3 ways Ohio State could become an all-time great team

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The speculation, the debates and the comparisons are out there already, and there is nothing Ohio State can do to stop them.

The best Urban Meyer can do is stash his team away and make sure that there is no discussion about dynasties, repeats or where the Buckeyes might rank historically as they deal with the grind of two-a-day practices.

"There's really zero conversation about that," Meyer said. "To worry about something other [than getting better every day], that's not fair and it doesn't exist.

"It probably exists when they are out and about. The good thing is they're locked down at the hotel with us, and so up until we play the first game, we're locked down."

Once the Buckeyes are released back into the wild, there will be no avoiding the expectations that come with a roster that returns largely intact after claiming the inaugural College Football Playoff.

The talk goes beyond the simple question of whether or not the No. 1 Buckeyes are capable of winning it all again. Now it includes a projection of where they might rank among the top programs in history if they win back-to-back titles.

How Ohio State stacks up against the most dominant champions of the recent era could qualify as jumping to a conclusion since the season hasn't even kicked off yet, but here are a couple of ways the Buckeyes could build a case by the time it ends.

Churn out first-round draft picks

The abundance of riches Miami had on the roster in 2001 might never be duplicated, but Ohio State might be able to come close given the way Meyer has cleaned up on the recruiting trail and the fact that the Buckeyes didn't have any draft-eligible players leave early following the championship season.

After their dominant title campaign, the Hurricanes had five players drafted in the first round of the ensuing NFL draft -- a number the Buckeyes are already expected to at least match next spring.

Defensive end Joey Bosa, quarterback Cardale Jones, running back Ezekiel Elliott, left tackle Taylor Decker and linebacker Darron Lee are all currently projected as first-round picks according to ESPN's Todd McShay. They could easily be joined by defensive tackle Adolphus Washington, safety Vonn Bell or wide receiver Michael Thomas to give the Buckeyes a historic draft class in the opening round.

There may still be some work and development to do before Ohio State can match the jaw-dropping 38 players overall who were drafted from the 2001 Canes, but the sheer volume of elite talent Meyer has on campus now looks like it could hold its own.

Take over the Heisman vote

The NCAA sanctions and the vacancy of the national title may have removed some of the luster from USC's overpowering 2004 squad, but the memories of what that team accomplished on the field are still real -- including the moments of individual brilliance that gave the Trojans a pair of Heisman finalists.

While it's obvious that truly great teams must rely on depth and talent throughout the roster to claim a championship, more often than not it's special players at the top who tip the scales and leave lasting impressions. For the Trojans, that was quarterback Matt Leinart's brilliance, which earned him the Heisman, and Reggie Bush's incomparable athleticism as a fifth-place finisher. The Buckeyes have a handful of candidates capable of providing something similar this season.

Regardless of who wins the quarterback battle between Jones and J.T. Barrett, either can put up huge numbers and punch a ticket to New York for the trophy presentation. And Ohio State's quarterback could be joined by Elliott, the preseason Heisman favorite after his postseason barrage last season, or perhaps even Bosa if he can put up his expected stats and overcome the historical bias against defensive players.

Leave no doubt on the scoreboard

Just winning every game isn't enough to leave an unquestioned legacy as one of the all-time greats. Standing out among champions requires pure, unadulterated dominance, with Nebraska providing the ultimate blueprint back in 1995.

The Huskers won every matchup by at least 14 points, and posted a staggering average margin of victory of nearly 38 points per game on the way to one of the most epic title campaigns ever.

The Buckeyes have the offensive firepower and the stingy defense needed to rack up lopsided scores, and they also have a schedule that will likely favor them by double digits in every game except perhaps a November showdown with Michigan State.

"People say we're going to get everybody's best shot," Decker said. "Well, I look at it like every team is going to get our best shot as well."

If all of them land, the conversations about where the Buckeyes rank are going to get much louder and a lot more interesting.