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College Football Top 25: Ohio State Buckeyes, No. 8

Ohio State Buckeyes [2011: 6-7 (3-5), Lost Gator Bowl 24-17 to Florida]

Four-Year Trend: 2008 (10-3), 2009 (11-2), 2010 (12-1), 2011 (6-7)

Notable Player: Jonathan Hankins, DT. Ohio State must win with defense. That defense must be anchored by a strong defensive line. Hankins showed a ton of potential starting as a sophomore last season. This year Ohio State will be looking for an All-American, “I am a Top 10 NFL Draft Pick” type season from the big fella.

Top Newcomers: Adolphus Washington (DE), Noah Spence (DE), Tommy Schutt (DT)

Probation: Ohio State is ineligible for postseason play from NCAA sanctions. They must run a race, cognizant of the fact they cannot win. This cloud may weigh on the Buckeyes or it may galvanize them. Fortunately, their rival to the north awaiting them at the finish will be motivation enough to keep running.

What’s New: Urban Meyer. The former Florida coach has returned after a one-year sabbatical. He’s a panacea for the program’s uncertainty after Jim Tressel’s firing. He brings his national championship pedigree, his recruiting prowess, his dynamic spread offense that suits the strengths of talented quarterback Braxton Miller and a healthy dollop of temerity.

Why We Like Them: Ohio State should have a very strong defense, with nine starters returning. The Buckeyes should have an impactful defensive line with Hankins and John Simons. They should be very strong in the secondary as well. The offense may not take a leap forward, but with Urban Meyer and Tom Herman at the helm it will take at least a step forward. This may involve creative tight end use.

Why We’re Concerned: There’s some uncertainty on the offensive line replacing Mike Adams and Mike Brewster and at linebacker where Andrew Sweat departs and Storm Klein working his way back from the wilderness. The offense won’t be quite the monster projected in 2012, with a dearth of elite athleticism at skill positions and a still raw quarterback transitioning to a new system.

Circle This Game: Ohio State vs. Michigan [Nov. 24] This is perhaps the greatest rivalry in college football. It’s the first meeting between Hoke and Meyer. Ohio State, with no bowl game, will be building toward this matchup from day one.

Best-Case Scenario: The defense is formidable. The offense starts rolling immediately. Ohio State rolls through a rather benign schedule, sweeps their three tough games at Michigan State, at Wisconsin and at home against Michigan to finish 12-0. The Buckeyes can’t win the Big Ten title, but that achievement will feel hollow in the wake of their dominance.

Worst-Case Scenario: The defense is good, but not quite elite. The offense sputters. Ohio State gets buoyed by a non-conference schedule and the Big Ten’s bottom tier but can’t quite hang with the conference’s upper crust to finish 7-5.

[Video contains some NSFW language]

[Photo via Getty]

25. Kansas State 24. Virginia Tech 23. Clemson 22. Boise State 21. Stanford 20. Michigan State 19. Notre Dame 18. Nebraska 17. Oklahoma State 16. Wisconsin 15. TCU 14. Florida 13. West Virginia 12. Georgia 11. Texas 10. Arkansas 9. Michigan

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