Tuesday, June 24

It might be a little early but...

I can't stop thinking about the upcoming football season. Don't get me wrong, I love baseball. But (especially with the Tribe slipping out of contention) nothing compares to the gridiron. I'll let our resident Dawg Pound experts take care of the Brownies, I'm here to talk college with a Buckeye preview.

Last Season
Last year's outstanding 11-2, Big Ten-winning season ended on an uber down note with a 38-24 thumping at the hands of LSU in the BCS National Championship...again.

At the end of the season, with the bitter taste of defeat still in the mouths of Buckeye players, things looked like they were going from bad to worse. Two-time All American Linebacker James Laurinaitis, monster DE Vernon Gholston, LB Marcus Freeman, big-play wideout Brian Robiskie, and shutdown corner Malcolm Jenkins were all thinking of going pro. In a move that shocked just about everybody, Laurinaitis decided to return, and Freeman, Jenkins and Robiskie followed suit. Gholston was the only one that went to the NFL, and although his loss certainly hurts OSU, they have a lot of depth at that position. Oh yeah, and we also picked up a guy named Terrelle Pryor, who appeared to be bound for Ann Arbor (she's still a whore) after Rich Rodriguez came aboard. Pryor decided differently, however, making the right choice and coming to the Buckeye state. Ohio St also landed two top OL's, Michael Brewster (6'5, 300) and Mike Adams (6'8, 310).

This Season
Ohio St appears to be one of the most loaded teams in the nation, returning 18 starters, pre-season Heisman candidate Chris Wells, and reigning Butkus award winner Laurinaitis. Looking at the schedule, the obvious game that jumps out at you is the Sept. 13 showdown at USC. Most pre-season polls have both OSU and USC in their top 5. It's not a stretch to think that this could be a #1 vs #2 match up, something Ohio St is certainly no stranger to (games versus Texas, Florida, Michigan, and LSU in the last two years). If Ohio St can notch a W in that contest, we could yet again be BCS Championship bound. No other non-conference opponents (Youngstown St, Ohio, Troy) pose a threat, and the Big Ten has seen better days. With Michigan in a somewhat rebuilding stage, a date in Camp Randall against rival Wisconsin on Oct. 4 is certainly the toughest test. Iowa is not on the schedule, and Penn St comes to the Shoe, so not too much to worry about there. At Illinois on Nov. 15 is the only other scare, but the Bucks will have revenge on their minds in that one. Lets take a look at how the OSU roster is shaping up.

Apparently an All Big Ten season from Todd Boeckman wasn't enough for some fans, as many are calling for Pryor to start. I'm gonna settle this once and for all, and not talk about it again. TODD BOECKMAN IS OHIO STATE'S QUARTERBACK. The man threw 25 touchdowns last year - give the guy a break. He does make some bad decisions, and will need to cut back on those and learn to take a sack here and there, Craig Krenzel style. Boeckman will certainly have weapons, as every player that caught more than 3 passes from last year's team are coming back, including pre-season All Big Ten Brian Robiskie. Brian Hartline, Ray Small, and Dane Sanzenbacher are all solid options, as are dual TE threats Rory Nicol and Jake Ballard. The line should be one of the nation's best. Alex Boone is a possible All American, and Steve Rehring, Jim Cordle, and Ben Person are all returning starters from a line that was very good last year. And of course lets not forget Erie's own McDowell grad Kyle Mitchum, still buried on the bench five years later. Here's to hoping for some PT this year for Mitch. Of course the highlight of the offense is Heisman candidate Chris "Beanie" Wells, who rushed for 1,600 yards and 15 TDs last season. Veterans Maurice Wells and Brandon (in)Saine are solid backups and good change of pace backs. The enigma of the offense will center around newcomer Pryor. No, he will not start, but he will certainly see the field. I would like to see him used Tim Tebow-ish like Florida did two years ago. Even better, Pryor is more versatile then Tebow. We can put him in the slot or in the backfield with Boeckman. Watching Pryor this season will be interesting, and I'm anxious to see how Tressel plays his wild card.

Defense/Special Teams
The defense is absolutely stacked, returning nine starters from a team that held opponents to 83 yards on the ground and 2.5 yards per carry last season. Gholston left school early, but three starters return on the line, and Lawrence Wilson was slotted to start last season but was sidelined for the year with an injury. The linebackers will be outstanding, led by Laurinaitis and Freeman. Senior Curtis Terry will fill in for the graduated Larry Grant. The secondary has all four starters back, with Malcolm Jenkins sure to take home some hardware at seasons end. Both 29-year-old Kicker Ryan Pretorious and Punter A.J. Trapasso are back after solid Junior seasons.

This team has a ton of talent, star power, and one of the best coaches in the game. I obviously expect big things. If the past is any indicator, we're looking at a great regular season, a Big Ten title, and an embarrassing show in the Championship to an SEC team (I hear Georgia's supposed to be good this year, maybe it'll be their turn). I would like to say there's no way Tressel would let something like that happen again, but I also said that last year. I guess only time will tell...

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