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Predicting the 2011 OSU football season

Mike Greco • Sep 1, 2011 at 5:11 PM

How things have changed for The Ohio State University from a year ago.

At this time last season, the Buckeyes had aspirations not only for a Big Ten title, but to play in the BCS championship game.

They had Jim Tressel leading the way on the sideline.

Terrelle Pryor was firmly entrenched in the quarterback position. Dan Herron was starting to take over as the team’s primary tailback.

They had a pair of solid receivers with DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher.

The offensive line, a source of criticism in both 2008 and 2009, was taking shape.

The defense had Cameron Heyward, Brian Rolle and Ross Homan to rely on.

Well, 2011 is going to be a much different look for the Buckeyes.

Tressel resigned in May amid NCAA violations.

Pryor, Herron, Posey, offensive tackle Mike Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas were all suspended five games for their part in trading championship rings, jerseys and other football-related awards for tattoos.

Assistant coach Luke Fickell was named head coach for the 2011 season.

Pryor ultimately left the team and was picked by the Oakland Raiders in the recent National Football League supplemental draft.

So how does all this affect the Buckeyes this season?

It’s pretty significant, because not only has OSU lost good players, for at least part of the season, a good senior class also departed.

With that the Buckeyes still have a season to go through. They are attempting to win a seventh straight Big Ten title (although last season’s doesn’t count because they vacated all of their wins).

The bottom line is tht nobody is feeling sorry for the Buckeyes. They still have the talent to challenge for the Leaders Division title.

The keys are weathering the storm in the early going, dealing with what’s going to be out there from the fans and media on the road, finding leadership and see which players will step up and fill key roles.

Here’s a breakdown on the season:

Akron: In Tressel’s first game at OSU in 2001, the Zips, led by Willard graduate Charlie Frye, went into Columbus and only lost 28-14. The Buckeyes may struggle in the early going with the changes on offense, especially at quarterback, but will get the win. OSU wins.

Toledo: The Rockets are one of the favorites to win the Mid-American Conference this season, paced by running back Adonis Thomas and wide receiver Eric Page. OSU wins.

at Miami: A pair of programs dealing with NCAA situations. The Hurricanes have their own problems as several players are believed to have committed NCAA violations by associating with a booster. It’s certainly not an easy position for both Fickell and first-year Miami coach Al Golden to be in. OSU wins.

Colorado: The Buffaloes are the newest members of the Pac-12. Colorado also has a new coach (Jon Embree). They went 5-7 last season in the Big 12 North and could start as many as four true freshman. Running back Rodney Hawkins, who is from Westerville, ranks fifth all-time on the Buffaloes’ rushing list at 2,744 yards. OSU wins.

Michigan State: The Buckeyes open the Big Ten season against the Spartans, who are expected to challenge for the Legends Division crown.

Michigan State returns an experienced quarterback (Kirk Cousins) and running backs, led by Edwin Baker and his 1,301 yards and 13 touchdowns from 2010. The Spartans also have played OSU well in Columbus over the years, but I like the Buckeyes in this one in an upset. OSU wins.

at Nebraska: Welcome to the Big Ten, Cornhuskers.

The rest of the conference may not think so, but Nebraska is Legends Division favorite. They have talent on both sides of the bal. Even though Posey, Herron, Adams and Thomas are expected to return in this game, the Cornhuskers are going to be amped up for their first Big Ten game at home at night and in front of a raucous crowd. If nothing else, OSU has lost two straight mid-October games the last two seasons. Nebraska wins.

at Illinois: The Buckeyes make the jaunt to Champaign for the second straight season. The Fighting Illini has dropped since going to the Rose Bowl after the 2007 campaign with 15 wins over the past three seasons. But they closed 2010 with a bowl win. OSU wins.

n Bye week.

Wisconsin: This could be for the Leaders Division crown during a night game at the Horseshoe. Any Buckeye fans knows the problems the Badgers have caused over the years. They still have a bruising running attack, led by huge offensive lineman and running backs (James White and Montee Ball) who know how to go. The Badgers aren’t fancy; they just excel at what they do. Having North Carolina State transfer Russell Wilson step in at quarterback vaults Wisconsin to the top of the division. Wisconsin wins.

Indiana: The Hoosiers welcome in former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson as their head coach. Indiana is starting to gain talent, but it’s going to take time. OSU wins.

at Purdue: The Boilermakers were decimated by injuries last season, especially at quarterback and running back. If healthy and productive, these players can create some problesm. The Buckeyes lost at West Lafayette two seasons ago. OSU wins.

Penn State: In another quirk of the schedule, the Buckeyes host Penn State for the second straight season. The Nittany Lions have 12 starters back, but the offense seems unsettled.

at Michigan: Will this finally be the season for the Wolverines to bet OSU? It hasn’t happened since 2003. The Buckeyes have won close ones and they’ve won blowouts.

Michigan made a good hire in Brady Hoke. The Ohio native understands the rivalry and what’s at stake. Plus, having quarterback Denard Robinson doesn’t hurt. Michigan wins.

I’m looking for a 9-3 season, no trip to the Big Ten championship game and a trip to the Outback Bowl for OSU.

I like Wisconsin to play Nebraska in the Big Ten title game with the Cornhuskers grabbing the conference crown.

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