any kind, The Game becomes The Postseason for the Buckeyes in 2012. As if it needed an additional layer of importance, there’s the fact that the Wolverines dropped the Buckeyes 40-34 last season, snapping a streak of seven straight wins — six, technically — over its bitter That School Up North rivals.
Heisman hopeful: quarterback Braxton Miller
A year away from entering any type of meaningful Heisman discussion, Miller is nonetheless the only current Buckeye with the type of talent to merit inclusion on even the periphery of the talk. As a true freshman last season, Miller led the Buckeyes with 714 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, while also throwing for 13 touchdowns and tossing just four interceptions. He was limited to just 157 pass attempts under interim head coach Luke Fickell; with Meyer at the helm and with that year’s worth of on-the-job training, expect that number to double and, potentially, place his name on the lips of Heisman voters.