In the past two articles, I looked at the offense, defense, specialists and the team as a whole. In this article, I will look at the incoming freshmen, intangibles, schedule and I will give my final analysis as to how I think things might shake out for the Buckeyes.
As previously mentioned, this year's Buckeye class was heavy on linemen on both sides of the ball, with a total of 10 lineman recruits.
One defensive end that could make an immediate impact is Canton's Steve Miller. According to Rivals, he needs to work on his technique, but an immediate need for a pass rusher off the end might get him in there as a stand-up end on passing downs.
Richmond, Virginia's Curtis Grant was a breath of fresh air for the Bucks amidst a storm of bad news. He committed just when information was coming to the fore front about Tressel and he stuck with his commitment.
As the No. 1 inside linebacker recruit in the country and No. 2 recruit regardless of position, he will be tough to keep off the field. He could immediately see work on special teams, as well as give OSU some size at the backup strong-side linebacker position.
Finally, there is quarterback Braxton Miller. He's a lock to play this season. The question is whether he will start or provide depth, and, if he does provide depth, will he eventually move into a starting spot?
The 2006 Buckeyes had two returning defensive starters from the fifth-ranked scoring defense in the country. The 2005 team put six defensive players into the NFL Draft, including three in the first round. They had five first team all-conference defensive players, all of who moved on after 2005.
Needless to say, most were down on the 2006 OSU defense.
Nevertheless, the 2006 defense also ranked fifth in the nation, and they gave up three less points-per-game than their 2005 counterparts. They led the Buckeyes to a perfect 12-0 record and a berth in the national championship game.
In short, if that doesn't prove the Buckeye's defense reloaded under Tressel than nothing will.
But, Tressel is gone, and anybody that assumes Luke Fickell can automatically continue Tressel's success is not giving Tressel credit for what he accomplished.
Furthermore, past statistics point to an offense that is likely to take an ample step back without Darrell Hazel. Combine that with the potential of a true freshman at quarterback, and you might see a lot of turnovers.
Finally, even if this years defense is as good as past Buckeye defenses, the depth that the past defenses have had is not there, particularly in the front seven.
This could be problematic for a team that likes to rotate its front four.
Overall, it could be catastrophic if John Simon or Nathan Williams gets injured.
09/03: Akron. OSU is the heavy favorite.
09/10: Toledo. OSU is the favorite.
09/17: At Miami (Fl). Toss-up.
09/24: Colorado. Favorite.
10/01: Michigan State. Toss-up.
10/08: At Nebraska. Underdog.
10/15: At Illinois. Favorite.
10/22: Open Date.
10/29: Wisconsin. Slight underdog.
11/05: Indiana. Heavy favorite.
11/12: At Purdue. Heavy favorite.
11/19: Penn State. Slight favorite.
11/26: At Michigan. Favorite.
Best Case Scenario
Miller steps in and while he isn't Terrelle Pryor, he does enough to keep the opposing defense on its toes. Meanwhile, the line—even without Adams—comes together and the Bucks win the first two games with a strong running game and defense.
Miami (Fl) is a bit tougher, but with the Hurricanes are going through their own issues, OSU pulls out a close win and proceeds to handily take care of Colorado.
The Michigan State game is tight, but in what proves to be a defensive struggle, the best defense wins. That defense is Ohio State.
The tattooed four come back for the Nebraska game, but they prove to be a bit rusty in OSU's toughest contest to date. The Buckeyes lose a close one, but they destroy Illinois the next week, and head into the bye week at 6-1.
With a week off, the tattooed four get a chance to catch up to the rest of the team, and the Bucks come out strong against a good Wisconsin team. Due to turnovers, OSU ekes out a win. They then destroy Indiana and Purdue en route to the final two games of the season.
They edge out Penn State in a defensive battle and continue the streak against Michigan. At 11-1 (7-1 in conference), they receive a berth to the inaugural Big Ten championship against Nebraska.
They make up for their early-season loss, take home the crown and receive a trip to the Rose Bowl. Moreover, Luke Fickell earns himself a place as the permanent head coach of the Buckeyes.
Worst Case Scenario
Ohio State goes the vanilla route against its first two foes. It works well against Akron, but Toledo is a fairly good team this year. Ohio State beats them, but has to keep its starters in for the duration of the game.
In the battle of beleaguered programs, Ohio State's offense turns the ball over one too many times to overcome the Miami (Fl) Hurricanes. However, they come back the next week to beat Colorado.
Still missing the tattooed four, they lose to Michigan State at home. The four come back to play against Nebraska, but the offense lacks cohesion, and they drop their third game of the season. They beat Illinois to go into the bye week at 4-3, but there is real worry in Buckeye nation.
After the bye week, they face off against division favorite Wisconsin. Ohio State puts up a strong fight, but eventually, offensive miscues and Wisconsin's power rushing game finish them off.
They beat both Purdue and Indiana to secure bowl eligibility, but that's all OSU manages to do on the year. After a loss to Penn State, the Michigan streak comes to an end, as does the Luke Fickell era in Columbus.
It's hard to know what to expect of the Buckeyes, which explains the vast difference between best case and worst case scenario.
Four months ago, despite the suspensions and bad mojo, I still felt Ohio State would win the conference because Tressel found ways to win. But Tressel is gone, and I refuse to be one of those people that feels that any interim coach can repeat Tressel's success.
Complicating the situation with the new coach, there are the suspensions and minimal returning defensive experience.
Yes, the Bucks have reloaded on defense, but that was under Tressel. Nonetheless, I still feel OSU will have one of the three best defenses in the conference if they can stay healthy.
The bigger worry is the offense, which will take a significant step back from where they've been the last six seasons. Throw in some turnovers that will put the defense behind the eight ball, and I don't think Fickell will see a second season as head coach in Columbus.
I have the Bucks going 9-3 with losses to Nebraska, Penn State and Michigan. This will land them in the Outback Bowl. It will also be the end of the Big Ten championship streak and the Michigan streak. In the end, the loss to Michigan will cost Fickell the permanent head coaching job.
Be sure to check out past installments of Big Ten Breakdown, beginning with the most recent, the Wisconsin Badgers.