If not for a bowl ban against the Ohio State Buckeyes last season, it is entirely possible they would have met the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the National Championship Game, as they went undefeated during the regular season. Ohio State is eligible to play for the title this year, though, and Urban Meyer’s squad is favored to reach the big game.
There is a reason why teams play out the season, though, since things rarely go as expected. The USC Trojans were the perfect example of that last season, opening the season as No. 1 in the polls only to fall completely out of the BCS picture. Ohio State is currently No. 2, but it won’t exactly be a walk in the park.
Here are the three biggest hurdles standing between Ohio State and an undefeated season, which would almost certainly produce its first national title since 2002.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Although Ohio State can’t afford to take any of its opponents lightly this season—even when it plays the University at Buffalo in its season-opening game—there is no question that the Buckeyes have a favorable schedule.
In fact, there are only three nationally ranked opponents on their slate, and none of them is ranked higher than No. 17. That puts Ohio State in a very favorable position as far as the regular season is concerned, but if it reaches the National Championship Game and has to play the Alabama Crimson Tide, the fun and games will be over.
The Big Ten isn’t necessarily a pushover this season, but there is a definite lack of elite teams aside from Ohio State. Because of that, the Buckeyes should be heavily favored in essentially all of their games.
Assuming Ohio State plays to its potential in every regular-season game, as well as the Big Ten Championship Game, it appears the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide will be on a collision course. Ohio State will have to deal with some tough defenses and power running games in the Big Ten, but Alabama resides at a totally different level.
Bama is truly incredible, as it seems to lose high-quality players to the NFL each and every year. Despite that, head coach Nick Saban reloads and continues to win. Running back Eddie Lacy is now with the Green Bay Packers, but T.J. Yeldon rushed for more than 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns last year and appears to be in line for a huge 2013 campaign.
The defense lost some key components, but the Tide’s depth will more than make up for that. Quarterback A.J. McCarron is the main constant, and it would be very difficult for Ohio State to overtake Alabama with him at the helm.