"Shock the world."
This is Ohio State's mantra going into what could be one of the most unique seasons in Buckeye history. After a scandal-filled offseason, Ohio State is the butt of all NCAA football jokes. No one respects the Buckeyes, and no one has any expectations for them this season.
Although I think Ohio State can do the impossible, this is a more realistic look at Ohio State's season, game by game.
Ohio State begins the season with a home game on the banks of the Olentangy River, against a very weak Akron Zips team.
These first five games are going to be a little more difficult for the Buckeyes with the loss of four starters, who would have made an immediate impact. However, the test against Akron shouldn't be anything out of the ordinary for the Buckeyes.
Akron won a single game last year, against Buffalo in their last game of the season. Sadly, for teams like Akron, who are dominated by bigger schools in recruiting and what not, it is incredibly difficult to get out of the bottom of the pack, and this year won't be much different.
Ohio State will be rusty, so the score won't be as bad as would be expected.
Prediction: Buckeyes 35, Akron 3
A tune-up game against Akron leads Ohio State into a battle against the Toledo Rockets in Columbus.
After shaking off the rust in the first game of the season, Ohio State faces a much tougher Toledo team, who could give them a bit of a problem.
Toledo led a decent campaign in 2010 making it to the Little Caesar's Bowl against Florida International, in which the loss a heartbreaker. However, Toledo often slipped up, especially losing by 35 to the Huskies of Northern Illinois.
Although Ohio State defeated the Rockets handily last season in Cleveland Browns Stadium, Toledo will give Ohio State much more trouble than would be expected, and the critics will begin to come out of the woodwork.
The Buckeyes will get it done, much like they did against the Ohio Bobcats when Todd Boeckman was at the helm, and edge out the Rockets.
Prediction: Ohio State 21, Akron 17
Disclaimer: As a student of the University of Miami, I would rather abstain from this matchup, as I happen to also be a Buckeye fan from birth. Growing up with a hatred of the 'Canes, the University of Miami ended up being the right fit for me, even if the football team wasn't.
But even as a student at UM, you bet I'll be donning the Scarlet and Gray when these two rivals meet. (Oh heck, and on every Saturday for that matter.)
With that being said, Ohio State travels down to the worst stadium in college football (Dolphins Stadium), and faces a "replenished" Miami team, who is hungry for a huge win.
Last season, the Hurricanes stumbled all over themselves.
When they came into Columbus, college football fans were expecting an epic matchup, which was in reality, the Miami special teams keeping them in the game to make the score look closer than it actually was. Ohio State dominated them in all facets, and forced Jacory Harris to throw pick after pick.
This season may be a different story. Ohio State is without some of their best players, and although Miami is unranked, they are in for their biggest test thus far. Quarterback Joe Bauserman, who should be starting at this point in the season, is playing in the biggest game of his career thus far, and may be a little bit intimidated. But Bauserman is not going to be a factor; instead it will be the Ohio State rush game that influences the outcome the most.
That being said, I still believe Ohio State can win this game, and win it handily. Miami just doesn't have the weapons (or the coaching) to compete with Ohio State. Ohio State could start their entire second team and still Ohio State would have the edge.
I hate to bash my own school, but I would love to watch my classmates leave the stadium with their heads in their hands as I return to my dorm (insert winky face here) after the game.
Prediction: Ohio State 42, Miami 21
After their win over the University of Miami, Ohio State heads back to the Shoe to take on Colorado.
The Buffs, quite frankly, disappoint season after season. After a few years of decent football, Colorado looked like it was headed in the right direction. Coach Dan Hawkins seemed to have his guys where he wanted them, until everything just went downhill.
Colorado couldn't get it together, fired Hawkins and is now into a different era with head coach Jon Embree.
Colorado is a weak team. If Ohio State has any issues against them, it could mean trouble for the rest of the season. However, I don't think they will. It won't be a glamorous 30-point victory, but Ohio State will win the game, and the last time I checked, winning was the only thing that goes in the Big Ten standings.
Prediction: Ohio State 21, Colorado 10
Ohio State next faces Michigan State in a pivotal game in Columbus.
After an embarrassing (and I repeat: embarrassing) loss to Alabama in the Capitol One Bowl—for not only Michigan State, but for the rest of the Big Ten—Michigan State is going to have a chip on their shoulder this season.
Senior quarterback Kirk Cousins is impressive, and has led his team to great victories in big games. He's got NFL size and an NFL arm, and can make good decisions in the pocket. Some say that if Ohio State and Michigan State matched up last season, Ohio State would not have earned a spot in a BCS bowl game or won the Big Ten title.
This season's matchup could be the biggest on Ohio State's schedule. Not because Michigan State is the toughest opponent, or because they're playing in the most difficult atmosphere (they're playing in the Shoe, which is a huge advantage), but because this will be the weakest Ohio State team we will see face a reasonable opponent this season.
Ohio State is not going to have the strength or experience to get this one done. Cousins and the Michigan State offense are going to overload the Buckeye defense, and pull this one out for Sparty.
However, if Ohio State can pull this one out, Ohio State will go from middle of the pack, to national championship contender.
Prediction: Michigan State 28, Ohio State 21
After a tough loss to the Spartans, Ohio State heads to Lincoln to take on the newcomer Nebraska Cornhuskers.
If Ohio State beats Michigan State, this will be the game of Ohio State's season. However, if they can't pull one out against Sparty, which my prognostication indicates, it will still be a tough test for the Buckeyes.
Although they are a much stronger team at this point, as they get their starters back from the suspension, Ohio State will be a bit rusty as they go into Lincoln. They will have to shake that rust off fast if they want to have a chance of beating the Huskers in their house.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez and the Nebraska offense can move the ball, and move it quickly, down the field. Ohio State's defensive line and linebacking corps have to be ready for what the Cornhuskers will throw at them.
Again, they just won't be able to pull it off. Joe Bauserman and freshman Braxton Miller will be fighting for each snap at this point, but neither can really help the Buckeyes get over the top in this matchup.
Prediction: Nebraska 35, Ohio State 27
Two losses in a row, a Buckeye team who is ready to recover comes into Urbana-Champaign and faces an Illinois team, who will not know what's coming.
New Buckeye head coach Luke Fickell, will have motivated these Buckeyes and at this point, opposing teams are not ready for what they are going to face.
Coming out firing, Ohio State will jump out to a very early lead on the Illini, a lead they will not let go. The offense and defense will both be pouring it on a Ron Zook ballclub that just doesn't have enough talent, especially with losing Mikel Leshoure to the NFL, to compete with the Buckeyes. And with a weak schedule up to this point for Illinois, they won't be well-enough prepared to face Ohio State.
Watch out for a blowout in this one; this is the game in which Ohio State will begin to turn it around.
Prediction: Ohio State 54, Illinois 14
After two weeks away, Ohio State returns to Columbus to face the rival Wisconsin Badgers.
Last year's game was heartbreaking. Finally No. 1 in the rankings, Ohio State's special teams and defense—oh fine, and offense too—were dominated by a great Wisconsin Badger team.
As the offseason rolled around, Wisconsin lost a great deal of talent, quarterback Scott Tolzien, defensive end J.J. Watt, offensive lineman Gabe Carimi and running back John Clay all left Madison, leaving Wisconsin with some gaping holes. All of a sudden, the mighty Badgers didn't look so scary.
Until...Wisconsin really lucked out.
Quarterback Russell Wilson (who I loved in his time at N.C. State) decided to transfer to Wisconsin and fill what was possibly the biggest hole for the Badgers at quarterback. Wilson astounds me with his abilities in the passing and running departments, and could be set up for a huge year with the Badgers.
Ohio State's defense is going to have to be ready for what Wisconsin can bring. Wilson and running back Stan White Jr. can really be dangerous, as both are speedsters who can change a game. However, I think Ohio State's home-field advantage can definitely benefit them and help them get the job done.
The Buckeyes will be able to avenge their loss to the Badgers last season...well, somewhat.
Prediction: Ohio State 28, Wisconsin 24
The Buckeyes rally to a win against the Badgers, and next face off against the Indiana Hoosiers in Columbus.
Indiana is in a definite rebuilding phase. Firing their head coach and hiring Oklahoma coach Kevin Wilson, Indiana is beginning to sculpt the shape of their football program. While they did acquire the No. 1 QB in the nation for the 2012 campaign, Gunner Kiel, Indiana is going to have a rough go of it this year.
Ohio State will have a very easy time with the Hoosiers, heading into their next matchup.
Prediction: Ohio State 45, Indiana 10
After defeating Indiana, the Buckeyes head to the state of Indiana to face the Purdue Boilermakers.
The images of a defeat against Purdue in West Lafayette still linger in my head and make me sick. A team that could have headed to a national championship, instead loses to an under-par Purdue team, and "ruins" what could have otherwise been an incredible season.
Last year, Ohio State got their revenge and trounced the Boilermakers 49-0, but this season they better not underestimate Purdue and what they have to offer.
Ohio State will be too well oiled at this point to play down to Purdue's level.
Prediction: Ohio State 28, Purdue 7
Ohio State heads back home to face Penn State, in a big matchup in the Big Ten race.
Ohio State, 8-2 and in the middle of the Big Ten title talk, needs a big win against Penn State to have a chance. Last season, Ohio State caused matchup nightmares for the Nittany Lions, and beat them 38-14 in Columbus. This year's result could be on the same path.
Because of the changing around of the Big Ten, Ohio State lucks out and has Penn State in Columbus for the second year in a row. This late in the season, this is a massive advantage for the Buckeyes. The Shoe is going to be rocking, and for the seniors, they won't want to lose their last game at home to their arch rivals.
All in all, Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin is too young and raw to take this Penn State team over the top in Columbus. The Ohio State defense will be swarming early and often, and take control of the game. It will be a good game, but not good enough for the Nittanny Lions.
Prediction: Ohio State 21, Penn State 7
Ohio State heads out of Columbus for their last game of the season to play in "The Game."
It happens year after year, and last year was no different. Michigan storms out of the gates and falters near the end.
With new head coach Brady Hoke, who is a so-called "Michigan Man" even though he was born in Dayton, Ohio, Michigan has a new attitude, and a guy they think they can finally win with. Michigan will have a much better season than last season, especially after their embarrassing loss to Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl, but it still won't be up to Michigan standards. Denard will be an improved player as well, as he may not fizzle out towards the end.
Coming into their annual matchup with the Buckeyes, Michigan will have confidence. Brady Hoke will have them believing that this is the year. This is the year they get to beat the Buckeyes.
And he will be completely wrong.
Michigan will make it interesting, finally into something that resembles a rivalry, but it's not Michigan's time yet. Ohio State is still too strong for a weak Michigan defense, and an inconsistent offense.
Good luck Michigan, better luck next time.
Prediction: Ohio State 35, Michigan 21
With all of the controversy surrounding the Buckeyes, they may not "Shock the world" this season, but they will still continue to be the dominating Buckeyes that everyone knows.
A brief two-game losing streak will have the Buckeyes at 10-2 by seasons end and they'll end up either with an at-large BCS bowl bid or a Capital One Bowl bid. Either way, it will be a successful season in an otherwise not so successful year.