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August 25, 2013

Predictions for the 2013 season

Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In one day, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer will take the podium for his first official press conference of the 2013 season. In one week, we'll be busy dissecting the Buckeyes' battle with Buffalo and looking ahead to their standoff with San Diego State.

College football season is almost here, meaning that time is running out to go on record and get your final predictions out for the upcoming year. With this is mind, I'm taking my stab at 13 predictions/guesses for the 2013 college football season. They may not be popular, and probably won't be right, but it's better to get these out now than to make them up later.

1. Ohio State will start the Meyer Era 25-0
Much has been made about the improbability of the Buckeyes staying undefeated for two consecutive regular seasons, but when you look at Ohio State's schedule this year, it's really not all that unlikely. Despite the hype of potential early season scares from San Diego State, Cal (Cal?!), and Northwestern, the Buckeyes won't truly be tested until November, where Meyer has a history of competing for championships and winning rivalry games.

I expect close calls against Michigan and Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game, but for the rest of the season to look like 2006, where Ohio State steamrolled the competition en route to a BCS Title Game appearance. That was the year that Meyer won his first national championship -- albeit at Florida. Will this be the season that he wins his third?

2. Ohio State will not win the national championship
I say, no. At this point, it would take nothing less than blind faith to bet against Alabama in a title game between the Crimson Tide and any other team in a national title game, and I simply haven't seen anything else that would make me want to bet against Nick Saban's squad. As they have in the past two years, I expect Alabama to enter the title game with one loss on its resume, but leave it adding another crystal ball to its trophy case.

Regardless of the result, a title game between 'Bama and the Buckeyes, Meyer and Saban, and in Pasadena nonetheless would be a hell of a way to exit the BCS Era. In this industry, storylines are what most of us (subconsciously or not) root for, and it'd be hard to find more in a game between any other pair of teams.

3. Braxton Miller will be in New York in December
But he won't walk away with the Heisman Trophy. While that may be hard to fathom considering I just predicted the Buckeyes to end the regular season unbeaten, I expect Miller's history of injuries (hasn't stayed healthy for a full season dating back to his sophomore year of high school) to interrupt an otherwise stellar season for No. 5, and for Kenny Guiton to be called upon to start at least one game in his senior season.

Given Ohio State's schedule and the coaching staff's praise of Guiton, last year's Boilermaker Beater could again save the season for the Buckeyes. And while Miller's stats and notoriety could land him in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, I expect South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to walk away with the stiff arm trophy.

4. At least two Buckeyes will win major awards
Despite his one-game suspension, Bradley Roby is still the favorite to walk away from 2013 with the Jim Thorpe Award, after a sophomore season that saw the OSU cornerback lead the country in passes defended per game (1.73). I expect Roby to pick up right where he left off once he returns to the Buckeyes' lineup, and put together a season as impressive as any OSU defensive back has since Antoine Winfield in 1998.

As for the other award I predict a Buckeye to bring home, Ryan Shazier is one of the frontrunners for the Butkus Award, and could very well win it if he continues on a trajectory similar to the one that he did in his sophomore season. With all of the concern about Ohio State's front-seven, Shazier will be a stabilizing force for the young Buckeye defenders, and his numbers will not only reflect that, but help add to the argument that Ohio State is Linebacker U.

5. Five Buckeyes will earn All-American honors
Miller, Shazier, Roby, Andrew Norwell, and Christian Bryant.

6. Braxton Miller will shatter his Ohio State single-season total offense record
The Buckeyes' signal-caller accumulated 3,310 yards through the air and ground last season, without having a full grasp of Meyer's spread offense. At the very least, he now appears to have that, as well as improved throwing mechanics entering his junior season.

I expect Miller's rushing total (1,271) to take a hit, but his passing yards (2,039) to increase significantly. Now that I think about it, I'm not so sure I feel comfortable betting against the Huber Heights, Ohio native to win the Heisman.

7. The annual Purdue scare will be absent in 2013
It's hard to believe that the Boilermakers have won two of their last three battles with the Buckeyes, but dating back to 'Holy Buckeye' in 2002, it's difficult to remember a time that Purdue was an easy out for OSU.

I not only expect that to change this year, but for Purdue to be the worst team in the Big Ten in 2013. I like Darrell Hazell, I really do, but the Boilermakers are slated to play three teams that qualified for BCS bowls this season -- as well as the Buckeyes. Couple that with the Boilermakers adjusting to a new coaching staff and system, and an ugly year in West Lafayette doesn't seem all that far-fetched.

8. Seven Big Ten teams will qualify for bowl games
Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Indiana (yes, Indiana), Wisconsin, and Northwestern. Penn State would also be bowl eligible, if not for the fact that they are ineligible to be bowl eligible this season.

9. Dontre Wilson will be a first-team All-Big Ten selection
At what position? I'm not exactly sure. But what I am sure about is that Wilson is unlike any athlete Ohio State has had in recent memory -- and perhaps in program history.

Wilson will line up at running back, wide receiver, H-Back, and kick returner for the Buckeyes this season, and is expected to be a key cog in the OSU offense regardless of where he is on the field. I suspect that his impact on the Big Ten will be significant this season, and something that's reflected in the postseason awards.

10. Devin Smith will be the Buckeyes' leading receiver
Although Corey Brown doubled Smith's receptions last year (60-30), it was the latter who showcased himself more regularly as a playmaker and consistent deep threat in the Ohio State offense. Should he take care of a few problems that he had holding onto the ball and making the easy catch, it's not hard to imagine Smith having a big junior season, with reception totals more proportionate to his yardage numbers.

11. Noah Spence will steal the show
Not exactly going out on a limb here, but the sophomore defensive end has looked absolutely dominate in every OSU practice session that has been open to the media throughout this offseason. The Harrisburg, Pa. native has gained approximately 25 pounds of muscle, but hasn't lost the step that made him a five-star recruit coming out of high school, and that should make him a terrorizing force in Big Ten backfields this season.

12. Adolphus Washington won't be far behind
While Spence has stolen the headlines, Washington looks every bit as improved as his defensive end counterpart, consistently getting to the quarterback in open practices, as well as the Buckeyes' spring game, where the Cincinnati, Ohio native recorded four sacks in front of his hometown crowd.

Defensive line coach Mike Vrabel is faced with the enviable task of replacing all four starters on his unit this season, but Spence and Washington appear to have the talent to make that a little easier of a job. I don't expect the Buckeyes' front-four to miss a beat this season, and to actually possess more depth across it than it did a year ago.

13. The Buckeyes' 2013 class will live up to expectations
And not just because of Wilson.

Jalin Marshall, Ezekiel Elliott, Mike Mitchell, Joey Bosa, and Vonn Bell are all names of freshmen that I expect to make impacts sooner rather than later for the Buckeyes in 2013.

Last season, the impact of freshmen was limited to a few catches by Michael Thomas and a big second half against Illinois by Bri'onte Dunn, but that figures to be the exception to the rule under Meyer. The OSU coaching staff has made it clear that it doesn't recruit players to redshirt, and much like they did for him at Florida in 2006, it could be Meyer's freshmen that again put his team over the top this season.



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