COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State's five Big Ten football losses last season matched its total from the previous six years.
That right there spells out the Buckeyes' conference domination from 2005 through 2010. However last year's 3-5 Big Ten mark in a tumultuous season for OSU not only brought that stretch to an end, but more importantly though ushered in the era of Urban - Meyer that is - as the new Buckeye head coach - much to no one's surprise.
If Ohio State gets off to an expected 4-0 start at home against its non-conference opponents this season, Meyer and now his Buckeye gridders will gird for a monumental Big Ten opener Sept. 29 at Michigan State in their first road contest.
Ohio State Schedule
In fact, OSU could face several roadblocks on its conference slate this season as it strives for a return to respectability - and hopefully more - despite being on NCAA probation and not eligible this year to play for the Big Ten title or in a bowl game.
The MSU tilt marks a tough conference start for the 2012 Buckeyes, with Nebraska visiting Ohio Stadium the following Saturday, Oct. 6, for a prime-time night game. Last year against the same two foes to open Big Ten play, OSU didn't score until late versus the Spartans in Columbus, but still only fell 10-7, before forging a 27-6 lead early in the third quarter at Lincoln, but faltering on offense after that as Nebraska rallied to saddle the Buckeyes with a deflating 34-27 loss.
In now his sixth season at Michigan State, Mark Dantonio has turned the Spartans into a bona-fide top-tier team, both in the Big Ten and nationally. Buoyed by eight returning starters on defense, MSU possesses a potent prevent unit, but will have to have Andrew Maxwell step up big-time to fill the big shoes of departed quarterback Kirk Cousins.
I figure Meyer will have the Buckeyes psyched up for this one in particular, but I still consider the outcome a toss-up.
Nebraska has about as lengthy a resume as Ohio State when it comes the two schools' football legacies, and the 'Huskers were a force to reckoned with for years, first in the Big Eight and then Big 12, before moving to the Big Ten last season.
This year, Nebraska returns key offensive staples in tailback Rex Burkhead, wide receiver Kenny Bell and quarterback Taylor Martinez. But the Cornhusker defense was nothing last season if not porous, allowing 23.4 points and 350.7 yards per game - 158.5 rushing and 192.2 passing. The trouble now is not that their three best defensive playmakers were all NFL draft picks, but that most of the other starters on 'D' return to try to replug the dike before it ruptures again this season.
And despite last year's debacle at Nebraska, a night game in Ohio Stadium usually translates into a win for the home team.
Indiana poses no real threat to OSU Oct. 13 in Bloomington. IU, 1-11 last year with a lone win over FSC South Carolina State, was dead last in the Big Ten in 2011 in scoring defense (37.3 ppg), rushing 'D' (243.7 ypg) and total 'D' (458.7 ypg).
Next up is Purdue at OSU Oct. 20, with the Boilermakers having bested the visiting Buckeyes on their last two trips to West Lafayette, with 2011's win by a disheartening 26-23 score in OT when a blocked PAT late in regulation sent the game into extra time instead of sending the Bucks home with a 21-20 victory. The Boilers do have a capable glut of QBs to choose from and, although they need other help, could compete with OSU, but probably not enough in Columbus to actually steal away a win.
Then it's at Penn State Oct. 27 for the Buckeyes, who have most times played better in this rivalry at State College than in the Horseshoe. Normally, this would be a good game, and I'm sure PSU's hearts will be in it even this year. But it's tough to win when you're trying to overcome what they're experiencing now in not-so-Happy Valley. Easily a ''trap game'' under different circumstances.
Illinois comes a callin' on Ohio State Nov. 3. Let me say, no-way upset in this one, new Fighting Illini head coach or not. Not after Illinois went 7-6 last year, losing six straight after an 6-0 start before topping UCLA in the Fight Hunger Bowl.
The Buckeyes' goose, however, may be cooked - or not - at Wisconsin Nov. 17. Meyer does have a week off prior to prepare his charges not only for the defending Big Ten champion Badgers, but also the boisterous home crowd at Camp Randall.
OSU upended Wisconsin 33-29 last year at night in Columbus on a desperation 40-yard TD heave from QB Braxton Miller to wide-out Devin Smith in the end zone with just 20 seconds to play. The Badgers return enough to remain an offensive juggernaut, but are lacking on the defensive line, needing a pass rush, and in the secondary, where questions still exist.
Michigan, Nov. 24, high-noon kickoff, Ohio Stadium - 'nuff said. Of course, we'll be seeing 40-34 a lot. It's the score from last year's game in Ann Arbor won by ''that team up north,'' as Woody called Michigan, to snap a seven-game skid versus OSU.
This is one Meyer will not let get away as it's his team's bowl game this season. OSU prevails, who cares what the score is as long as it's one point more than them, to conclude a remarkable 11-1 or 10-2 season in Year 1 for Meyer as the head Buckeye.