2010 record: 12-1, 7-1 (T-1st Big Ten; all wins since vacated)
2010 bowl: 31-26 Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas (win since vacated)
2010 final AP/coaches’ ranking: 5th/5th
Coach: Luke Fickell, first year
Offensive coordinator: Jim Bollman, 11th year
2010 offensive rankings: 11th, scoring offense (38.8 ppg); 20th, total offense (448.6 ypg); 14th, rushing offense (220.1 ypg); 54th, passing offense (228.8 ypg)
Defensive coordinator: Jim Heacock, seventh year; Paul Haynes, first year
2010 defensive rankings: fifth, scoring defense (14.3 ppg); fourth, total defense (262.2 ypg); third, rushing defense (96.7 ypg); eighth, passing defense (165.5 ypg)
Returning offensive starters: 6 (includes suspended players)
Returning defensive starters: 4
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Stadium: Ohio Stadium (FieldTurf; 102,329)
Last league title: 2010
2011 schedule: [view]
2011 roster: [view]
2010 statistics: [view]
Snapshot: Slotting the Buckeyes in my Top 25, when there’s a pretty good chance the offseason upheaval — especially the resignation of Jim Tressel — will render them a non-entity to at least some pollsters, is based on one thing and one thing only: Luke Fickell realizing sooner rather than later true freshman Braxton Miller is a better option at quarterback than senior Joe Bauserman or any of the other signal callers on the roster.
Losing Terrelle Pryor for the first five games of the season and then for eternity was bad enough; don’t compound the error by putting a player into the starting lineup just because that’s what the coach’s playbook — The Vest’s playbook — says to do. Yes, being sans last year’s leading rusher and receiver for the first five games would be tough on any QB let alone a true freshman — but how different would it be if those players were lost to graduation instead of a partial-season suspension? Look, the Buckeyes will play defense at or near a championship level like they do nearly every year despite losing more than half their starting defense. Dan ‘Boom’ Herron will be missed for the first half of the season, but there’s a load of talent behind him in the backfield; they need to step up and seize the opportunity that’s in front of them. Tight end Jake Stoneburner would be a wonderful security blanket for a young QB while he awaits the return of DeVier Posey, and as the other young receivers take the steps to fill the void at the position.
Pull the trigger on Miller, Fickell; he can handle it. You should be able to as well, especially as your future at your dream job could very well depend on it. Unless Urban Meyer has already moved into that house in the Columbus suburbs, then all bets are off and just do whatever you want.
Make-or-break game: Nov. 26 at Michigan
C’mon, it’s The Game. It’s the greatest rivalry in all of sports. This interstate hatefest is the dictionary definition of a make-or-break game; win it, what happened in the previous 11 games won’t matter. Lose it, and it won’t matter what happened in the previous 11 games, with the added bonus of having the opportunity to stew over the loss for another 365 days. For the first time in more than 2,900 days, though, it could very well be the Columbus school stewing for the next calendar year, given the “situation” they find themselves in and as That School Up North seeks to dig themselves out from under the RichRod wreckage.
Heisman hopeful: There isn’t a single player on this team for whom I could make even a hamstring-tear stretch of a case.
Postseason projection: Outback Bowl, with the assumption the NCAA will not enact a postseason ban as part of the program’s sanctions.