Monday, August 29, 2011

OHIO STATE FOOTBALL PREDICTIONS YOU CAN ACTUALLY RELY ON (MAYBE)

The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell
It is officially game week at THE Ohio State University, as the 18th-ranked Buckeyes will host the Zips of Akron this Saturday afternoon at THE Ohio Stadium.

Now, I could break down the Zips' roster for you and formulate a scenario where the boys from the northeast shock the world in Appalachian State-style fashion, but let's be real here, the chances of Akron taking down the Buckeyes Saturday in Columbus are about as likely as Harold Camping's Oct. 21 prediction of the rapture coming to fruition.

Not impossible ... just highly improbable. (Did you see how I slipped in that little disclaimer just in case some yahoo bets his life savings on my prediction of an Ohio State romp, you know, kind of like those morons did who believed Camping's May 21 end of world prognostications back in the spring?)

Sure, I believe the rapture will come, I just don't believe you can decipher it's exact date from the bible as if it were a video game cheat code. Sorry, you will never hear me utter an end of the world prophecy.

However, what you will get from me is five predictions for the Ohio State football team that WILL become reality! Probably ...

MILLER IS FULL-TIME STARTER BY WEEK 4 ... True freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, who will share time with fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman under center against Akron, will showcase his dynamic skills early on, forcing interim head coach Luke Fickell to name him the full-time starter by the time the Buckeyes face Colorado on Sept. 24.

Why did I choose that date, you ask? I think Bauserman will do enough to keep the starter spot against Akron. He will begin to lose hold of that, though, when they face a stronger Toledo team in week 2. If he still has the top spot come the Buckeyes' third game at Miami (Fla.), it will be his last because Miller's abilities to make plays with his feet in that game will win him the job outright.

Fickell will want a full-time starter in the Colorado game, which is the week prior to the opening of Big Ten play.

BUCKEYES WILL BEGIN THE SEASON 5-0 ... The Buckeyes should roll past Akron, beat Toledo (although that game is interesting), handle the scandal-ridden Hurricanes and topple the rebuilding Buffalos to begin 4-0.

In my opinion, the Buckeyes' first real test will come in game five when they host the 17th-ranked Michigan State Spartans. With Miller entrenched as Ohio State's starter, and four games under his belt as a collegiate player, the Buckeyes will win their conference opener by showing the Spartans that even though they've had to go through a tumultuous off-season, the superior talent still resides in Columbus.

Suspended stars Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas will return from their five-game suspension a week later just in time for the Buckeyes to head to Lincoln for a showdown with 10th-ranked Nebraska.

DEFENSE WILL BE BEST IN RECENT MEMORY ... In seven seasons of reporting Ohio State football I have seen a lot of stellar defenses and players pass through Columbus. However, I think this year's version of the Silver Bullets are the most athletic, fastest, and most instinctive unit I have covered.

Where the Buckeyes lack experience, they make up for it with speed. At times during fall camp I could have sworn I was watching a defense from the Southeastern Conference. Players like freshman linebacker Ryan Shazier, cornerback Travis Howard, safety Orhian Johnson and nickelback Christian Bryant have been flying around the field with cat-like quickness and superior athleticism. Sure, they still possess that Big Ten punch-you-in-the-mouth style with players like defensive linemen John Simon, Nate Williams and linebacker Andrew Sweat, but have added some massive humanity inside with 330-pound Johnathan Hankins and 290-pound Garrett Goebel. Freshman Michael Bennett is the little guy inside at 280.

I see the Buckeyes defense being the catalyst for Ohio State BCS run this fall, surrendering less than 12 points per game. If someone can score three touchdowns against this defense, I'll hail them as victors.

BUCKS WILL WIN AT LEAST 10 GAMES, PLAY IN BIG TEN TITLE ... In the Buckeyes 12-game regular season schedule I see just four games where the Buckeyes must be on their A-game if they are to win: Michigan State, at Nebraska, vs. Wisconsin, vs. Penn State.

The Buckeyes will win at least two of the four, giving them 10 wins on the season. That will be enough to give the boys from Columbus a berth in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game.

FICKELL WILL BE AXED ... Not as head coach of the Buckeyes, but as interim head coach.

After leading his team to double-digit wins and a trip to the Big Ten title game — following a whirlwind off-season that saw former head coach Jim Tressel and quarterback Terrelle Pryor get the ax — and all while doing it with a freshman quarterback at the controls, the Buckeyes' mentor will surely be granted with full tenure come season's end.

No more of this Urban Meyer, Jon Gruden mumbo-jumbo ... Fickell ball is here to stay.