Bold predictions on the season

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The football season is only a little bit more than a week away and it can't come soon enough for any college football fan. The Buckeyes would be one of the favorites in the Big Ten this season if they were eligible to win the league and move on, but that doesn't mean that this team still can't be quite successful.

Each season the staff at BuckeyeGrove.com brings at least one bold prediction to the table. Sometimes we hit on them and other times we reach too far. That doesn't mean we are going to stop and as a staff we all have our top 'bold prediction' for the upcoming season.

Kevin Noon - Publisher

Ohio State will lead the Big Ten in sacks
Last season the Buckeyes were right in the middle of the pack when it came to sacks as a team with 1.77 per game, but let's all be honest, it felt like a lot less as the Buckeyes struggled to generate much of a pass rush with the front four.

John Simon led the way with seven while Johnathan Hankins, Michael Bennett and Ryan Shazier each had three. The issues is highlighted even more by the fact that Ohio State gave up 46, twice as many as the 23 that the team generated.

Well that will be over in 2012 with one of the deepest defensive lines in recent memory. Simon, Hankins and Garrett Goebel have all had a great fall camp and the team is hopeful that Nathan Williams will be back for the season. Add to that a two-deep that a talented group of freshmen joining the likes of Bennett and Joel Hale among others will lead to a rosy outlook. And even if the defensive line is not able to do it all on their own, the strength of the line will open up opportunities for the back seven to have success on the blitz as the line occupies the blockers up front.
Michigan State led the way with 44 total sacks over the year and Illinois had the lead per game with 3.15 per game. Look for the Buckeyes to finish better than both marks when the season concludes at home with That School Up North.

Ben Axelrod - Lead Team Writer

Braxton Miller will be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy

Just because the Buckeyes are enduring a bowl ban this season doesn't mean that they can't bring home a little hardware.

Urban Meyer has referred to Braxton Miller as the "most dynamic player" he's ever coached. That means that Meyer- who can be honest to a fault- thinks that his new quarterback is more dynamic than players such as former Utah quarterback Alex Smith, and former Florida quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Cam Newton. All three of those players have been finalists for the Heisman Trophy, with latter two having won the award.

With a weak out-of-conference schedule, don't be surprised to see Miller rack up numbers early and often, and eventually find himself in New York as a finalist for college football's most prestigious award.

Marc Givler - Recruiting Analyst

Ohio State will have two first-team All-Americans on defense

While the jury is out still out on the new Ohio State offense, much is expected out of a talented, experienced, and deep unit on the defensive side of the football. It is on defense where the Buckeyes will have two first-team All-Americans this fall. Senior defensive end John Simon is in the best shape of his life and with a tremendous group of defensive linemen around him, should have a monster season, especially if he can play his more natural strong-side defensive end spot with the return of Nathan Williams and the emerge of youngsters Steve Miller and Noah Spence at the LEO.

The outstanding defensive line should also lead to some opportunities for the defensive backs, most notably corner Bradley Roby. As a redshirt-freshman a season ago, Roby was arguably the team's best defensive back and is one of the rising stars on the Ohio State roster. Roby showed a knack for the big play last year and with the defensive line generating pressure, should have plenty of opportunities to rack up the interceptions.
Jeremy Birmingham - Team Writer

Rod Smith will lead the Buckeyes in rushing yards from the running back position

Yep, I said it. Rod Smith will lead Ohio State's stable of running backs in yards. As a freshman, Smith saw his season short-circuited by some fumblitis and a sputtering Buckeye offense that afforded little playing time for those buried on the depth chart. Under Urban Meyer, a rejuvenated Smith will see himself on level ground as one back in the Buckeyes embarrassment of riches at the tailback spot.
Smith's size/speed combination is elite, and with Urban Meyer (and Mickey Marotti) on his tail, the light will come on and Smith's talent will overcome his lack of experience. Despite the logjam at running back, it's a position that is not as deep on experience. Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall have each had over 100 carries a year ago, but Hall's early season effectiveness will likely be hampered by his injured foot. Someone is going to have to share carries early with the outspoken Hyde; and Smith should have the inside edge on freshmen Bri'onte Dunn and likely redshirt candidate Warren Ball. When that happens, Smith won't give it back.
Tom Levenick - Time and Change Contributor/Former Player

The 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes will go undefeated
The non-conference schedule sets up well for Ohio State with Miami and UCF both being 'locks' in my opinion but one will be closer than expected. The Cal game could be a struggle but the Bucks will prevail and then the UAB game will be a lay-up before the start of the conference schedule.

Road games are never easy but East Lansing (Mich.) isn't thought of as one of the most difficult places to play in the Big Ten. The Spartans have been really tough in recent "Dantonio years". Last year the Spartans squeaked by the Buckeyes in a game that the Buckeyes had no business even being close. 2012 will be a different story. The Bucks will be stout on defense and their speed and athleticism will rule the day.

The Buckeyes will not fold when the Cornhuskers comes to town and the demons of blowing a 21 point lead in the second half will be exorcised. Bo Pelini's homecoming to Ohio State will see him leave as a loser.

A win against Indiana will make for 7-0 and a revenge game against Purdue will lead to win number eight. Next comes a visit to "Unhappy Valley" and while everyone thinks this will be a walk in the park, it most likely will be a close game. PSU will still have many good players, pride to play for and an always loud supportive home crowd. Our Buckeyes will prove to have more "firepower" and will head back to Ohio having won 13 out of the 20 games played against Penn State since It joined the Big Ten.

Ohio State will get over on a rebuilding Illinois team for win number ten and then a trip to Madison (Wis.) against the Badgers and this will be a grudge match after the Buckeyes "upset" of the Badgers in 2011 and also due to the recruiting "quarrels" between Urban Meyer and Bret Bielema. The Buckeyes have a bye week prior to the Wisconsin game and Urban Meyer has a 33-3 record with his teams when they have more than one week to prepare for an opponent. Win number ten.
Last but not least in comes 'the team up north', coming south, for Brady Hoke's first visit to the "Shoe" when it will be on fire just like 2010. The Bucks will win convincingly completing a tremendous, eye opening.