Ohio State Looking like National Title Contender

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When the college football season begins in September, there is (if I may quote the Earth, Wind and Fire tune named after the current month) “never a cloudy day,” at least when it comes to the expectations of players and coaches. The forecast for the upcoming season is always sunny; everyone you interview at every media day will pretty much tell say his team is going 12-0 and finishing the season in Pasadena (or wherever the national title game is being held that January).

It’s kind of like how in prison every inmate tells you he’s innocent. But in Columbus, Ohio, over-the-top optimism of this sort is quite valid. During their opening tune-up versus Marshall, the Ohio State Buckeyes showed the 105,000+ people on hand why they’re ranked #2 in the nation; and why they received three first place votes in the AP preseason poll.

In their 45-7 throttling of the Thundering Herd, the Buckeyes held their opponent to just 36 yards rushing in the first half, 44 for the game. The “Silver Bullet” defense held the Herd under 21 points, making it the 51st time since 2005 they’ve accomplished that feat. No other defense in the nation has done that as many times as the Bucks, just like their rank in hundred yard rushers allowed the past five years.

Only seven ballcarriers have hit the C-Note against the Bucks since ’05. And it is this dominant rushing defense that makes OSU a national title contender on par with Alabama.

That’s the key to the Buckeyes national title hopes- the defensive front seven, and how well they find the opponents’ backfields this fall. Thursday night, Marshall’s only points came on a blocked field goal.

The Buckeyes have at least one or two players in every position group that will be up for a national award or playing on Sundays in the upcoming years: defensive linemen Cameron Heyward and Dexter Larimore, linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, defensive backs Chimdi Chekwa and Jermale Hines, and offensive lineman Justin Boren and Michael Brewster.

“I thought we did some good things.  It was important that we did, it would only be real important if we could learn that they weren’t all good things and there’s a whole bunch of things we have to do better if we want to compete at the next level next weekend,” Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel said after the game.

The schedule works out in their favor too. As impressive as their win over Marshall was, this is not the Marshall of Randy Moss, Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington. Like Tressel pointed out, the real test comes at home next week versus #13 Miami.

Then it’s two more home contests against mid-majors and then two more games against the “mid-majors of the Big Ten,” Illinois and Indiana. The Bucks could very easily be 6-0 when they get into the meat and potatoes of their schedule. Being undefeated at that point will go a long way towards helping build the confidence required to reach Glendale, Arizona for the title game.

Written by Paul M. Banks, president and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest-focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru

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Comments

  1. Hans, tell me again about the time you opened for O.A.R. at a college party again. I never tire of that story.

    And I want to hear about the militia skirmish in the 1830s over the Toledo strip between the Michigan and Ohio territories. Because if any piece of land is worth fighting over it’s your hometown of Toledo

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