So close, yet so far away. That was the Buckeye national championship hopes in a nutshell -- no pun intended. A perfect regular season, their second in a row under head coach Urban Meyer, only ended in disappointment as Michigan State and Clemson caused a major dent in an otherwise sterling record.
Luckily for Buckeye fans, the team returns fully re-loaded and ready to make another run towards a coveted National Championship.
These three players will play a major role in helping the Buckeyes towards The Chase.
Braxton Miller - Quarterback
This one is a bit obvious, don't you think?
Clearly in the conversation for the best quarterback in the conference, Braxton Miller returns as a senior for one last shot at national success. As long as he can stay healthy, he can kill any defense with his speed and arm. Finishing 2013 with over 2000-yards passing with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also amassed over 1000-yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.
Could Braxton be a Heisman candidate in 2014? There is definitely a chance. However, Big Ten defenses across the conference are looking to make sure that doesn't happen.
Catch him if you can.
THE DEFENSIVE LINE
It is nearly impossible to whittle down the playmakers on the defensive line to one key player, so it is appropriate to make them a unit.
They will be scary in 2014, that is no joke.
Registering 42 sacks in 2013, the defensive line returns mostly the same with another offseason of seasoning. The cast of characters include: Noah Spence, Michael Bennett, Adolphus Washington, Tommy Schutt and Joey Bosa among others. It is very possible that the line could be a very deep two-deep with an argument being made for a three-deep depth chart. Gaining a somewhat-fresh defensive line late in the game thanks to depth is a scary thought for opposing offensive lines.
Devin Smith - Wide Receiver
This was a tough choice. It was down to either senior Devin Smith or Tight End Jeff Heuermann. Both will be crucial targets for Miller in 2014, but this is Smith's year to break out.
Finishing 2013 with over 660-yards and eight touchdowns. Although the numbers do not look great on paper, Miller and back-up Kenny Guiton did a great job of sharing the football amongst the other receivers and tight ends. However, with Corey Brown no longer on campus, Smith should be the "next guy up" to be the main receiver.