IT WAS an ugly year in Columbus in the wake of Tresselgate. The Buckeyes had their first losing campaign since 1988 (6--7) while fielding an unwatchable offense that ranked 107th in the nation. New coach Urban Meyer brings his spread offense to Columbus, but don't expect miracles, just steady improvement. With a young and inexperienced unit led by quarterback Braxton Miller, the offense will remain a work in progress. It'll be up to a formidable Buckeyes D, which has eight returning starters, to set the pace. Led by DT Johnathan Hankins and DE John Simon, the line has the talent and depth to emerge as one of the nation's best, certainly equal to the task of handling the conference's top offenses, such as Wisconsin's.
NOAH SPENCE One of the nation's top high school lineman in 2011, Spence will be a cornerstone for years to come. He possesses freakish speed off the edge and will make an immediate impact for a group that was already the program's greatest strength.
BRAXTON MILLER The dual-threat sophomore quarterback showed flashes of excellence last year but not nearly enough of them. Still, he has all the tools (speed, quickness and arm strength) needed to blossom into a big-time playmaker in Meyer's high-octane spread.
THE BUCKEYES aren't eligible to play in the Big Ten championship game or in a bowl in 2012 because of NCAA sanctions. But make no mistake, Meyer will have his team motivated and ready to challenge Wisconsin atop the Big Ten's Leaders Division and reassert itself as a national power—right away. With a light nonconference schedule (the closest matchup to a test is Cal at home on Sept. 15) and eight home games, a 10-win season is within reach. It won't be long before Meyer, who landed one of the top recruiting classes in the country over the winter despite the recent program turbulence, has the Buckeyes back as a juggernaut.