#3: The Ohio State Buckeyes

It had been 34 years between national titles for Ohio State, but with Jim Tressel at the controls and talent piling up like cordwood, Buckeye backers won't have to wait that long for another. Logic says repeat. All 11 regulars from last season return, with tackle Shane Olivea and center Alex Stepanovich clearing the way for Maurice Clarett.

Quarterback Craig Krenzel is cool and efficient and the reigning Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP. It boggles the mind to think of the damage tailback Maurice Clarett can do if he stays healthy all year. Michael Jenkins averaged 18 yards on 61 catches last season and is back for more.

End Will Smith and tackles Tim Anderson and Darrion Scott man an impenetrable defensive line. Chris Gamble, Ohio State's first two-way starter in 30 years, is an All-America cornerback. Each of Gamble's team-high four interceptions last fall preserved victories for his team.

New standard: Maurice Clarett's 1,237 rushing yards is a new school freshman record.

Clarett? McGahee? Buckeye QB Craig Krenzel led both teams in rushing in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl with 81 yards.

Win with D: Ohio State's defense last season finished third nationally against the run and second against scoring.

2002 results: 140 (80 Big Ten)

2002 Bowl Game: Beat Miami 31-24 in Fiesta Bowl

Returning starters: 11 offense, 6 defense, placekicker

2003 Schedule:

A. 30 Washington
S. 6 San Diego State
S. 13 N.C. State
S. 20 Bowling Green
S. 27 Northwestern
O. 11 at Wisconsin
O. 18 Iowa
O. 25 at Indiana
N. 1 at Penn State
N. 8 Michigan State
N. 15 Purdue
N. 22 at Michigan

Schedule Analysis: Ohio State will have challenges right off the bat when Washington and NC State visit the Horseshoe on Aug. 30. Should the Bucks win those, and with the experience they have on offense you would think they would, they should not have much of a problem heading to Wisconsin with a 5-0 record. Ohio State has eight home games this year. The toughest tests will be at Wisconsin and at Michigan, the two teams most likely to steal Ohio State's Big Ten crown.

Final Word: Yes, the offense returns all 11 starters, but it did rank 41st nationally in scoring. In fact, the Bucks did not exceed 24 points (in regulation) in six of their final seven games, leaving it to the defense time and time again. The offense should be more productive this year, especially if Maurice Clarett can stay healthy for the whole season. Defensively, there are holes to fill, but there is still plenty of talent left from last year's spectacular unit. A repeat national championship? A definite possibility, but as Miami showed last year, it is very, very difficult in today's world of college football. Nebraska's 1994-95 repeat is the only one since 1980.

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