Great Expectations

Tomorrow the Ohio State Buckeyes kick off their 2013 football season with a home game against the Buffalo Bulls.  In Buckeye Nation, expectations are high.  In fact, “high” really isn’t an accurate description.  Many OSU fans think that this team should go undefeated, crush every opponent, make it to the BCS title game, and win handily — and they’ll be disappointed at any other result.

IMG_3091Most of the pressure will fall on one man:  quarterback Braxton Miller.  Miller is the elusive run-pass threat that college coaches dream about, able to convert a busted play into a huge gain through his speed and scrambling abilities.  The true believers think that another year of seasoning and practice in the passing game will smooth the rough edges off last year’s erratic passing performances and make Miller an unstoppable scoring force.

The fans also believe that the Buckeyes will have a grab bag of game-breaking offensive talent — at running back, tight end, and wide out — and a tough, experienced line.  Add in the standard freshman phenom (this year, its speedster Diontre Wilson) and you get the sense that some Buckeye supporters think the offense should score every time it touches the ball.

If the offense is a potent as fans anticipate, it probably will be a good thing — because the defense is a bit of a question mark.  The defensive line and much of the linebacking crew will be starting for the first time, and while the starters look to be talented, there is no substitute for experience.  When the footing gets treacherous in sloppy, Big Ten weather in October and November, scoring machines can grind to a halt.  That’s when defenses need to show up and win games for teams that hope to be contenders.

Last year the Buckeyes unexpectedly went undefeated, but in the mind of many fans it really didn’t count because the team was ineligible for the Big Ten championship game or any bowl contests.  If the Buckeyes are to make it to the national championship game this year — when they are playing a soft schedule — they’ll need to win every game again.  That’s a tall order by any measure.  I can’t remember the last time a college team did it, and I’m not counting on it happening this year, either.

We’ll start to find out tomorrow.  I’ll be there in the Horseshoe, ready to cheer.  Let’s go, Bucks!