CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

College football top 25 countdown: No. 3 Ohio State

While under NCAA sanctions last season, the Buckeyes went undefeated, and despite off-field issues they are contenders to win the Bowl Championship Series title.

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The Ohio State Buckeyes finished 12-0 last season, but the off-season felt more like 6-6 with only a 50% chance of reign.

No undefeated program got more imperfect faster.

Urban Meyer is still on honeymoon in Columbus, but outside city limits was a different story as Meyer deflected one incoming blow after another.

His appearance at Big Ten media day was more like a deposition during which he should have requested that counsel be present.

He answered more questions about off-field issues than about Braxton Miller, his Heisman Trophy-candidate quarterback.

There were inquiries about Buckeyes players who had run afoul of rules and regulations and people trying to connect dots back to Meyer's days at Florida.

Meyer tried to answer football questions as reporters wondered about his relationship with Aaron Hernandez, the former Florida Gator who suddenly is suspected of murder in New England (Hernandez was formally indicted Thursday).

Meyer sent out a text critical of reporters and their conclusion-jumping.

"I'm not sure I'm allowed to say what the actual truth is because there's an investigation going on," he said.

Meyer was also accused of ratting out Florida to the NCAA for possible secondary violations. Meyer coached the Gators to national titles in 2006 and 2009.

"There was certainly no intent to go after Florida," Meyer said.

Meyer couldn't make it through 20 minutes of his wife's spin class, one story noted, and another chronicled how NFL scouts were kicked out of Ohio State practice because they were wearing blue (Michigan colors).

Meyer, no doubt, can't wait to get back to the things he can control: the football season.

"Disruption is the biggest thing that bothers me," he said.

Now, what to make of last year's 12-0 season? It was only the sixth perfect season in school history, yet it was played under a caution flag because there was nothing but pride at stake.

Ohio State was ineligible for the postseason because of NCAA sanctions Meyer inherited from former coach Jim Tressel.

The schedule was certainly not played under the same pressure endured by teams competing for the Bowl Championship Series title.

That is certainly not the case this year as Ohio State enters the season as one of the leading contenders to win the last BCS championship.

What Meyer did in his first year was brilliant, taking a 6-7 team to 12-0, but let's see what he does under more intense scrutiny.

The odds suggest Ohio State will be fine. The Buckeyes return nine starters on an offense that includes Miller, one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks anywhere.

Miller not only led his team with 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns, he also led the Buckeyes with 1,271 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.

Carlos Hyde, expected to be the team's top running back, got his legal matters settled just in time for training camp but has been ordered by Meyer to sit the first three games.

There will be challenges for a defense that lost seven starters and will be missing star cornerback Bradley Roby for the Buffalo opener. Meyer suspended Roby one game even as disorderly conduct charges against him were recently dismissed.

Meyer is trying to take charge as outside charges pile up against him.

"I don't view my own reputation," he said. "I guess a reputation is what others think of you."

Top 25 so far: 25. Oklahoma; 24. Wisconsin; 23. Fresno State; 22. UCLA; 21. Texas A&M; 20. Notre Dame; 19. Oregon State; 18. Oklahoma State; 17. Arizona State; 16. Nebraska; 15. Louisiana State; 14. Florida State; 13. Michigan; 12. Boise State; 11. Texas; 10. Northwestern; 9. Florida; 8. Louisville; 7. Clemson; 6. South Carolina; 5. Georgia; 4. Oregon.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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