Just watched the Buckeye's Spring Game...
...and I have to say, they have to be considered front-runners for the NC yet again (and I know the hatahs will really hate on that), but hear me out.
They return 8 starters from the offense, and the offensive line looks more athletic to me than it did last year. Beenie Wells is coming off a 1600 yard year, and he was gimpy for half the season. He's definite Heisman candidate material. Boeckman should be improved, and I found it very interesting that Tressel was talking about running a Pony O (two RB's in the same backfield) which makes sense since they need to get Brandon Saine more involved this year. They will also be utilizing play action more, which is such a no-brainer considering the Buckeyes will still be a run-first team. I think the offense will be explosive this year.
On the other side of the ball, look out! The number 1 defense in the country should actually improve. The only significant loss is Vern Gholston, and Lawrence Wilson will be back this year, so expect little drop-off (Wilson can get after the QB, too, but he's a step up against the run). With so much experience in the secondary, they will be comfortable playing more man coverage, which will free up Lauranaitis and Grant to blitz a lot more this year. ST's will be excellent as always.
They'll have some tough games this year, since they play USC in LA, Wisconsin (who many have as NC contenders this year) in Camp Randall (one of the toughest venues in the Country) an ascending Illinois in Champaign, and an early trap game in Columbus vs Troy, but if they win out, no question they'll earn a berth to the big game for an unprecedented third year in a row.
Start cranking up the hate...we love it in Buckeye Country!
Official Steelersfever Arians Nuthugger