This article is part of our Summer Stock series, a three-week look at the programs generating the most buzz coming out of spring practice.
Since there's so much uncertainty surrounding Ohio State's upcoming season -- particularly the Buckeyes' first five games, when head coach Jim Tressel will join quarterback Terrelle Pryor, tailback Dan "Boom" Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey, left tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas in their suspensions -- let's start with what we know.
We know, for example, that last year's Buckeyes were statistical giants. They finished in the top 10 nationally in key eliminator categories (stats that correlate strongly with college football success) like passing efficiency (eighth, 157.73), turnover margin (fourth, 1.15), rushing yards allowed per game (third, 96.7), pass efficiency defense (fourth, 98.60), red zone defense (seventh, 70 percent) and third-down defense (fifth, 30.2 percent). If that weren't enough, OSU enters the season fourth in Football Outsiders' five-year performance metric, a strong predictor of next-year success (the 10 teams in the last five BCS title games have all started the season among the top 20 teams in the five-year metric).
We know that on top of the early-season suspensions, OSU lost 11 starters from last year, including leading receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, and cornerbacks Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence. Additionally, the Buckeyes will be without all-conference defensive end Cameron Heyward, the Steelers' first-round pick in April's NFL draft. In other words, the Buckeyes will be hard-pressed to repeat their dominant defensive performance of 2010.
But we also know this: With a forgiving early-season schedule and a roster that still contains as much talent as any in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes' title chances remain strong.