- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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My look back at the best case-worst case series continues with ... Ohio State.
In case you missed it: Ohio State's best case-worst case.
Best-case synopsis: Terrelle Pryor starts to figure it out and joins forces with a dominant defense to lead Ohio State to the BCS title game. ... Pryor dissects USC's defense in a 28-17 win and Ohio State surges into Big Ten play. ... Ohio State's defense squeezes Juice Williams in a rout of Illinois, and the run game gets rolling as the Buckeyes head to Penn State and edge the Nittany Lions 21-20 in a dramatic win. ... Left guard Justin Boren leads a dominant rushing performance against his former team in Ann Arbor. ... Ohio State goes to Pasadena and upsets No. 1 Florida in the title game to complete a perfect season.
Worst-case synopsis: Ohio State continues to struggle in big games, and Pryor still can't develop as a pocket passer. ... Matt Barkley outshines Pryor as USC rolls over the Buckeyes on their home turf Sept. 12. ... Ohio State loses its second game to Illinois and records five straight ho-hum wins before falling to Penn State in Happy Valley. ... Things get worse as Ohio State loses to both Iowa and Michigan, which snaps its losing streak in The Game. ... The Buckeyes miss a BCS bowl for the first time since 2004 but still beat Kansas in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
You can't handle the truth: (quotes from the original post) "Ohio State struggles for a half against Navy, and much like last year's game against Ohio, no one leaves The Shoe feeling good about the team's chances against USC." ... "Ohio State's big-game blues continue." ... "Cognizant of what happened the last time Juice Williams visited Columbus, Ohio State's defensive line puts Williams on his back throughout a Sept. 26 game." ... "The Buckeyes clear another hurdle the next week against Iowa to clinch at least a share of their fifth-consecutive league title." ... "A trip to Ann Arbor follows, and Ohio State continues its dominance of the archrival Wolverines. Buckeyes left guard Justin Boren, a Michigan transfer, manhandles the Wolverines defensive tackles." ... The defensive front mirrors the 2002 version."
Lies, lies, lies: "USC visits Columbus the next week and Pryor steals the show, throwing for three touchdowns and bulldozing Taylor Mays in a 28-17 win." ... "Daryll Clark leads the game-winning touchdown drive as Penn State ends Ohio State's Big Ten road win streak at 17 games. Ohio State's run of Big Ten titles ends the next week as Iowa prevails in Columbus." ... "Jim Tressel wins his second national title at Ohio State. Pryor finishes third in Heisman voting and enters 2010 as the frontrunner." ... "The defense takes a step back." ... "The Buckeyes give up their Big Ten crown."
Reality check: The Buckeyes seemed headed toward the worst-case scenario until making a U-turn following their stunning loss to Purdue on Oct. 17. Considered an afterthought in the Big Ten title race, Ohio State won its final four Big Ten games to win the league title outright. Pryor had his ups and downs but limited mistakes down the stretch as the running game finally got going behind an improved offensive line. Despite losing multiple national award winners, Ohio State's defense was the single-most dominating unit in the Big Ten. Ohio State now heads to its first Rose Bowl in 13 years and tries to snap a three-game slide in BCS bowls against a dynamic Oregon squad.
4dBrian Bennett and Josh Moyer