Ohio State football: What’s the worst-case scenario for 2019 season?

No college football team is guaranteed double-digit wins every season — it only seems like that in Columbus since the turn of the century.

The possibility for everything to go south is always there, as Ohio State fans old enough to remember 1999, 2004 and ’11 can attest.

>>RELATED: How can the Buckeyes reach their potential this fall? 

After examining what Ohio State's season will look like if everything goes right, here is how 2019 could go down for the Buckeyes if things don't go according to plan:

1. The offense is one-dimensional, but this time passing is the problem. 

Hopes are high for Georgia transfer Justin Fields, but he is still just a sophomore and a first-year starter.

His running ability should mean Ohio State generally can move the ball (especially against inferior competition, as has been the rule since Urban Meyer installed his offense in 2012), but the passing game will have to execute when the chips are at the center of the table or the results could be ugly.

That is the difference between a decent college quarterback and a good one, and we won’t know what Fields can do until he does it.

2. The offensive line struggles to protect. 

An underappreciated aspect of play calling is how the coaching staff feels about the offensive line’s ability to hold off defensive lines that become more ferocious every year since coaches learned pass rushers can come in all shapes and sizes (as long as they are fast).

The offensive line Ohio State figures to run out there looks big and physical, but if those Buckeyes have trouble handling the pass rush, the playbook will shrink quickly, and whatever is called will be harder to actually execute.

3. No backup running back steps up. 

J.K. Dobbins is a proven commodity at running back, but he can’t carry the whole load no matter how much he wants to.

Ohio State needs someone to share the load, and so far in camp none of the young backs have proven they can do that (according to Day).

Injuries are common at running back, and Dobbins going down would of course exacerbate the problem.

4. The defense can’t get off the field. 

The flip side of turning to a bend-but-don't break defensive style is the potential for death by 1,000 cuts.

Day said in July there is an appeal to forcing teams to drive the length of the field, and watching them do just that could be frustrating to Ohio State fans even if the strategy differs from the one that yielded a big-play bonanza for opponents last season.

Look for fans to celebrate the new style right up until it fails the first time — then immediately question the sanity of Greg Mattison and Jeff Hafley for being too conservative.

Will the Buckeyes be able to get a stop when they need it?

As good as the defenses were during the Jim Tressel era, this was a recurring problem then, especially late in close games.

5. The head coach struggles to manage games. 

Day’s three-game cameo went about as well as could be expected last season when Meyer was suspended, but that is a small sample size and wins over Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU were all by double-digits.

The Buckeyes responded well to adversity when the Horned Frogs led at halftime, but Ohio State held a double-digit lead most of the fourth quarter so there was a cushion for Day to rely on as his team finished the night.

On top of that, the 2019 schedule might turn out to be harder to navigate than some of the recent OSU slates that had a couple of great teams and virtually no average ones.

Although Penn State and Michigan State might have been better in recent seasons, they remain dangerous, now as part of a growing middle class in the Big Ten that also includes resurgent Nebraska and Northwestern. Maryland and Indiana could join that group, too.

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Cincinnati also poses a unique challenge with coaches Luke Fickell and Marcus Freeman no doubt looking to get the best of their alma mater and numerous Bearcats from Ohio looking to show they were overlooked by Ohio State on the recruiting trail. (Also motivations aside, a UC team that won 11 games last season might just be pretty good.)

Add it all up and there are more losable games on the schedule even if Ohio State still figures to be the most talented team on the field every weekend.

Bottomline: Ohio State is still talented enough to win games on raw ability alone, but it could be an ugly 9-3 or 8-4 and a trip to Orlando (Citrus Bowl) or Tampa (Outback Bowl) on New Year's Day. A few bad bounces could mean even a farther fall.

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