Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Second-half outlook: Ohio State
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Ohio State Buckeyes
Remaining schedule: vs. Minnesota, vs. New Mexico State, at Penn State, vs. Iowa, at Michigan
It's getting a bit hot until the sweater vest right now, and head coach Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes know they can't afford any missteps down the stretch to continue their streak of Big Ten titles and BCS bowl appearances. Tressel and sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor find themselves in the eye of the storm right now after Saturday's turnover-filled loss to Purdue. It's imperative for Tressel and his staff to finally establish an offensive identity and put Pryor in the best position to succeed. Right now, he just doesn't look comfortable. Ohio State also needs to see improvement from its running backs and its offensive line. There are far fewer questions with a defense that has overcome the losses of several national award winners to rank 11th nationally in scoring (14 ppg) and ninth against the run (87.9 ypg). As long as stars like Kurt Coleman, Brian Rolle and Thaddeus Gibson keep doing what they're doing, Ohio State should be fine on that side of the ball. The schedule gets tough in November with games against Penn State, Iowa and Michigan, but Ohio State has typically been at its best down the stretch.
Best-case scenario: The offense finds its identity and Pryor makes a ton of progress, quieting his doubters as he flummoxes opposing defenders. The defense doesn't let up one bit and Ohio State sweeps its final five games. Iowa stumbles twice and the Buckeyes once again sit atop the Big Ten and head to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1997. Then they beat USC in a rematch.
Worst-case scenario: The offense never gets on track and Pryor's confidence steadily declines. The defense wears down and opponents exploit new players in the secondary for big pass plays. Ohio State drops two of its final three games and all of its valuable streaks -- Big Ten titles, BCS appearances, wins against Michigan -- go down the drain.
Prediction: Capital One Bowl. Ohio State loses one more game to either Penn State, Iowa or Michigan.