Biggest reason for hope: Track record on defense
Ohio State has reached a point where it can rely on producing an elite defense every season. Never more have the Buckeyes needed their D to rise to the occasion than in 2011. Despite losing seven starters and the most production since after the 2005 season, Ohio State always has the ability to reload and potentially become more dominant. John Simon and Nathan Williams anchor the line, while safety Tyler Moeller returns from injury to provide leadership in the back four. The Buckeyes need Etienne Sabino and other defenders who are moving into bigger roles to step up, but history is on their side. If the defense maintains its stinginess and opportunistic play, Ohio State should be able to survive the first five games without Terrelle Pryor & Co.
Biggest reason for concern: So many distractions
Ohio State's ability to focus and remain united will be put to the ultimate test this season. The Buckeyes will be without Pryor and four other key players for the first five games, as well as coach Jim Tressel, whose fate rests with the NCAA Committee on Infractions. Although Tressel is stilling planning to be around the team Sunday through Friday, all the controversy creates the potential for things to fall apart. Ohio State must address the personnel issues, particularly at quarterback and at receiver, but the most significant challenge could be psychological, given the unique circumstances. It's imperative for the seniors and other leaders to keep the squad on track.
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