After another great season with a disappointing end, most Ohio State fans are already looking forward to next year.
With great recruits and a tough away game just three weeks into the season in 2008, Ohio State should hopefully earn the respect it lost the last two years.
Ohio State will face perhaps their biggest test (yes, bigger than the season finale) in just their third game of the season when they go to Los Angeles to face USC, a team predicted to be the preseason No. 1.
Hopefully, Ohio State wins this one and re-establishes the respect they had lost the past few years with weak non-conference schedules.
However, USC is the only good opponent outside the Big 10. Ohio State will be playing Youngstown State again in the season opener with a couple more weak teams (Ohio University and Troy University) on the slate.
Why are all these weak non-conference teams being scheduled? All it's doing is hurting the Buckeyes, even if it does improve the win-loss record. In playing the weak teams, the players get a little relaxed, and then when a stronger team comes along, the team plays like high-schoolers.
The early game against USC should wake up the players in time to keep their heads up for the rest of season.
Let's talk about recruits, shall we? Ohio State football may be looking at one of the best recruiting seasons of the past few years.
Three five-star and ten four-star recruits have committed, and another potential five-star commit, quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the top-ranked recruit in the nation, is a monster at 6'6" and 235 pounds.
I, personally, can brag a little about five-star recruit Mike Adams (OL), currently a senior at Dublin Coffman High School. Although I don't go to the same school, I do attend school in the same district, which has everyone around Dublin, Ohio more excited than when Brady Quinn was at Coffman.
The other five-star recruits are DeVier Posey (WR) and Michael Brewster (OL). Posey ranks as the 3rd best WR coming out of high school this year and Brewster ranks as the 4th best OL coming out of high school.
Now, who's leaving Ohio State? The lone underclassman to declare was Vernon Gholston, the 6'4" defensive end who had a breakout season this year with 14 sacks, declared for the draft. He is predicted to be a mid-to-high first-rounder, according to Rivals.com's mock first round.
No worries, though. All-American James Laurinaitis is returning and so are Malcolm Jenkins, Brian Robiskie, and Alex Boone. All four players played huge factors this past season, especially Laurinaitis and Jenkins, who helped lead the Buckeyes to, statistically, one of the best defenses in the country.
Ohio State returns next year with almost the same roster, but for the team to have more success against non-Big Ten foes, the coaches may have to change their philosophies.
In the BCS National Championship game, defensive coordinator Jim Heacock didn't do anything to better defend LSU's four- and five-wideout sets. Heacock kept the same 4-3 defense the entire time without putting more DBs on the field and relieving a couple linebackers.
What Ohio State needed was more speed on the defense to defend LSU's speed. But you can't stop the five-wide receiver set when you have four defensive linemen and three linebackers on the field.
Heacock needed to use the dime or nickel defense more to get more DBs on the field.
Heacock may be one of the best defensive coordinators in the nation, but it only shows when Ohio State plays Big Ten teams. I personally feel he should be replaced with a defensive coordinator who may be slightly better at making in-game adjustments.
Against Illinois, he kept the same defense throughout, which kept proving unsuccessful against the option offense that was Ohio State's downfall in that game.
But Heacock's future relies on the athletic director, not mine.
Ohio State should go 11-1 next year with the only loss coming against USC, unless the coaching staff gets shuffled during the offseason. However, the early loss to USC should give Ohio State enough time to rebound in the rest of the season and it should finish as a top-five team, possibly even top-two.
So, another National Championship game? Possibly, as long as the team stays focused.
Hopefully, Ohio State doesn't stumble late in the season to Illinois or some other team again because something tells me this season won't be full of upsets like this past year to help in rankings.
Should be a season to look forward to, right?
Too bad we still have another eight months to wait.
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