It's early, no doubt. But the good (well, really, bad) thing about college football is that for any moderately great team you can write off half the schedule before it even begins. It's 4-5 games that define your season. Either way, this could be a tricky year for Ohio State if they're to make the title game.
With the team ranked No. 2 preseason, we all assumed they'd be a shoe-in if they ran the table, but it already seems like there are, a) some other very good teams out there and b) a contingent of the AP (and likely the coaches too) looking for any excuse to knock OSU off that perch.
This is a real "counting our chickens" situation here, but let's take a look at the Buckeyes' potential competition if they are to go the distance:
- SEC - Realistically, the only scenario an SEC team doesn't get into the title game would be if every team in the conference had 2 losses or more. Likely, the only way that happens is if the winner of the West (LSU/Alabama) goes into the conference title game with 1 loss and loses to a 2-loss team from the East. But a) it's unlikely the winner in the West won't be undefeated going into that game just b/c that division will be so competitive, and b) with South Carolina not playing Alabama, LSU or A&M it's unlikely they go into the SEC title game with 2 losses unless they lose to Florida or Clemson at home and Georgia on the road.
- Pac 12 - This is potentially the Buckeyes' biggest challenge. The winner of the Oregon/Stanford game has a good chance of going undefeated and their conference slate (at least this year) seems comparatively stronger than (or at least equal to) the Big Ten with Washington and UCLA both looking good and USC there as well. Oregon also would have a win over Tennessee in the non-conference and Stanford would have Notre Dame, of course. Not to mention the media has a love affair with Oregon.
- Florida State / Clemson - Both of these teams have some big games to win before even thinking about a national title berth, but if they did run the table they'd be in, no doubt. In addition to the ACC title game, Florida State would have wins over Miami, Clemson and Florida, while Clemson would have wins over Georgia, Florida State, & South Carolina. I doubt either of those will happen, but we're just prognosticating here. .
- Oklahoma State / Texas / Oklahoma - It's such a cluster in the Big 12 I can't imagine anyone goes undefeated, but if they do that team would have quality wins over 3 of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU -- all teams who should be ranked all year long AND they don't have a conference title game to worry about. However, the only team in that trio with the opportunity for a big non-conference win would be Oklahoma beating Notre Dame. Other than that, they'd be relying on their conference wins. So, unlikely.
- American - Louisville should coast through this league but there's no compelling win there. Even an undefeated L'ville team might be bypassed by 1-loss teams from any of those scenarios above.
- Notre Dame - They have to get by Michigan, Michigan State, USC, Oklahoma and Stanford (brutal), but if they do, no question they're in.
Long story short, IF the Buckeyes are fortunate enough to run the table there's (of course) likely only one spot available because of the SEC. Going into the year the assumption was that -- starting at No. 2. -- that was their spot to lose, but that might not be the case if the voters turn on Ohio State or get infatuated by Oregon, Clemson, Florida State etc. Sooner rather than later I wouldn't be surprised to see some of -- or perhaps all of -- those teams ahead of the Buckeyes in the rankings and Ohio State needing them to fall off one by one if they're looking for a shot at the title.
But I'm guessing the team is more worried about their linebackers than being on the outside looking in on a title race 12 weeks from now...