Thursday, May 31, 2012

#15 Ohio State

The Ohio State Buckeyes will look to put behind a disappointing season tainted with the departure of former Head Coach Jim Tressel and quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Interim Head Coach Luke Fickell guided the Buckeyes to a 6-7 record and ended the season on a four game losing streak. New Head Coach Urban Meyer  looks to bring his spread attack and success from Florida to a team desperate for another BCS Title.  The Buckeyes won't be able to play for any postseason destinations but will still affect the Leaders Division and overall Big Ten race.

The Ohio State offense from 2011 has to be one of the biggest letdowns in the team's recent history. The Buckeyes finished 107th in Total Offense last year. Braxton Miller was a quarterback thrust into action with the sudden departure of Terrelle Pryor and he had a lot of growing pains. Miller only attempted 157 passes all year and finished with a completion percentage of 54.1. This caused the passing offense to be ranked 117th in the nation. Let me repeat that. The Ohio State Passing Offense finished 117th in the nation. His main form of damage to the opposing teams was through his legs. Miller led the Buckeyes with 715 yards rushing and 20 total touchdowns. He will have to improve his throwing game immensely to fit into the spread offense attack of Urban Meyer. The running back situation should be pretty set with returning starter Carlos Hyde and Senior Jordan Hall. These two backs should combined for 974 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns. The wide receiving corps has plenty of experience but few receptions. The team leader in receptions and yardage last year was Devin Smith. His leading statistics though were 14 receptions and 294 yards. The go to man for touchdowns through the air was tight end Jake Stoneburner with 7. Most of those came in the red zone.  The real question though for this offense is who is going to be the Percy Harvin for this offense. Without that, this offense will struggle something awful.

One of the few bright sides for the Ohio State Buckeyes last year was the defense. This vicious unit finished 19th in Total Defense and 14th in Passing Defense. The one real weakness was their inability to stop the rush. The Buckeyes finished 50th against the run which is something that will need to be fixed. Luke Fickell will be returning to Defensive Coordinator and will share the duties with Everett Withers. This unit will have 9 returning starters. The front four will be led by John Simon. Simon led the Buckeye Defense in Sacks with 7 and tackles for loss with 16. Simon will garner most of the attention from the offensive lines which should free up Jonathan Hankins to improve on his stats from last year. They will lose linebackers Tyler Moeller and Andrew Sweat but Sophomores Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant had impressive spring performances. Etienne Sabino will be looked at to lead the young linebackers until they become the dominant players they're expected to be. The entire secondary returns and it was a force against the pass last year. Safety C.J. Barnett earned All-Big Ten honors and will be on many preseason All-American watch lists. This defensive unit has potential to be the best in the nation this season and look like an SEC-type defense.

The Buckeyes schedule this year isn't too bad. They'll only be allowed to play 12 games due to an NCAA postseason ban. The first four non-conference games are all at home with the toughest contest being Cal. They should be able to go through this section of the season undefeated before heading to East Lansing. The four road games for the Buckeyes in the Big Ten this year are at Michigan State, Indiana, Penn State, and Wisconsin. Indiana should be a win but it will be a tough row to hoe against the other three. The Buckeyes will be lucky to go 2-2 on the road in the Big Ten this year. Their Big Ten home games only feature two real tests in Nebraska and Michigan. Purdue and Illinois shouldn't be a problem for the Buckeyes this year. I think the Buckeyes end up with  a 9-3 record this year. I believe they'll lose to Michigan State, Wisconsin and Michigan.

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