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.

College Football Power Rankings for Nov. 15th, 2012

Just when it looked like nobody would tarnish Alabama’s undefeated season, they drop a stunner to Texas A&M and send our power rankings into a frenzy. Okay, so it’s not that much of a frenzy because three other top unbeatens survived another week without losing. However, it sure was interesting finding a spot for both Alabama and Texas A&M following last week’s upset.

1. Oregon (10-0) – The rest of the season is going to get tougher for Oregon because of both injuries and their schedule (Stanford, Oregon St., Pac-12 South champ). But for right now, we can firmly say that the Ducks are the best team in college football after a stomping of Cal.

Last Game: 59-17 win over California
Next Game: vs. Stanford

2. Kansas State (10-0) – After an injury scare with QB Collin Klein, the Wildcats appear to be alright since their top playmaker took the field against TCU. Seeing as how their defense keeps shutting down opponents, Kansas State is perfectly balanced on both sides of the ball.

Last Game: 23-10 win over TCU
Next Game: at Baylor

3. Notre Dame (10-0) – There’s no beauty in the way Notre Dame wins each week. But the key is that they do win each week thanks to a dominating defense. Assuming either Oregon or Kansas State loses before the end of the regular season, the Irish could be playing in the national title game.

4. Alabama (9-1) – Based on their performance through the first nine games of the year, we can’t drop the Tide too low following a single loss. But with the season nearing an end and three undefeated teams still left, Alabama may be left out of the national title picture.

Last Game: 29-24 loss to Texas A&M
Next Game: vs. Western Carolina

5. Georgia (9-1) – The Bulldogs look poised to meet Alabama in the SEC Championship game if they can get through their next two games unscathed. Depending upon how things go with the unbeatens, the SEC Championship could decide who goes to the BCS title game.

Last Game: 38-0 win over Auburn
Next Game: vs. Georgia Southern

6. Texas A&M (8-2) – Following an extremely tough road win at Bryant-Denny Stadium, some might argue that the Aggies should be ranked ahead of Alabama. However, we’re already stretching things enough by ranking A&M over two teams that beat them earlier (LSU and Florida). In any case, congratulations to the Aggies for their HUGE win!

Last game: 29-24 win over Alabama
Next game: vs. Sam Houston State

7. Ohio State Buckeyes (10-0) – Despite being undefeated at this point, many experts are putting Ohio State down as an underdog against Wisconsin this Saturday. It could all come down to how well OSU linebackers Etienne Sabino and Ryan Shazier can shut down Montee Ball and the Badgers run game.

Last game: 52-22 win over Illinois
Next Game: at Wisconsin

8. LSU (8-2) – Unfortunately for LSU, there’ll be no BCS or SEC Championship games in the near future. However, they could certainly land an at-large BCS bowl bid by winning their final two games against Ole Miss and Arkansas. Sure this is no slam dunk, but we definitely like the Tigers chances.

Last Game: 37-17 win over Mississippi State
Next Game: vs. Ole Miss

9. Oklahoma (7-2) – Earlier in the year, it looked as if the upcoming Oklahoma-West Virginia game would have national title implications. But now it’ll merely be a game between two good teams. Actually, the Sooners are a VERY good team which is why we definitely like them to win on the road.

Last Game: 42-34 win over Baylor
Next Game: at West Virginia

10. Florida State (9-1) – The Seminoles aren’t getting much respect outside of the ACC since many experts don’t even consider them a top 10 team. However, we like them better than the fellow 9-1 Florida Gators, which have looked terrible in three straight games. Back to FSU, it’s sad that they aren’t really playing for a chance at the national title with just one loss. But they can still get an at-large BCS bid and beat up on another major conference to prove their point.

College Football Power Rankings for Oct. 31st, 2012

It hasn’t been easy sorting out college football’s elite this year because there’s a logjam of stellar unbeaten teams.  Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame and Kansas State have all proven themselves worthy of a title shot after surviving a tough schedule and looking good while doing so. Assuming all of these teams can remain undefeated, they’ll give the BCS computers fits. Speaking of the BCS, here is how the current rankings look:

1. Alabama
2. Kansas State
3. Notre Dame
4. Oregon
5. LSU
6. Georgia
7. Florida
8. South Carolina
9. Florida State
10. Louisville

This is how the BCS computers currently see things, but let’s move on to our interpretation of the top 10 college football teams.

Week 10 College Football Power Rankings

1. Alabama (8-0) – The Crimson Tide continue to roll after dispatching a previously unbeaten Mississippi State team. Their 31.7-point margin of victory truly shows the dominance of Alabama this season despite playing some pretty good teams. This week they’ll be playing a great team in LSU, which has just one loss on the season.

Last Game: 38-7 win over Mississippi State
Next Game: at LSU Tigers

2. Oregon Ducks (8-0) Despite running over many of their opponents so far, the Ducks are losing the BCS battle. However, they have a solid chance to jump Notre Dame if they can handily beat USC on the road this week. The key to this involves slowing down Matt Barkley and star receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.

Last Game: 70-14 win over Colorado
Next Game: at USC Trojans

3. Kansas State (8-0) – After an easy victory over ninth-ranked Texas Tech, K-State looks to have a clear road to the Big 12 Championship Game. Assuming they can stay unbeaten and continue racking up convincing victories, the Wildcats could be eyeing Alabama in the National Championship.

Last Game: 55-24 win over Texas Tech
Next Game: vs. Oklahoma State

4. Notre Dame (8-0) – At this point, it’s almost like splitting hairs between the Fighting Irish and Kansas State. Notre Dame grabbed their own impressive victory on the road in Norman, Oklahoma. Despite playing such as tough schedule, the Irish may need an Alabama or K-State loss to get into the title game.

5. Georgia (7-1) – As if the top isn’t jumbled enough, things don’t get any simpler when it comes to one-loss teams. In our opinion, Georgia has a slight lead among the rest of the pack following a game where their defense dominated previously unbeaten Florida. With wins over Ole Miss and rival Auburn, the Bulldogs could face Alabama in the SEC Championship.

Last Game: 17-9 win over Florida
Next Game: vs. Ole Miss

6. LSU (7-1) – You could make an argument for LSU being ahead of Georgia at this point, and the Tigers will have a chance to prove their case against Alabama. But based on the dominance that the Crimson Tide have shown so far, it’ll be a tough home game for LSU. Even still, don’t count this team out since they boast plenty of talent.

Last Game: 24-19 win over Texas A&M
Next Game: vs. Alabama

7. Florida (7-1) – Just about everything went wrong for the Gators in an ugly outing against Georgia last Saturday. Several turnovers now have Florida on the outside looking-in. In a crowded SEC, the best they can hope for at this point is an at-large BCS bowl bid – even with just one loss.

Last Game: 17-9 loss against Georgia
Next Game: vs Missouri

8. Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0) – Entering last week’s game against Penn State, the Bucks knew that they’d have to slow down QB Matt McGloin. And OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier did just this as he picked McGloin off and went to the house. Everything is set up for the probation-ridden Bucks to meet their hated rivals, Michigan, with an unblemished record.

Last Game: 35-23 win over Penn State
Next Game: vs. Illinois

9. Oklahoma Sooners (5-2) – Oklahoma may have two losses, but they’ve both come to powerhouses in Kansas State and Notre Dame. This being said, the Sooners are better than a lot of the one-loss teams out there right now.

Last Game: 30-13 loss to Notre Dame
Next Game: at Iowa State

10. Florida State (8-1) – The Seminoles have done a good job in overcoming an earlier loss at N.C. State. And while the BCS Championship may be out of the question – mainly due to the lack of respect for the ACC – Florida State is currently in the driver’s seat for a big bowl game.

Last Game: 48-7 win over Duke
Next Game: at Virginia Tech (Nov. 8)