Here are some quick thoughts and views on the upcoming Ohio State schedule. I'm going to rank these games as I see them, from games that Ohio State could possibly lose to games where Ohio State will be an overwhelming favorite:
I. Toughest Games ~ These are the games where Ohio State could lose and will probably be the underdog.
1. Game 3, September 13th, 8pm EST (ABC), @ USC: What more do I have to say about the stakes on this one? Both teams will be in the top 5, and postgame, it will not surprise me if the winner vaults to number one in the polls.
2. Game 6, October 6th, 8pm EST (ABC or ESPN), @ Wisconsin: Ohio State has struggled with Wisconsin throughout the Jim Tressel era (losses in 2001, 2003, 2004), more so than any other Big Ten program. Considering how tough Camp Randall is to play in for visiting teams, then throw in the fact that it's a night game, makes this game a big challenge for the Buckeyes.
3. Game 11, November 15th, TBA, @ Illinois: The last time Ohio State visited Champaign, Ohio State barely escaped with a 17-10 victory. Considering how Illinois defeated Ohio State last year in the Horseshoe, Ohio State will certainly not be lacking for motivation. Illinois has recruited well the last few seasons and will be hoping to crush Ohio State's Big Ten aspirations with this game. I won't be surprised if this is another night game, depending on how both teams are doing as the season winds down.
II. Challenging Games: Games where Ohio State should win and will be favored. Losses here would fall into the upset category.
4. Game 8, October 18th, TBA, @ Michigan State: This will surprise many people that I am ranking this game so highly. Other people besides myself recognize Coach Mark Dantonio for the program he is slowly but surely building in East Lansing. Again, Michigan State has been a troublesome program for Ohio State in the past. I look for Ohio State to pull away from Michigan State in the 4th quarter for a tough-earned win here.
5. Game 9, October 25th, 8pm EST (ABC or ESPN), Penn State: Penn State will be moving back to an offense similar in style to its successful 2005 season, with QB Darryl Clark reprising the role of Michael Robinson. Considering how Ohio State will have just come out of a tough game versus Michigan State, I look for Ohio State to have this game in hand by the beginning of the 4th quarter.
III. Comfortable Games: Games that Ohio State should win by the mid-3rd quarter. These are the ones where I start begging Coach Tressel to give Chris Wells a break and not possibly expose him to potential injury.
6. Game 7, October 11th, TBA, Purdue: In the earlier years of Coach Tressel's tenure, Purdue usually played Ohio State down to the wire. Last season, Ohio State was able to handle Purdue quite easily on national television. I look for them to do it again in the comfort of the Horseshoe in mid-October.
7. Game 12, November 22nd, TBA (probable 12pm EST start), Michigan: Nope. This is not a mistype. Ohio State had best enjoy this win over Michigan (only 142 days from now as I submit this), because once Coach Rodriguez gets his personnel into Michigan to run his spread option offense, THE GAME will again be a take-no-prisoners event. This year? Ohio State is too much for Michigan by mid-3rd quarter.
8. Game 10, November 8th, TBA, @ Northwestern: Considering how badly Ohio State has bludgeoned Northwestern the last few seasons (2005 - Ohio State 48, Northwestern 7; 2006 - Ohio State 54, Northwestern 10; 2007 - Ohio State 58, Northwestern 7), this one may be an opportune time to see Terrelle Pryor in action for the Buckeyes throughout the second half.
9. Game 4, September 20th, 1pm EST (maybe The Big Ten Network?), Troy: Again, I've already stated how Ohio State should not overlook Troy. I look for Ohio State to pull away in the second half of this one. I look for this game to be one where Ohio State comes out flat after playing such a big game against USC - it's tough to keep up the intensity week after week.
IV. Probable Blowouts: These are the games where Ohio State should be clearing its benches as the second half begins. Maybe even invoke a mercy rule if there is such a thing in college football.
10. Game 5, September 27th, TBA, Minnesota: I believe it was in the song "Big Yellow Taxi" ~ "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got till it's gone"...Seems to me quite appropos for what Minnesota did by firing Glen Mason to bring in Tim Brewster. Minnesota will again be the dregs of the Big Ten this year, and Ohio State hopefully will be calling off the dogs as the second half starts on this one.
11. Game 2, September 6th, TBA, Ohio University: Here is the game where all the players from Ohio University will show Ohio State how they screwed up by not offering them scholarships...and once they get hit a few times by James Laurinaitis, they realize that maybe playing against Kent State or Central Michigan has its advantages.
12. Game 1, August 30th, TBA, Youngstown State: If it was not for the fact that this is the home opener for Ohio State, this is the game where you leave two tickets under your windshield wiper and come back to find out you have two more tickets that someone else left. Credit Coach Tressel for these gifts to Youngstown State the last two season openers with having them on the Ohio State schedule. Coach Tressel won't want to embarass his previous school, and will do all he can do from stopping this one from getting out of hand.