The Ohio State Buckeyes are back and hungry for another conference title, but this time you can be sure that they want to win this one outright.
Let's get right to it, the Big Ten title is either going to end up in the hands of the Buckeyes or the Nittany Lions. The title has pretty much come down to these two teams the past couple of years and will so again this season.
Jim Tressel is back for his 9th season, wait...Jim Tressel has been at Ohio State for 8 seasons already? Wow it feels like only yesterday he was leading his underdog Ohio State team into Michigan to pull off the upset in 2001. Now Jim Tressel makes beating Michigan look easy.
Tressel has an overall record of 83-19 over 8 seasons. Let's face it this guy knows how to win ballgames, especially in the Big Ten where his record is 52-12. He always has his players ready to play hard every week and as long as he is there then the Buckeyes will always be mentioned within the top of the conference year in and year out.
You may think that I am talking up Tressel a bit too much, but I beg to differ. Tressel is averaging over 10 wins a season, has one National Championship and 5 Big Ten conference titles in only his first 8 seasons. Let's face it not many coaches can say that. He has brought a fire and determination to the players and fan's but at the same time resonates with a certain calmness that is felt by all.
Now on to the guys who will actually play on the field. The biggest losses from the team last year were linebackers James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman, running back Chris "Beanie" Wells, cornerbacks Malcom Jenkins and Donald Washington, wide receiver Brian Robiskie and offensive linemen Alex Boone and Steve Rehring.
Can the Buckeyes bounce back after losing so much talent? Of course they can.You can be sure that the Buckeyes will re-load at both the Wide Receiver and Cornerback positions. The buckeyes have been meticulous for doing so. Lose Joey Galloway in comes Terry Glenn, lose Glenn in comes David Boston. As for cornerbacks, lose Shawn Springs in comes Antoine Winfield, lose Winfield in comes Ahmed Plummer. So the Buckeyes will be fine at those skill positions for next year.
Losing one of the best running backs in Beanie Wells will be tough. Although there is a lot of experience coming back to the offensive line, how good can we expect Dan Herron and co. to be? Only time will tell.
This will not help 2nd year QB Terrelle Pryor. He needs a decent running game if he wants to improve in his passing this year. Terrelle has proved to be one hell of a runner if need be, but he can't do it all.
The defensive line should be great this year for the Buckeyes. Doug Worthington, Cameron Heyward and Thadeous Gibson are all coming back. The linebacking core took quite a hit and will most likely be the weakest part of this defense. And even though the Buckeyes lost a couple of key defensive backs they always seem to re-load and returning starter Chimdi Chekwa should lead this group quite nicely.
The Big Ten title will come down to that game in Happy Valey on November 7th. Fringe contender Michigan State has too many tough tests to be a real threat this year with games at Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Illinois and home games against Penn State and in state rival Michigan.
Ohio State may have the toughest non conference schedule in the conference because of their September 12th date with USC. Also don't forget about their game at rival Michigan this year which is always interesting.
Penn State has a cakewalk of a non conference schedule which includes Akron, Syracuse, Temple and Eastern Illinois. Their toughest games within the conference are of course against Ohio State, at Michigan State and Michigan.
It will be a tough road for Ohio State, but I firmly believe that the Big Ten title will come down to that Ohio State at Penn State game in November. This year I think Ohio State will get redemption for what Penn State did to them last year and pull out the victory in Happy Valley and win the conference.