NFL Power Rankings for Week 2 (Sept. 11, 2014)

percy-harvin-seahawksWe started the season by ranking Seattle number one, and there’s little reason to back off that prediction one week into the season. The Seahawks dominated the Green Bay Packers last Thursday to the tune of a 36-16 blowout. They’ll have no shortage of weapons either as Marshawn Lynch rushed for 110 yards and two TD’s, Russell Wilson threw for 191 yards and a pair of TD’s and Percy Harvin gained 100 combined yards, almost dividing them equally between the air and ground.

Okay, now that we’ve ruined any element of surprise about who’s number one, there were definitely some changes in other spots of our rankings. That said, let’s take a look at the Week 2 NFL power rankings.

1. Seattle Seahawks (1-0); beat Green Bay 36-16, retains same ranking – Seattle picked up right where they left off last season by blowing out another high-profile opponent. We didn’t get to see much from Richard Sherman – only because Aaron Rodgers avoided throwing his direction the entire game. Sherman’s presence is one reason why the Seahawks had little trouble shutting down Green Bay’s uptempo offense as they looked unbeatable at home.

2. Denver Broncos (1-0); beat Indianapolis 31-24, retains same ranking – Denver’s first-half defense looked scary in holding the Colts to just a touchdown. However, they also let Indianapolis back into the game. Peyton Manning continues finding the open man, wherever they may be. This time, it was tight end Julius Thomas as he scored three touchdowns.

3. San Francisco 49ers (1-0); beat Dallas Cowboys 28-17, retains same ranking – Even without Aldon Smith, San Francisco made the Dallas offense look bad by getting in Tony Romo’s face and contributing to his three interceptions. Running back Carlos Hyde looks like a new player to watch this season as he rushed for 50 yards and a TD on just seven carries.

4. New Orleans Saints (0-1); lost to Atlanta Falcons 37-34 (OT), moves up one spot  – Despite a loss – a road loss to a division rival mind you – the Saints move up as everybody else around them also lost. The offense has gotten even better with the addition of rookies Brandin Cooks and Khiry Robinson. The main concern here, though, is the cornerback situation. Playing against elite Falcons receivers didn’t help mask this concern either.

5. New England Patriots (0-1); lost to Miami Dolphins 33-20, drops one spot – Another road loss to a tough division rival here. But it’s concerning how the Patriots were completely dominated in the second half after going into the locker room with a 20-10 lead. The offense is loaded with talent, however, they’ll have a tough time winning if the defense continues allowing players like Knowshon Moreno to rush for 134 yards.

nick-foles-eagles6. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0); beat Jacksonville Jaguars 34-17, moves up one spot – It seems like the Eagles should be moving up a little higher based on their blowout victory. But the worrisome aspect is how they were down 17-0 going into halftime against a Jacksonville team that isn’t markedly improved. Nick Foles was especially off, although he rallied to throw for 322 yards and one touchdown.

7. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0); beat Baltimore Ravens 23-16, moves up one spot – Andy Dalton hit A.J. Green on a 77-yard touchdown pass with five minutes left to help earn Cincinnati a very nice road win. The only complaint here is that the Bengals left a lot of points on the board in the first half, settling for five field goals. If they’d just converted on some key third downs, they could have ended this game early, rather than allowing Baltimore to hang in there.

8. Green Bay Packers (0-1); lost to Seattle Seahawks 36-16, drops one spot – It felt right to give Green Bay a chance when discussing this game in our last power rankings. However, even with their scoring ability, they were no match for a Super Bowl champion opening up at home. The Packers are definitely a team that has a chance to stay in the hunt, but they’ve got some improving to do if they’re going to win a road playoff game.

9. Indianapolis Colts (0-1); lost to Denver Broncos 31-24, retains same ranking – We won’t fault Indianapolis too badly for losing by a touchdown at Mile High. But this one got ugly in the beginning, with the Broncos going up 24-0. Andrew Luck definitely looked every bit a top-5 quarterback, though, in leading his team back. Luck finished the day going 35-for-53 with 370 yards, 3 total touchdowns and 2 INT’s. He can do better, but this was an impressive day for a guy with few weapons around him.

10. Carolina Panthers (1-0); beat Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-14, moves up two spots – Despite Cam Newton sitting out with a rib injury, Carolina bolted out to a lead in this one and never looked back. The front seven looks amazing again while Kelvin Benjamin had a fantastic rookie debut with 93 receiving yards and a touchdown. It’ll be interesting to see if the Panthers can repeat last year’s success in a loaded NFC South division.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0); beat Cleveland Browns 30-27, retains same ranking – Despite a win, this was a somewhat disappointing home debut for the Steelers. They jumped out to a 27-0 lead, only to be outscored 27-3 afterward. Pittsburgh’s run defense was especially bad against a Browns team that racked up 183 yards on just 30 rushing plays. If the Steelers are to challenge Cincinnati for the AFC North crown, they’ll have to defend much better.

jay-cutler-buffalo12. Chicago Bears (0-1); lost to Buffalo Bills 23-20 (OT), drops two spots – Few would’ve predicted this upset with the Bears playing at home. Chicago opened well after going up 17-7 by halftime. However, they got little pressure from their expensive defensive line, which now includes Jared Allen. And Jay Cutler made some crucial throwing errors as Buffalo clawed back into this one. Fred Jackson’s 38-yard run, which ended at the Bears’ 1-yard line, set up Dan Carpenter’s game-winning field goal.

13. Arizona Cardinals (1-0); beat San Diego 1-0, moves up two spots – The Cardinals came alive in the fourth quarter to score 12 points and take this one away from San Diego. Carson Palmer picked apart a weak Chargers secondary for 304 yards and two TD passes. There was initially some fear that Andre Ellington would miss time for Arizona, however, the running back contributed 53 yards on 13 carries and looks fine.

14. Miami Dolphins (1-0); beat New England 33-20, moves up two spots – In a discussion on NFL prop bets, we liked the Miami Dolphins as darkhorses to win the AFC East. Well, it’s too early to call good on this prediction, but they’re definitely on the right path with a victory over the Patriots. The Miami D-line really came alive in the second half to put pressure on Tom Brady and halt New England’s attack.

15. San Diego Chargers (0-1); lost to Arizona Cardinals 18-17, drops two spots – San Diego went from an anemic first-half performance, to quickly scoring two touchdowns in the third quarter, to letting Arizona score a couple touchdowns in the fourth. Losing this game on the road isn’t such a terrible thing, but the Chargers are definitely hating how they lost.

NFL: AUG 16 Pre-Season Colts v Falcons16. Atlanta Falcons (1-0); beat New Orleans 37-34 (OT), moves up three spots – We want to move the Falcons up more following the win against New Orleans, but we’ll have to see how all aspects of their team develop. One thing’s for sure, though – the passing game is back! Matt Ryan threw for a franchise-record 448 yards and three touchdowns, and Julio Jones and Devin Hester combined for 215 receiving yards.

17. Baltimore Ravens (0-1); lost to Cincinnati Bengals 23-16, drops three spots – The run game is a mess in Baltimore after they booted Ray Rice from the team. Now, 29-year-old journeyman Justin Forsett will be starting while Bernard Pierce was surprisingly benched. As long as this keeps up, Joe Flacco will have to keep chucking the ball 60+ times a game.

18. Detroit Lions (1-0); beat New York Giants 35-14, retains same ranking – It’s hard to tell if the Lions defense is any better, seeing as how New York’s offense is so bad. But the offense definitely looks upgraded with Golden Tate there to take some pressure off of Calvin Johnson in the receiving corp.

19. Kansas City Chiefs (0-1); lost to Tennessee 26-10, drops two spots – The Chiefs are a candidate for this year’s most de-improved team – if only because their schedule will be far tougher. Of course, a home game against the Titans shouldn’t be that tough, although Kansas City made it that way. With Dwayne Bowe and RT Donald Stephenson suspended, and LB Derrick Johnson and DT Mike DeVito lost to Achilles injuries, things only look to get worse. Their one saving point is that they still have Jamaal Charles.

20. New York Jets (1-0); beat Oakland Raiders 19-14, moves up one spot – A win over the Raiders has to be worth something, right? The defense played well, as expected. But the offense also looked pretty efficient, with Geno Smith going 23-for-28 on passing attempts with a touchdown. Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson also combined for 170 yards on just 23 carries.

21. Tennessee Titans (1-0); beat Kansas City 26-10, moves up three spots – Credit the Titans with going into a playoff team’s den and taking away a solid victory. It’s still early to tell just how good Tennessee is, especially with questions surrounding their running game. However, Jake Locker looked strong while racking up 266 passing yards and a couple of TD’s.

josh-mccown-bucs22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1); lost to Carolina Panthers 20-14, drops one spot – This is definitely one case where the score makes things look closer than they were. Tampa Bay’s new-look offense was stifled early on, and Doug Martin did not look good at all (9 rushing yards on 9 attempts) before getting hurt. Josh McCown’s results were pretty mixed as he threw for 183 yards, 2 TD’s and 2 INT’s.

23. Minnesota Vikings (1-0); beat St. Louis 34-6, moves up three spots – We don’t want to get too excited about this team until after they play New England. However, you can’t deny that they had a very good start at St. Louis. WR Cordarelle Patterson looks like a big-time weapon for this offense as he rushed for 102 yards on three carries and added 26 receiving yards.

24. St. Louis (0-1); lost to Minnesota Vikings 34-6, drops four spots – The year couldn’t have started any worse for the Rams. Just two weeks after losing Sam Bradford for the season, Shaun Hill exited this game with a thigh injury. That leaves inexperienced Austin Davis in the driver’s seat. Can Zac Stacy and the running game get anything going?

25. Houston Texans (1-0); beat Washington 17-6, moves up two spots – Last year, Houston won their first two games before going 0-14 the rest of the way. So let’s not get too excited about this victory. Nevertheless, their defense was pretty outstanding – especially the $100-million-man J.J. Watt. He had a sack, blocked an extra point and recovered a fumble in this contest.

26. Buffalo Bills (1-0); beat Chicago Bears 23-20 (OT), moves up two spots – Hard to see the Bills being much better than last year. However, seeing is believing, and they looked good against Chicago. The key to this season will be E.J. Manuel’s confidence and if the second-year QB can develop into a leader.

27. New York Giants (0-1); lost to Detroit 35-14, drops four spots – People wondered if the offense would truly be as bad as it looked in the preseason. And these questions were put to rest as the Giants unleashed a truly awful offensive performance. Eli Manning highlighted this performance by throwing for 163 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

28. Dallas Cowboys (0-1); lost to San Francisco 28-17, drops three spots – The score doesn’t put into account how bad the Cowboys were outclassed in the first quarter. They eventually did some good things after the game was out of hand, but this team looks poor on both sides of the ball right now.

29. Cleveland Browns (0-1); lost to Pittsburgh Steelers 30-27, moves up one spot – Hats off to the Browns for putting up a fight after going down by four scores in the early going. Brian Hoyer moved the offense and generated 230 passing yards and one touchdown. Rookie Terrance West also looked strong while piling up 100 rushing yards on 16 carries.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1); lost to Philadelphia Eagles 34-17, moves up one spot – Based on whether you go with the first or second half, the Jaguars are either a top-10 team or the league’s worst team. Allen Hurns had the best debut out of any rookie after collecting four catches, 110 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Jacksonville won’t win much if Toby Gerhart continues averaging less than 2.5 yards per carry.

31. Washington Redskins (0-1); lost to Houston Texas 17-6, drops two spots – Tough call here on if the Redskins or Raiders are worse. We’ll give Washington the benefit this week because they do have some players who’ve been great in the past – RG III and Alfred Morris. Plus, they should pick up a couple of wins in the weak NFC East.

32. Oakland Raiders (0-1); lost to New York Jets 19-14, retains same ranking – Derek Carr played fairly well in his rookie debut, going 20-for-32 en route to 151 passing yards and two touchdowns. But the run game was just awful as it managed only 25 yards on 15 carries. Headed by veterans Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew, this unit has got to do better.

2014 Ohio State Buckeyes Betting – Protecting Braxton Miller is Critical

braxton-miller-pass-protectionLast year, Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller entered the college football season as an outside favorite to win the Hesiman trophy. Unfortunately, these dreams were derailed pretty quickly as he suffered a sprained knee in the second game against San Diego State.

Miller would rebound from the injury to compile 2,094 passing yards, 1,068 rushing yards and 36 total TD’s over 12 games played. However, he again suffered an injury – this time to his shoulder – in a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Miller is looking pretty healthy after having shoulder surgery in February, but that doesn’t change the number one priority for Ohio State this season: protect Miller.

“Our quarterback is ready to go. He’s full speed, in the best shape of his life,” head coach Urban Meyer said at the Big Ten media day. “Protecting our quarterback is paramount. It’s concern No. 1. It’s A through F, A through Z, A through X, whatever it is.”

Tight end Jeff Heuerman backed up Meyer’s assertion of how important protecting the QB is by stating the importance of Miller. “How important is it to keep LeBron healthy for the Cavaliers? It’s about the same,” Heuerman said.

braxton-miller-pass-protection-1The Buckeyes didn’t really see this LeBron effect last season because they played less-talented teams when Miller hurt his knee. Backup Kenny Guiton came in during the first quarter of the San Diego State game, then started against California and Florida A&M. Luckily for OSU, Guiton played excellent and engineered three blowouts while running back Carlos Hyde provided another offensive dimension.

Both Guiton and Hyde graduated, with the latter being a second-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers. So keeping Miller healthy remains even more imperative, especially with no established backup to come in if he gets hurt again.

So how can Ohio State keep Miller healthy, beyond making sure his offensive line provides good protection. According to Meyer, the solution could lie in doing a few things differently with the game plan.

“His issues are that he sometimes goes above and beyond what his body is going to allow him to do,” Meyer said. “Do we try to slow Braxton down? Absolutely not. We try to protect him, surround him and maybe come up with a good scheme to get the ball out of his hands a little quicker (on passes). The durability issue isn’t because his body wasn’t meant to play college football. It’s because of how hard he plays.”

Miller himself believes that the key will be not making any overly risky plays that could jeopardize his year. “You just have to be smart and not do anything extra to hurt yourself and be out a couple games,” the star QB said.

The 21-year-old comes into the season as a Heisman favorite. So if you’re planning on doing any 2014 Ohio State football betting, keep in mind that OSU features one of college football’s best players. Now, if he can stay healthy, they may feature the nation’s best team as well.

College Football Power Rankings for Week 9 (Oct. 31st, 2013)

byron-marshall-oregonLast week, Missouri and Texas Tech entered our top-10 power rankings for the first time this season. But that was short-lived because both teams suffered losses to ranked teams. And while this won’t kill their chances of winning conference titles, it will knock them out of our top 10.

Everybody else was a winner, though, which sets up a very interesting matchup between Miami and Florida State. The Seminoles blew out Clemson two weeks ago and will be looking to slay their second giant this week at home.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0); beat Tennessee 45-10, retains same ranking – Alabama quickly jumped out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back. It wasn’t until the third quarter that the Vols finally put points on the board. T.J. Yeldon had another big game after running for 72 yards and three touchdowns.

2. Oregon Ducks (8-0); beat UCLA 42-14, retains same ranking – Not surprisingly, Oregon’s home contest against the 12th-ranked Bruins was pretty close for a while. However, Oregon broke a 14-14 tie in the third quarter and quickly turned this into a route. Byron Marshall led the charge as he rushed for 133 yards and three scores.

3. Florida State Seminoles (8-0); beat NC State 49-17, retains same ranking – This one got ugly right away as Florida State jumped out to a 35-0 lead in the first quarter. FSU probably spent the next three quarters discussing their game plan for Miami.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0); beat Penn State 63-14, retains same rankingcarlos-hyde-running-backKnowing that they have some ground to make up in the BCS Standings, the Buckeyes gave Penn State their worst loss in 114 years. Braxton Miller threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns, while Carlos Hyde rushed for 147 yards and two TD’s.

5. Miami Hurricanes (7-0); beat Wake Forest 24-21, retains same ranking – The Hurricanes got a surprisingly tough game from Wake Forest. Lucky for them, Duke Johnson provided just enough offense after running for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Miami will definitely have to move the ball better against the Seminoles this week.

6. Stanford Cardinals (7-1); beat Oregon State 20-12, moves up one spot – The Cardinals ground out a tough road game in Corvallis, Oregon on the strength of Tyler Gaffney’s 168 rushing yards and three TD’s. Overall, it was an ugly affair, but Stanford survives and gets a week of rest before playing Oregon.

7. Baylor Bears (7-0); beat Kansas 59-14, moves up one spot – Baylor has been crushing teams, having scored 50-plus points on an opponent for the sixth time this year. Chances are that they won’t keep up with this trend when they play Oklahoma next week. Still, it’s incredible how badly the Bears are obliterating other teams.

8. Clemson Tigers (7-1); beat Maryland 40-27, moves up one spot – The Tigers got sammy-watkinsback on the winning track by grabbing a road win in College Park, Maryland. Sammy Watkins had another huge day as he racked up 163 yards and a TD on 14 catches.

9. Auburn Tigers (7-1); beat Florida International 45-10, unranked last week – Auburn has a shot to take the SEC West if they can continue winning. Their lone loss was on the road against a very good LSU team, and they have victories over Washington State, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.

10. Oklahoma Sooners (7-1); beat Texas Tech 38-30, unranked last week – It seems like ages ago when Oklahoma was beaten by 16 points at home by Texas. Of course, a win against a top 10-ranked team will certainly help you forget about losses. The Sooners will continue climbing if they can get a huge road victory at Baylor.

College Football Power Rankings for Week 8 (Oct. 24th, 2013)

jameis-winstonLast weekend’s college football action was highlighted by the Clemson Tigers taking on Florida State. Clemson was slightly favored because they were playing at home and their star QB, Tajh Boyd, was a senior. Nevertheless, FSU turned in a dominating performance en route to a 51-14 win.

The Seminoles defense stifled Boyd by holding him to 158 yards and one touchdown pass, while picking him off twice. Meanwhile, their super-freshman QB, Jameis Winston, put himself near the top of the Heisman Trophy race by throwing for 444 yards and three TD’s. And this big victory moves the Seminoles further up our power rankings too.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0); beat Arkansas 52-0, retains same ranking – Outside of a 49-42 victory over Texas A&M, Alabama has completely dismantled opponents this season. Their next opponent, Tennessee, figures to be a little tougher competition than Arkansas. But expect this home contest to be yet another easy victory for the Tide.

2. Oregon Ducks (7-0); beat Washington State 62-38, retains same ranking – Leading Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota had his “worst” game of the season after fumbling twice. However, it wasn’t nearly enough to give the Cougars a real chance at winning. And Mariota still threw for 327 yards, combined for three TD’s and avoided any interceptions yet again this season.

3. Florida State Seminoles (6-0); beat Clemson 51-14, moves up two spots – While people thought that FSU had a shot at beating Clemson, nobody could’ve predicted the massacre that they pulled off. If the Seminoles can run the table in the ACC, they could be competing in the National Title game in January.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0); beat Iowa 34-24, drops one spot – Last game was a little close for comfort for the Bucks. However, they were able to overcome a 7-point halftime deficit thanks to 251 combined rushing yards from Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde. OSU now has 19 straight victories, which is the longest streak in D1 college football.

5. Miami Hurricanes (6-0); beat North Carolina 27-23, moves up five spots – Miami miami-hurricanes-footballjust joined our power rankings last week, and now they’ve accelerated to the fifth spot, following losses by Clemson, LSU, Texas A&M, Louisville and UCLA – four of which have dropped out. They’re going to have to play better, though, than beating a 1-5 team by four points. Taking care of the football will be the challenge for the Hurricanes moving forward.

6. Missouri Tigers (7-0); beat Florida 36-17, unranked last week – Maty Mauk engineered a win over 22nd-ranked Florida by throwing for 295 yards in his first career start. The freshman filled in for an injured James Franklin, who watched the game from the sidelines. Missouri is now in good position to win the SEC East and play in the conference championship game.

7. Stanford Cardinals (6-1); beat UCLA 24-10, unranked last week – Stanford only spent one week out of our top 10. They got back in after shutting down the Bruins and breaking the game open with two TD’s in the third quarter. The Cardinals could take an even bigger jump up the rankings if they can beat Oregon on the road. But this is a huge ‘If.’

8. Baylor Bears (6-0); beat Iowa State 71-7, unranked last week – This game got ugly really quick after Baylor jumped out to a 37-0 halftime lead. The Bears nearly pitched a shutout, but the Cyclones got a late touchdown. Baylor has another fairly easy game this Saturday as they travel to Kansas.

9. Clemson Tigers (6-1); lost to Florida State 51-14, drops five spots – The Seminoles really seem to have Boyd’s number since he’s experienced two very bad losses in a row to them. They will try to get back on track as they travel to Maryland.

10. Texas Tech (7-0); beat West Virginia 37-27, unranked last week – Texas Tech actually trailed in this game heading into the fourth quarter. However, they came back and won thanks to two TD’s in the final period. Freshman Davis Webb was on fire as he threw for 462 yards and two scores. But he and the Red Raiders will definitely have to earn their ranking in a road game against Oklahoma on Saturday.

College Football Power Rankings for Week 6 (Oct. 10th, 2013)

alabama-tideEvery team from last week’s top 10 won, which means our rankings will remain largely unchanged in Week 6. But Ohio State and Stanford got definite scares and needed strong late-game play to win. And Georgia did slip in our rankings due to injury circumstances. That said, let’s discuss the Bulldogs as well as the rest of the top 10.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (5-0); beat Georgia State 45-3, retains same ranking – Everybody from the Tide got a chance to play in this mid-season tuneup game. DeAndrew White highlighted the action with a spectacular one-handed grab in what was an otherwise predictable outcome.

2. Oregon Ducks (5-0); beat Colorado 57-16, retains same ranking – Marcus Mariota had an outstanding game after scoring seven total touchdowns. From the monsoon two weeks ago to the total domination against Colorado, the Ducks offense looks absolutely unstoppable.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes (6-0); beat Northwestern 40-30, retains same ranking – The Buckeyes were powered by running back Carlos Hyde and his 168 yards and three touchdowns. Hyde’s third score put the Bucks up for good with 5:22 remaining, and kept their national title hopes alive.

4. Clemson Tigers (5-0); beat Syracuse 49-14, retains same ranking – Tajh Boyd didn’t have his prettiest game after throwing his first two interceptions of the season. However, he also tossed five TD passes, which was more than enough to win a road game over Syracuse. There’s now just two weeks until the Tigers face off against Florida State in one of the year’s biggest matchups.

5. Stanford Cardinals (5-0); beat Washington 31-28, retains same ranking – The Cardinals stanford-ty-montgomeryhad their hands full trying to hold off the Huskies and atone for last season’s loss. But they were able to do it, thanks to 290 all-purpose yards and two TD’s from Ty Montgomery. Now they head off to Utah for what could be a semi-tough contest.

6. Florida State Seminoles (5-0); beat Maryland 63-0, moves up three spots – While many experts predicted the Seminoles would win this contest, few people expected a 63-point blowout of the 25th-ranked Terrapins. However, Maryland had no chance of slowing down super frosh Jameis Winston, who threw for 393 passing yards and five touchdowns.

7. Texas A&M Aggies (4-1); bye week, retains same ranking – Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M got last week off. Now they’ll travel to Ole Miss to face a desperate team that just fell out of the top 25.

8. Louisville Cardinals (5-0); beat Temple 30-7, retains same ranking – Nothing special to report here. The Cardinals dominated a winless Temple team while Teddy Bridgewater threw for 348 yards and two touchdowns. Louisville almost pitched a shutout, but the Owls were able to get a moral-booster with a late touchdown.

9. LSU Tigers (4-1); beat Mississippi State 59-26, moves up one spot – The Bulldogs kept this one close for a while, trailing only 31-26 after three quarters. However, LSU blew the game wide open in the final quarter and compiled 563 yards of total offense throughout the game.

10. Georgia Bulldogs (4-1); beat Tennessee 34-31 (OT), drops four spots – Once again, Aaron Murray provided late-game heroics to power the Bulldogs to a victory. That said, it seems like they shouldn’t be dropping in our rankings. Unfortunately, the win proved very costly as Georgia lost both RB Keith Marshall and WR Justin Scott-Wesley to season-ended knee injuries. Now their season could get much tougher moving forward.

Can Any Big Ten Team beat Ohio State this Year?

braxton-miller-ohio-stateLast year was a perfect start to the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State.The Buckeyes went 12-0, capping their undefeated season with a 26-21 win over rival Michigan. Had it not been for a one-year ban from postseason play, they could’ve made a run at the BCS title.

Keeping all of this in mind, it’s scary for Big Ten opponents to think that OSU returns a good number of their offensive starters. This is nearly the same offensive unit that ranked 10th nationally with 242.3 rushing yards per game, and scored 37.2 PPG.

Star quarterback Braxton Miller is back after a season in which he passed for 2,039 yards and 28 TDs, and rushed for 1,271 yards and 13 TD’s. The junior will be the unquestioned leader of this offense and a major contender for the Heisman.

A couple of Miller’s favorite targets are back this year too, with Corey Brown (60 receptions, 669 yards, 3 TDs) and Devin Smith (30 rec, 618 yds, 6 TDs) leading the way. Tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett should also play a big role in the passing game.

carlos-hyde-running-backThe running game should once again be good too, with Carlos Hyde (970 rushing yards, 16 TD’s) anchoring the attack. But Hyde will serve a three-game suspension because of a nightclub altercation, which means Buckeye fans can expect to see plenty of Jordan Hall (5.4 YPC) and Bri’onte Dunn (5.3 YPC) in the early going.

The big question heading into this Big Ten season will be how well Ohio State can replace their defensive losses. They lost eight starters from last year’s squad, which ranked 14th nationally in rushing defense (116.1 YPG allowed). Meyer hit on this topic when he said, “Defense is where the issues are. We lost our entire front seven. I believe we recruited well.”

Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier is one key returner from this unit, and he racked up 115 tackles and three forced fumbles last year. Safety Christian Bryant and cornerback Bradley Roby are also going to play big roles for the Buckeyes’ defense this season. The latter is one of the nation’s top corners, having attained Second-Team All-America status in 2012. But like Hyde, Roby must serve a one-game suspension thanks to an off-field incident.

Despite all of the losses, OSU ranks second in the preseason pool, behind only Alabama. But this certainly doesn’t assure them of any waltz to the national title game. After all, the Big Ten boasts plenty of other strong teams besides just the Buckeyes.

james-white-wisconsinThe tough teams that Ohio State will have to contend with start in Madison, where Wisconsin is coming off back-to-back Big Ten championships. The Badgers need to replace Monte Ball, but their running game should be just as strong as ever with James White and Melvin Gordon carrying the pigskin. Plus their stout offensive line should make the transition much easier.

Northwestern should be a surprise contender since they have a very strong offense. Senior running back Venrick Mack will be all over the field for the Wildcats since he not only runs the ball, but also returns punts and kicks. QB Kain Colter should also have a strong year.

Assuming neither of these teams can knock off OSU, Michigan will be waiting for them at the end of the season. They won’t have speedster Denard Robinson leading the offense any longer. But QB Devin Gardner is hoping that he can keep the chains moving for the Wolverines when they face Ohio State.

Seeing as how the Buckeyes won half of their games last season by 7 points or less, we should be in for plenty of thrilling contests in Columbus. And if OSU can find a way to continue grinding these games out, they could be headed for a chance at the 2013 BCS Championship.