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Last updated: August 25. 2013 7:20AM - 281 Views

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Ohio State football is back, not that it ever really goes very far away.


OSU will be back on the field playing its opener against Buffalo in just 41 days. Itís back from the turmoil of the departure of Jim Tressel and a 6-7 season in 2011. Itís back from the NCAA purgatory of a one-year bowl ban.


And, after a 12-0 season in Urban Meyerís first year as coach, it is back in the national championship discussion.


When the Big Ten coaches and 36 of the leagueís top players come to Chicago for the annual Big Ten football media days on Wednesday and Thursday, the Buckeyes and Meyer will be the biggest story of the week.


Here are some of the top questions for Ohio State and the Big Ten as the football season approaches:


Question: Can Ohio State go 12-0 again this season?


Answer: There is no doubt Ohio State is better overall this season than it was a year ago.


Braxton Miller is a year older. Carlos Hyde is a proven commodity at tailback. The receivers will be better. Linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Bradley Roby appear to be All-American caliber players.


But all that is not a guarantee of another 12-0 campaign or a trip to the BCS championship game.


Remember, five of last yearís wins were by a touchdown or less, there was an overtime win at Wisconsin and a miraculous OT win against Purdue.


There will probably be at least one or two close calls this season.


Question: Can Braxton Miller win the Heisman Trophy?


Answer: If he stays healthy, if Ohio State stays in the Top 5 all year and if he puts up numbers better than last year (2.039 yards passing and 1,271 yards rushing), he has a solid chance.


The fact last yearís winner, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, is back might not hurt Millerís chances as much as you might expect.


We tend to discard everything, athletes included, in a hurry these days. So there might be some Manziel fatigue. Also, some voters might not want to vote for Manziel twice and a few might be put off by his apparent fondness for the night life.


Question: What is the most obvious similarity between Urban Meyer and Jim Tressel?


Answer: Both of them can go undefeated and still not be named Big Ten Coach of the Year. Tressel never won that award. Meyer didnít get it for going 12-0 in his first season at OSU last fall.


Question: The Big Ten took quite a beating from fans and the media last year for being a weak league. Was it deserved?


Answer: Mostly, yes. The numbers donít lie. There was only one Big Ten player selected in the first round of the NFL draft and there were just 22 Big Ten guys taken in the seven rounds of the draft. The Big Ten was 2-5 in bowl games.


The talent level might be improving, but there is still a long way to go to get to the SECís level.


Question: What is the most dangerous game on Ohio Stateís schedule?


Answer: This question has fewer choices than it does most years. Itís the game at Michigan on Nov. 30. The Wolverines are good, theyíre motivated to show theyíre as good or better than Ohio State. And they will be on their home field.


A Sept. 28 game at home against Wisconsin and a night game at Northwestern on Oct. 5 could be strong tests, but probably arenít on the same level as the Michigan game.


Question: Which Ohio State players might be on the edge of a breakout season?


Answer: Defensive linemen Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington for two. If wide receiver Devin Smith can bring the explosiveness to every play that he showed at times last season, he is another.


Question: Who will become Ohio State fansí least favorite Big Ten coach now that Bret Bielema has left Wisconsin to go to Arkansas?


Answer: Michigan coach Brady Hoke is an obvious choice, just because heís Michiganís coach and because that whole ďOhioĒ instead of ďOhio StateĒ thing gets under Buckeyes fansí skins.


If Nebraska coach Bo Pelini werenít an OSU alum, he would be a candidate just for his look of permanent irritation. If you want to include assistant coaches, former Ohio State offensive coordinator Jim Bollman is back in the Big Ten at Michigan State. But Hoke is your winner.


Question: Who is a Big Ten coach on the way up? Who is a Big Ten coach who might be on his way out?


Answer: First-year Purdue coach Darrell Hazell was regarded as a possible future Ohio State head coach when he was an assistant there from 2004-2010. His Kent State team won 11 games last year, the most wins ever by the Golden Flashes. Heís on the way up.


Illinois coach Tim Beckman, on the other hand, is on the hot seat after only one season. Illinois (2-10 overall, 0-8 Big Ten) was the worst team in the league in Beckmanís first season last year. They donít look much better this year.


To be fair, there isnít a lot of talent at Illinois. But if you brought together all the coaches who have been fired when they couldnít fix their teamsí lack of talent, theyíd fill the bleachers at Wrigley Field.


Question: When the Big Ten reorganizes its divisions and goes with the simple names of East and West next season, which current division name do you think will be missed most, Legends or Leaders?


Answer: Tough call. But Iím going with neither one.


Question: Whatís your prediction for Ohio Stateís record?


Answer: Letís say 12-0 and a trip to the BCS title game against Alabama. But any significant injury to Miller changes everything.


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