Thursday, August 21, 2008

Prelude to a Season... #5

#5.) Ohio State

What You Need to Know: I'm a little concerned about what exactly to do with Ohio State. #5 seems low, when in comparison to what they bring to the table. 18 starters returning from an 11-2 team that played in the last two National Championships. They return a Heisman front-runner in RB Beanie Wells, defensive stalwarts who were projected first-round NFL draft picks (LB James Laurinaitis and CB Malcolm Jenkins), they are riding a three-straight season streak of 10 wins or more, and have finished the last three years ranked 6th or better. They play in a storied, but somewhat down Big Ten, and save for one large game at an injured and depleted USC, their out of conference schedule is predictably lackluster.

What else? Their head coach Jim Tressel sports a 73-16 record while he's coached the Buckeyes, earning three straight Big Ten titles, and a National Championship in 2002. In case you forgot, the Bucks also picked up prize recruit and consensus #1 prospect in Terrelle Pryor, the only player in Pennsylvania high school history to run and pass for over 4000 career yards. Everything about this screams, "Rank us high".

But then there's the x-factors. Sort of that uncanny thing that lingers like the Taco Bell aftertaste. Last season, Ohio State was eerily similar to this year. Loaded with talent, but smarting after an asskicking at the hands of an SEC powerhouse where OSU looked overmatched, outplayed, and mediocre at best. In the spring of 2007, OSU was coming off the 41-14 loss to Florida. This year, it's a 38-24 loss to 2-loss LSU which gave the Tigers the national title. This may be their year, sure. But until I see otherwise, I have to believe that OSU will simply be OSU. Run the table in the Big Ten, only to get their brains beat in by a better, stronger, faster SEC or Big 12 school in the National Championship. All of that screams, "Rank me low".

Do I think the Buckeyes will be in the National Championship game? I absolutely do. Do I think they will win? I absolutely do not. They will be there not because they are one of the two best teams in the country. They will be there because they will be able to dominate a weaker conference with better players. They will be there because their schedule is certainly favorable, bordering on criminal. They are the Florida of the mid-90s. UF looked good beating up on Vandy, Kentucky, and a slew of other also-rans in the SEC. Ohio State gets no quarter for me for laying the smack on Northwestern, Minnesota, and Purdue. So #5 it is. And in an effort of disclosure, I think there are more than 4 teams better than the Buckeyes, but 5 was as low as I could go right now. Welcome to the big stage, OSU.

Who You Need to Know and Their 07 Stats:
QB Todd Boeckman: 2379 yds, 25 TD
WR Brian Hartline: 52 rec, 694 yds, 6 TD
RB Beanie Wells: 1609 yds, 15 TD
WR Brian Robiskie: 55 rec, 935 yds, 11 TD

Game To Watch: September 13th at USC and October 4th at Wisconsin are the only remotely loseable games for the Buckeyes. Their Game of the Season will be their Bowl Game, which they will lose.

They'll Do Well If...: They find a way to stop any remotely good team that they face in their Bowl.

Season Outlook: Expect Ohio State to be in the National Championship game, most likely against a one-loss Big 12 team or a 1 or 2-loss SEC squad. It is entirely feasible if both an SEC and Big 12 team run the table, Ohio State will not be in the BCS Championship game. Anything less than undefeated and this season will go down as failure in the highest order, and one loss with Ohio State's schedule will be devastating to any title hopes.

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