COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Potential buzzkills are easy to find.
The team is coming off a rare losing season. It followed that with a coaching change. NCAA sanctions and a postseason ban will keep it from competing for a championship this fall.
Any one of those issues by itself might dampen expectations or limit the buzz around a program at most places around the country. But not at Ohio State, where the players talk about nothing short of winning every game and the fans responded to that rough campaign by showing up and posting the highest attendance for a spring game in the nation.
So it goes for the reigning most popular team in the country, according to an ESPN Sports Poll in 2011.
“We can go undefeated -- easy,” sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby said. “That’s the whole team’s expectations, that is our goal. We don’t see anybody on the [schedule] that we can’t match up with talent-wise.
“We have the best coaches in the country, so why couldn’t we? That’s our goal.”
That still wouldn’t give the Buckeyes a championship trophy to raise at the end of the season, but the drive for perfection has provided enough motivation for them in place of hardware. And that addition of coach Urban Meyer seemingly only added to the prestige of the tradition-rich program thanks to the sparking championship rings he brought with him from his tenure at Florida.
Obviously he won’t be able to add to that haul this season, though that doesn’t figure to keep people out of the 102,329-seat Horseshoe. And while those sanctions might be an annoyance, Ohio State has seemingly had simple solutions for anything else that might trip up other programs in its current situation as well, rattling them off and addressing them one at a time.
The losing season? It came with plenty of distractions, starting with Jim Tressel’s ouster after spring practice and the suspensions of a handful of key contributors thanks to the results of an NCAA investigation. That won’t be a factor anymore.
Turnover on the coaching staff? All the Buckeyes did was ultimately replace Tressel with Meyer, bringing in a guy with a pair national titles to instantly command respect in the locker room.
And if there are on-the-field questions heading into Meyer’s first season, the answers seem to roll of the tongue there as well.
The passing game was among the worst in the nation last year, but sophomore Braxton Miller has drawn extremely high praise from the coaching staff, Meyer’s spread system is tailor-made to the multipurpose quarterbacks’s ability and the receivers are poised to break out.
There’s not much experienced depth at linebacker, but a pair of sophomores have established themselves as potential playmakers to complement senior Etienne Sabino.
The Buckeyes will be without starting running back for a couple weeks to open the schedule after a freak offseason foot injury for senior Jordan Hall required surgery. No matter, talented backup Carlos Hyde got himself in better shape over the summer to handle a larger workload and Meyer has tinkered with the speed at wideout in an effort to fill Hall’s projected role as a hybrid rusher/receiver.
Whether those answers wind up all being correct remains to be seen. But for now, they reinforce that there’s nothing weighing down the Buckeyes.
“Our goal is to go 12-0,” Hyde said. “We’re going to go out and play with a chip on our shoulder since we can’t go to a bowl game.
“Let the world know who the Buckeyes are this year.”