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Friday, July 31, 2009
Preseason predictions: Ohio State

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

You'll have to wait a little longer for my pick on the USC game, but here are three predictions for Ohio State.

1. The Buckeyes finally go back to the Rose Bowl -- More than a decade has passed since Ohio State last played in Pasadena, but the drought ends this fall. To clarify, I'm not predicting Ohio State will reach the national title game (also played in Pasadena), but the Bucks will face a Pac-10 team on Jan. 1. Ohio State claims another Big Ten title behind Terrelle Pryor and could end a dominant decade with a Rose Bowl win.

2. Pryor blossoms in a more varied offense -- Pryor's continued development this fall will force Jim Tressel to open up the offense, especially as the line improves behind Justin Boren and company. Opposing defenses will force Pryor to beat them with his arm, but the sophomore is more fundamentally sound now and will have a solid group of wide receivers and tight ends at his disposal. Pryor's true breakout year might not come until 2010, but his consistency as a passer will be better this fall.

3. Thaddeus Gibson earns first-team All-Big Ten honors and flirts with the NFL -- I really liked what I saw from Gibson down the stretch last fall, and he figures to be a major pass-rushing force in 2009. Ohio State's line will be the strength of an always-tough defense, and the presence of Cameron Heyward and Lawrence Wilson will make it tough to consistently double-team Gibson. The junior records at least nine sacks this fall and weighs his stock in the NFL draft before deciding to come back to Columbus.