Ohio State Buckeyes
The Good News: While only Ohio State backers want to see them make a third trip to the National Championship Game after two straight blowouts, CFB fans everywhere may be disappointed in early January. That's because the 2008 Buckeyes could be even better than the two teams that came before them, making a third consecutive shot at the National Title a distinct possibility. How's this for scary? The Buckeyes have an experienced quarterback and offensive line (Featuring three NFL prospects), a Heisman Trophy candidate at running back, nine starters returning from the nation's best defense in 2007 and the most sought after recruit in the country; multi-talented QR Terrelle Pryor. Other than that things look bleak in Columbus. The defense could end up being one of the best in school history, led by Butkus Award winner James Laurinatis and premier cover corner Malcolm Jenkins. This will easily be one of the most feared defenses in the nation. Beanie Wells is as good a running back as there is in college football. With Wells running behind a strong line, the rushing attack will open things up for Todd Boeckman and the passing game.
The Bad News: Other than the backlash of getting drilled by Florida and LSU in the last two title games, not much. The one possible pitfall for the Bucks is quarterback controversy that could surface if Ohio State struggles offensively at USC early in the year. Boeckman is a solid signal caller that manages the game well but fans and alumni are drooling over the thought of Pryor running the offense. Pryor will see some time running the spread, similar to what Florida did with Tim Tebow during his freshman year. But if Boeckman can't get it done on the road versus the Trojans, there will be a huge outcry to get Pryor more snaps at quarterback. However, that likely won't happen since one early loss won't eliminate Ohio State from reaching the title game. Pryor will get his day in the sun but it's going to be Boeckman's offense to run in 2008. The Buckeyes could also stand to get better on special teams, especially on kickoff returns, an area they ranked dead last in among Division I schools a year ago.
Schedule: The Sept. 13 clash with USC is huge for the Buckeyes. If they get by that game, it's going to take an upset to prevent an undefeated season. There are a couple of potential pitfalls, however. Road games against Wisconsin and Illinois are far from sure wins. Madison is one of the toughest places to play in the country and the Illini beat Ohio State last season. Then there is the season finale at home against Michigan. Remember one thing about the Wolverines: They will be much tougher in November than they will be in September. Still, this schedule sets up perfect for Ohio State if they can upset the Trojans.
Gambling Angle: This is as nasty a defense as you are going to find at the collegiate level. However, in the spring the focus was on creating more turnovers defensively and turning them into scores. That makes me weary of taking a lot of unders with Ohio State when they are facing weaker teams. The Buckeyes offense is going to score and if the defense adds a touchdown here or there, I actually think the over in games against teams like Minnesota and Purdue are solid plays. Also, don't be afraid to lay the wood with this team in conference games. The Buckeyes are going to destroy the weak sisters of the Big 10.
Outlook: With 18 returning starters and the excitement of adding Pryor as a change-of-pace quarterback, this is a dangerous team. I was really disappointed with the performance Ohio State put forth against LSU last year. They got manhandled in the trenches and they are just too good for that to happen against anyone. Here is the problem with Ohio State. If they beat USC, people will say it was because the Trojans had an inexperienced quarterback. If they plow through the Big 10, people will say it's because the Big 10 is weak. The only way the Buckeyes can gain respect is to win the National Championship. With the talent Ohio State has and a favorable schedule, three times could be the charm in Columbus.
How about BOTH USC & Wisconsin!!
Either USC or Wisconsin but it's more of an overall projection. There are always upsets so the record I project is how think they'll end up at the end of the season. I'm not really picking a specific team to beat them but on paper, the Trojans and Badgers have the best shot.
TOMMY WHO DO YOU HAVE THE BUCKS LOSING TOO ?
Very nice job Tommy .. this will be my first football season with Pregame .. I cant wait for FOOTBALL
lgjr1, I heard someone say they saw USC -7 for a projected early line.
ANY LINE UP YET IN VEGAS/OFFSHORE ON THAT USC GAME TOMMY ? THX
Thanks Chuck. As a huge college football fan, nothing pains me more than watching a blow out in the biggest game of the year. I still believe Ohio State should be able to compete with the best teams in the country but it's hard to argue that after what they've done the last two seasons. I don't want to take that chance again but there is a good possibility the Buckeyes will be playing for all the marbles for the third straight season.
Great Analysis. Buckeyes WILL be in the Mix at Season's end!