Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 8/30/13
Ohio State had a lot to play for last fall: Making people forget a year of NCAA investigations and innuendo, rebounding from the worst season in more than a century and living up to the expectations of a new coaching staff. They more than succeeded with a stunning 12-0 turnaround. Unlike those Buckeyes, however, the 2013 version is allowed to compete for a Big Ten championship and even a national title. A postseason ban is no longer in force for crimes and misdemeanors committed under the regime of deposed coach Jim Tressel. The first step is Saturday's game against Buffalo, a rebuilding team hoping to make a good showing while the second-ranked Buckeyes are aiming to serve notice that they're a worthy contender to break the Southeastern Conference's seven-year stranglehold on No. 1. ''Coach (Urban) Meyer came in here and he went 12-0,'' safety C.J. Barnett said. ''Last year we had a chip on our shoulder. We were kind of hunting, but now we're the hunted. We've got the target on our backs. It's tougher when everybody's gunning at you.'' Here are five things to watch in the opener for both teams: HYPE OR HOPE? Braxton Miller embarks on his Heisman Trophy campaign with a better handle on the offense and better mechanics when he steps into the pocket. His receivers are improved over last year. Plus, he has far more options in terms of playmakers. Even Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn, if he could, would vote for Miller. ''Braxton, to me, is definitely a worthy candidate,'' he said. Meyer says Miller will run less and throw more, which will keep him healthier and stronger for the stretch run. MACK ATTACK: The Bulls' Khalil Mack is not just one of the best LBs in his conference, but in the country. He's so good that he's expected to be among the top couple of players at his position in next spring's NFL draft. He's also so good that Ohio State's coaches are worried about him. ''He is an extremely, extremely talented player,'' Buckeyes co-offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. ''He poses some matchup issues that we'll have to gameplan for.'' MAC ATTACK: Ohio State is 28-1 against current members of the Mid-American Conference, the lone smudge on that record being a 12-6 setback to Akron in '94 - 1894, that is. It's unlikely that the Bulls have enough weapons to keep the Buckeyes at bay, but it's always important to note that the MAC has a history of pulling off shockers. On Sept. 20, 2003, MAC schools knocked off No. 6 Kansas State, No. 9 Pittsburgh and No. 21 Alabama. That very same afternoon, Bowling Green had Ohio State on the ropes at Ohio Stadium but ended up falling 24-17 in the closest call for a Buckeyes team against an in-state rival since 1921. YOUTH IS SERVED: Ohio State's offense is composed of grizzled veterans. But the defense? Not so much. Only two seniors will start on that side of the ball, Barnett and Christian Bryant at safety. Most eyes will be on whether ends Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington can get to Bulls QB Joe Licata, and whether sophomore Joshua Perry and former five-star recruit Curtis Grant can carry the load at LB. Also, the Buckeyes will have a freshman handling the punting: 21-year-old Aussie Cameron Johnston. OLIVER! Buffalo RB Branden Oliver gained 821 yards last year despite missing five games and parts of four others. If he has success, that's not a good omen for a rebuilt Ohio State defense with eight new starters. If Oliver finds himself hemmed in a lot, then the Buckeyes will have taken a first step toward being taken seriously in the national-title picture. --- Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Isaiah Thomas led charge against Kevin Love

Baker Mayfield addresses Johnny Manziel comparisons

2018 NBA All-Star Game reserves announced

Report: Rob Gronkowski in good spirits, Patriots optimistic he'll play in Super Bowl LII

Astros' Jon Singleton receives 100-game suspension

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Jalen Rose: ‘Kawhi Leonard wants out of San Antonio’

WWE fires Enzo Amore in wake of rape accusation

NFL wants Raiders to sign Kaepernick after Rooney ruling?

Jay Feely: Gisele tried to get me to convince Tom Brady to retire

Raiders to make a run at Le’Veon Bell if he becomes free agent?

Jerry Jones: Jason Garrett is not on the hot seat

The 'OK, so it's not always good to be The King' quiz

How to stop a Pats comeback: Never think you're ahead

How the Philadelphia Eagles arrived at Super Bowl LII

How the New England Patriots arrived at Super Bowl LII

Close calls: 20 MLB greats who came closest to Cooperstown but never made it

Nine reasons why the Eagles will beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII

The surprising failure of Jason Kidd

How things have changed since last Eagles-Pats Super Bowl

The Chicago Bulls' future is on the clock

Position-by-position breakdown of Super Bowl LII teams

The 'More things change...' quiz

Greatest surprise Super Bowl stars

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Close calls: 20 MLB greats who came closest to Cooperstown but never made it

The 'OK, so it's not always good to be The King' quiz

How to stop a Pats comeback: Never think you're ahead

How the Philadelphia Eagles arrived at Super Bowl LII

Greatest surprise Super Bowl stars

Position-by-position breakdown of Super Bowl LII teams

Oldest players to ever be on Super Bowl rosters

The 'More things change...' quiz

How the New England Patriots arrived at Super Bowl LII

Players with the most Super Bowl appearances

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker