The history of Ohio State football is long and storied. Even so, the 2015 edition of the Buckeyes might be treading on new ground. This is not the first time Ohio State is coming off a national championship. Nor is it the first time the Buckeyes are the preseason No. 1.
The history of Ohio State football is long and storied. Even so, the 2015 edition of the Buckeyes might be treading on new ground.
This is not the first time Ohio State is coming off a national championship. Nor is it the first time the Buckeyes are the preseason No. 1.
But perhaps never before has Ohio State faced expectations quite as lofty as it does entering the season, which starts on Monday night at Virginia Tech.
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The day after the Buckeyes won their improbable College Football Playoff championship with a 42-20 victory over Oregon, Bovada.lv in Las Vegas installed them as 6-1 favorites to repeat. Now they are 5-2.
"This is probably the first time a team is 5-2 in a long time," Bovada.lv sportsbook manager Kevin Bradley said.
Bovada is not an outlier. Vegasinsider.com has the Buckeyes as 9-4 favorites.
Ohio State is the first unanimous preseason No.1 in the Associated Press media poll, which started ranking teams before the season in 1950.
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By every objective measure, the expectations for the Buckeyes are warranted. On paper, they are loaded. They have two star quarterbacks in J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, and a third, Braxton Miller, voluntarily moved to receiver in part because of concern about his surgically repaired shoulder.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott is coming off three 200-yard performances in the postseason. The Buckeyes have several other dynamic playmakers and boast an experienced and talented offensive line.
On defense, the Buckeyes are just as talented, led by possible first overall NFL draft pick Joey Bosa at end, tackle Adolphus Washington, linebackers Joshua Perry and Darron Lee and a secondary that improved dramatically last year.
At age 51, coach Urban Meyer already has three national championships. His assistants are regarded as top-notch as both coaches and recruiters. Thanks to four straight stellar recruiting classes, many of the team's backups are regarded as sure things to become stars eventually.
On paper, then, there's little reason to think the Buckeyes can't or won't repeat.
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That might be the exact reason that doing so will be difficult.
The history of college football, including Ohio State, is littered with can't-miss teams that did, with preseason No.1s that didn't make it to the finish line on top.
Of the past seven preseason No.?1s in the AP poll, none finished the year that way. Only two remained in the top five. In the poll's history, only 10 preseason No.?1 teams won the national title. Southern California in 2004 is the most recent.
Ohio State has entered the season ranked No.1 six times. Each time, the Buckeyes faltered. After winning the title in 1968, Ohio State bulldozed through the next season until that bitter day in Ann Arbor when first-year Michigan coach Bo Schembechler pulled off the upset that triggered the Ten Year War. To this day, "24-12" evokes rancor for Buckeyes fans of a certain age - or any age.
The 1970 Buckeyes appeared headed for redemption until Stanford stunned them in the Rose Bowl to deny them a consensus title.
The 1998 team was a juggernaut until Michigan State rallied for an upset in Columbus.
In 2006, Ohio State rolled into the BCS title game, where a certain fast-rising coach led Florida to a shocking 41-14 upset.
Meyer won another championship at Florida and then struggled mightily to withstand the pressure of staying on top.
Asked if it's tougher to climb the hill or to stay there, Meyer didn't hesitate.
"I can tell you which is more enjoyable, and that's the run up the hill," he said during Big Ten media days.
For those looking for trouble signs, the one-game suspensions of Bosa, Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and Corey Smith for violating team rules is ominous. Meyer and the Buckeyes believe it's not, that the culture they've instilled of accountability to one another will enable them to overcome whatever adversity comes.
The Buckeyes say their priority is to live up to the credos represented in the mottos "brotherhood of trust" and "nine units strong." It's a micro approach. A team has nine units, encompassing the position groups on offense and defense. Each must meet high standards.
Every time a player or coach is asked about defending the national championship, it's as if they close their eyes and cover their ears. This is a new team, they say. They lost last year's small-but-crucial senior class and added newcomers.
"We don't use the word defend," Meyer said. "I would be disappointed if I heard that from anybody in the program. It's about playing nine units strong and everybody being accountable to their unit.
"They did it (last season) as well as any team I've ever been around. If our units are nine strong, we'll have a really good chance of winning."
The players have bought into that approach.
"Let's not forget what got us there," senior offensive left tackle Taylor Decker said. "What got us to where we're at, being a preseason No.1 team, is our culture and the way we handle our business - outworking people and outpreparing them."
Still, these are 18- to 22-year-olds living in a city and state that places them on a pedestal, in an age when social media is omnipresent, with all its risks and temptations.
There's no doubting Ohio State's talent. With the culture firmly entrenched, Meyer and his staff have put into place the safeguards they can.
But there are no guarantees. Last season, for all of its adversity, turned into a charmed season. The Buckeyes peaked at the right time after being counted out most of the fall. They derived motivation from the doubters.
Now, they face quite a different challenge. The pieces are all in place for glory. So are the pitfalls.