Ohio State cannot play for a Big Ten championship in 2012. They can, however, play spoiler to the rest of the conference in a year where it seems wide open.
Last week we dove in to the first four games of OSU’s schedule, all of which were games against opponents not in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes will be favored in each of their first four games, and should head into week five with a 4-0 record.
What is waiting for them in week five? A trip to East Lansing to take on the Michigan State Spartans.
Let’s take a look at OSU’s first four Big Ten games.
Week 5, Sept. 29: Ohio State at Michigan State
(Spartan Stadium—East Lansing, Michigan)
2011 record: 11-3
Returning starters: 12 (4 offense, 8 defense)
As we sit here, just over three weeks from the start of the season, this game has to be one of the most highly anticipated of the Big Ten season. The Spartans are coming off a tremendous season that saw them appear in the first ever Big Ten Championship Game—a 42-39 loss to Wisconsin.
The Spartans lost their quarterback for the last few seasons, Kirk Cousins. Replacing him will be Andrew Maxwell, who has little experience at the collegiate level, but has the ability to be a serviceable quarterback at the Big Ten level. Le’Veon Bell also returns for MSU. He racked up 948 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground in 2011.
This is without a doubt the biggest game for OSU just five weeks into the season. The Spartans will give the Buckeyes all they can handle.
Week 6, Oct. 6: Nebraska at Ohio State
(Ohio Stadium—Columbus, Ohio)
2011 record: 9-4
Returning starters: 16 (8 offense, 8 defense)
All that will be on the minds of Ohio State fans is revenge. The Buckeyes absolutely collapsed a season ago in Lincoln, blowing a 21 point lead in the third quarter to lose 34-27.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead return to key a potentially dangerous Cornhusker offense that gave Ohio State nightmares in its 2011 game.
This marks Nebraska’s first trip to Ohio Stadium since they joined the Big Ten and also will be the second consecutive game for Ohio State against a very good team. This time, however, the game is in Columbus.
Week 7, Oct. 13: Ohio State at Indiana
(Memorial Stadium—Bloomington, Indiana)
2011 record: 1-11
Returning starters: 17 (8 offense, 9 defense)
Indiana returns 17 starters from a season ago. The bad thing about that, though, is the Hoosiers went 1-11 in 2011. And, I don’t see much of an improvement coming from Indiana in 2012 as they continue to be bottom-feeders in the Big Ten.
This game is schedule for a prime time kickoff in Bloomington. That doesn’t matter, though, as the Buckeyes should roll the Hoosiers.
Week 8, Oct. 20: Purdue at Ohio State
(Ohio Stadium—Columbus, Ohio)
2011 record: 7-6
Returning starters: 14 (7 offense, 7 defense)
Many people do not realize this, but Purdue has beaten Ohio State two out of the last three seasons. Last year the Boilermakers bested the Buckeyes 26-23 in overtime. And in 2009, in one of the ugliest games I’ve ever seen the Buckeyes play, the No. 7 Ohio State team fell 26-18 to Purdue.
Urban Meyer won’t allow OSU to overlook teams they should beat. Purdue is one of those teams. I look for the Buckeyes to control this game, especially because it is in Columbus.
Without a doubt, Buckeye fans are going to be able to tell how good their team is after the battles with Michigan State and Nebraska. Those two games should really prepare OSU for Wisconsin and Michigan in the closing weeks of the season.
Next Thursday, I will be back to preview the remaining four games on the OSU schedule. Stay tuned, Buckeye nation.