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NCAA Football

2011 Big 10 College Football Preview – Ohio State

Today is the fourth story in my series of Big 10 team previews for the 2011 season featuring the Leaders and Legends division. I will be touching on one team from the Big 10 conference in each article, as I break down who is returning, who left, their 2011 schedule and some key reasons to the team’s chances of success this season….Today I will be previewing the Ohio State Buckeyes from the Leaders division.

Ohio State 2011 Prediction

I have the Buckeyes finishing in second place of the Leaders division this season, behind only the Wisconsin Badgers. The obvious off-season insanity left the program a little stunned. However, if any program could rebound quickly from such a disaster, it would be the Ohio State University. The defense has never been in question, but the offense will be this season. Nine of the 22 starters from their 2010 unit return to the fold in 2011, making for an uncertain beginning. Once the Buckeyes start clicking, there is no telling how tough of a match-up they will be in late November.

Offense

Tyrelle Pryor is an Oakland Raider, so that doesn’t bode well for the Ohio State offense. Their three top returners of Dan Herron, DeVier Posey and Mike Adams are all set to undergo five-game suspensions to begin the season. The quarterback situation is muddled at the top with Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller. One is a fifth-year senior, while the other is a freshman trying to lead the offensive attack, his first year in college. Regardless, it won’t be a highly explosive season on offense in Columbus. Ohio State is going to have to control the clock with Dan Herron, once he returns, running the ball. Jamaal Berry is in line to breakout for the Bucks this year, as the starting running back when Herron is out. In limited action last season, the sophomore showed glimpses of ability with his 8.3 yards per carry total. Look for him to shoulder the load in the early stages of ’11, before handing it back over to a rested Herron for the stretch run.

Defense

The fourth ranked defense from a year ago brings back defensive end Nathan Williams, who led the Buckeyes in sacks last season. Teamed up with defensive end John Simon, they will create a solid front seven. Last season the Ohio State defense allowed just 248 total points, which was the fewest allowed by a FBS school since 2001. It won’t be like that this year, but this defense will scratch and claw themselves into a lot of games that most teams would lay down and die. Luke Fikell takes the reigns as the head coach, and he will try to emphasize defense to his kids from the start.

Recruits

It won’t be long before Ohio State fans forget Tyrelle Pryor and the madness he brought to Columbus. Braxton Miller was the top quarterback recruit the Buckeyes thankfully recruited prior to the Pryor incident. The Buckeyes couldn’t be happier by their wise recruiting decision, as Miller will look to take over near the end of this season or the start of next year. The five-star recruit from Ohio will be looking to make an immediate impact in the Buckeyes offense with his extreme athletic ability.

Schedule

September: Akron, Toledo, @ Miami (Fla), Colorado

October: Michigan State, @ Nebraska, @ Illinois, Wisconsin

November: Indiana, @ Purdue, Penn State, @ Michigan

The Buckeyes have an intriguing first month of the schedule. I don’t think they’ll have the weapons early to defeat the Canes in Miami. The Buffaloes will present an interesting test at home, but I think Ohio State will be able to squeak by Colorado. October is the month where the Buckeyes season will be won or lost. I believe they will win one game in the month, that coming to Illinois. However, I don’t see them having the firepower this year to mess with Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin…especially in a one-month span. November looks like a breeze, except for that end of the year meeting with their rival Michigan. Ohio State will finish up strong to earn themselves a nice bowl bid, but don’t expect anything crazy from the kids in Columbus this fall….As for next fall, that is another story for another day.