2010 Ohio State Buckeyes: Five Possible Pitfalls To a National Championship Shot
After what was an incredible finish to the 2009 season that saw Ohio State win the Rose Bowl, 2010 is shaping up to be the best team Jim Tressel has ever had at Ohio State.
But with all of those expectations, there is the "what if?" factor.
What if Ohio State has another "Purdue" game?
What if Terrelle Pryor goes down with an injury? (*knock on wood*)
What if the defensive line isn't as dominant as in 2009 and late 2008?
Regardless of the reasoning, everyone knows that teams, especially in the Big Ten, will be gunning for the Buckeyes and trying to end their deadbolt grip on the conference.
Here's a look at five Saturdays that could cost Ohio State a shot at the National Championship Game in Glendale.
5. November 27 at Home vs Michigan
The last six years of this rivalry have been very one-sided, as Ohio State has not lost to Michigan since John Navarre and Chris Perry were running the show in 2003.
But there's always cause for concern when the Wolverines come to town because of the rivalry that it is.
It's always one of those games where the records need to be thrown out when these two teams meet.
To give an example of how the Buckeyes always focus on Michigan, their training facility has active countdown clocks set specifically to countdown to the Michigan game.
This matchup will be the first time the teams meet Thanksgiving weekend, so a different angle is present for the first time in over 100 years.
4. September 11 at Home vs Miami (FL)
Remember that these two teams last met in 2003 for the National Title which the Buckeyes won in double-overtime after a controversial pass interference flag by Terry Porter.
But seven years later, the Hurricanes come North for a little revenge, and Jacory Harris will get to face off against his good friend Terrelle Pryor.
Miami should have reason for motivation, especially coach Randy Shannon, who was the DC when these teams last met.
Remember though that this Miami team lost to a Wisconsin team that the Buckeyes beat by 20 earlier in the season.
Though now it is meaningless, this game will be the barometer as to where the Buckeyes and the Big Ten stand in addition to the Penn State vs. Alabama game that same day.
If OSU loses, they might see their chances at a title evaporate before the conference season starts.
3. November 13 at Home vs Penn State
Two years ago, when Penn State came to Columbus undefeated, the Buckeyes had the Nittany Lions on the ropes until a Pryor fumble led to the game's only touchdown, allowing PSU to escape 13-6.
The next year, OSU left no doubt, beating up on the Nittany Lions 24-7.
Quickly, this matchup has become quite the rivalry in the Big Ten, though OSU fans won't so easily recognize it as Penn State fans do.
But this matchup brings some interesting storylines, with Kevin Newsome making his first trip to Columbus and the final year of Evan Royster's outstanding career.
These games are some of the most physical in the country, so by no means will this one be pretty.
And with the experience edge Ohio State has, that could be the difference, although no one can sleep on Penn State anymore.
2. October 16 at Camp Randall vs Wisconsin
Camp Randall Stadium is no doubt one of the hardest places to play in any conference in football.
And in mid-October, the Buckeyes will get a refresher course against a much-improved Wisconsin team.
The 2003 squad thought to have a shot to repeat as national champs fell 17-10.
Now Ohio State offers a similar scenario, as Badger fans have fresh memories of Pryor's big drive to win in 2008 over Wisconsin.
But games in Madison are very difficult to pull off for any team, especially under the lights which is what we should expect.
Games between Ohio State and Wisconsin leave a lot of welts and bruises on both sides before the final whistle is blown.
If Ohio State is not ready to accept that challenge, they could fall to a Big Ten up-and-comer.
1. November 20 at Kinnick Stadium vs Iowa
There is no bigger threat to the Buckeyes in the Big Ten than the team they escaped against to win the conference title in 2009: Iowa.
Kirk Ferentz's teams are almost impossible to beat at home in November, and that's exactly when these two teams will meet head on, possibly for a conference title.
This time around, Ohio State should be dealing with Ricky Stanzi, who is possibly the most clutch QB in the country.
They saw backup James Vandenburg almost beat them at Ohio Stadium.
And stud defenders Adrian Clayborn and Tyler Sash are back, along with most of Iowa's talented skill players.
No doubt the Hawkeyes will be motivated by what happened the year before, and if both teams are undefeated into this game, it could get very interesting.