Ohio. It's getting a tid bit nipply outside in Columbus these days, but that’s not going to keep the action and the competition from heating up in Ohio Stadium (and Happy Valley) for the rest of the season.
Here’s my look at the rest of the Big Ten schedule for the Buckeyes from where they stand right now.
Wisconsin, Oct. 10, 2009: Home
The Badgers are coming into this Saturday’s game a rather impressive 5-0, including a win over an always dangerous Fresno State team, even if it was only by a field goal. A three-point victory over Minnesota, coupled with that OT victory against Fresno State, is probably the only reason why the Badgers aren’t ranked in the (AP) Top 25.
And some people thought Bret Bielema’s job was in jeopardy; psh.
One thing we always know about the Badgers: They like to run the football, and they do it well. They’re currently 14th in the nation in rushing and will be facing off against Ohio State’s 10th-ranked running defense.
This is gonna be a good ol’ fashioned Big Ten grind 'em out kinda game. Look for Terrelle Pryor’s ability to scramble and make plays with his feet to be the difference maker in this game.
Purdue, Oct. 17, 2009: Away
Yours truly was personally in attendance for the drubbing that was laid down on the Boilers in 2007; 365 days later, it was the polar opposite as Ohio State struggled to move the ball on offense and was “saved” by Malcolm Jenkins’ blocked punt.
Gambler’s fallacy would tell you, “Well, we’re bound to break out for a big game then this year.” Eh, probably, but don’t count your chickens before they hatch. While Purdue is only 1-4 and an abysmal 1-3 at home, they did come close to beating both Oregon and Notre Dame.
Watch out as always for the Boiler offense—they currently average 30.2 ppg and over 400 total yards/game. Yikes.
Minnesota, Oct. 24, 2009: Home
I really don’t know what to think about this Gopher team. They win a close one on the road against Syracuse, win their home opener against Air Force, and then proceed to drop two out of their next three (vs. Cal, vs. Wisconsin).
They’re only averaging 96 yards/game on the ground and 25.4 ppg, but I still have this nagging feeling that somewhere inside of them they have a breakout, once-a-season game. Let’s just hope it's not on Oct. 24.
We’ll definitely learn a lot more about the two aforementioned teams this weekend, as they meet in Minny.
New Mexico State, Oct. 31, 2009: Home
Ah, how college kids love Halloween (probably more so than five-year-olds, and that might be a little creepy). On a day just fit for an upset, I just don’t see it happening. The Aggies are 2-3 and are looking up from the bottom of a very bad WAC standings sheet. Plus, they only average 15.2 ppg.
Add in the fact that most of the crowds these kids will play against this year will probably total what they’re going to see in the ‘Shoe, and we may just have a third shutout on our hands.
Penn State, Nov. 7, 2009: Away
Now it's starting to get good. Happy Valley, eight o’clock kickoff, white-out—yup, smells like Penn State/Ohio State.
After an early loss to Iowa, Penn State will be looking to re-insert itself into the Big Ten Championship discussion, and a win against the Buckeyes would go a long way in doing so, even if it would be hoping for a co-championship at best.
Forget the stats and the teams; this game is probably going to come down to pure heart. Can Daryll Clark look like the one that won last year in the ‘Shoe? Can Pryor forget his fumble that changed last year’s game? Can Joe Paterno stay on the sidelines for the entire first half without having to run to the locker room?
All these questions and more will be answered on the first Saturday in November.
Iowa, Nov. 14, 2009: Home
Assuming Ohio State can come away from Pennsylvania with a win, this will be the game of the year in the Big Ten (assuming, of course, Iowa doesn’t lose twice between now and then). Kirk Ferentz is a marvelous coach who has done wonders with the Iowa program over his tenure, making sure they are competitive in each and every big game they play in.
Iowa boasts a very balanced offense along with a staunch D that is only giving up 13.4 ppg. Couple in the fact that there could be some hangover after a potential win in Happy Valley, and this game has all the makings of a classic.
M*chigan, Nov. 21, 2009: Away
A roommate of mine recently told me that Michigan no longer looks at The Game as the biggest game of the year; instead, they’d rather beat Michigan State. I think that may have something to do with Jim Tressel’s record against the Maize and Blue over the years.
Believe me, there would be nothing better for the University of Michigan, Rich Rodriguez, the fanbase, and the rivalry than a victory over the Buckeyes in Ann Arbor...just not this year. Call me in two years—we’ll talk then.
Again, throw out the stat books and the standings; this is The Game.
The path between October and November is certainly going to be a long one for the Buckeyes. After this weekend’s clash with Wisconsin, I think the team could ease off the accelerator and still be undefeated in conference play going into the Penn State game.
But that three-game stretch is going to be as brutal as any that any team will play this year; yes, that means even you, Florida.