Never Too Early: 2014 Michigan State Preview

Written July 31st, 2014 by Patrick

When the 2014 football schedule was released, 90% of Ohio State fans circled that last November Saturday and TTUN……….and then there’s the other game they circled.

Never Forget

Never Forget

It’s still a team that starts with an M but this team has State behind it and caused the most heartache of any team from 2013. I, as many of the other Buckeye fans I walked out with, left Lucas Oil Stadium last December and had one thing on my mind…..November 8th, 2014. There’s a wound that can never heal from the loss in the B1G championship game but a win in 2014 will more than likely give the Buckeyes a trip to Indianapolis for a second consecutive year.

Gone from Sparty is the heart and soul of not only their defense, but their team. Dennard, Bullough, and Allen are all gone. Connor Cook, the same qb who torched the OSU secondary is back and will look to take advantage of the Bucks D once again. The Bucks will be coming off a home game with Illinois before heading to East Lansing and Sparty will be coming off back to back bye weeks. (ok, ok……they play TTUN and THEN have a real bye week)

Looking at last year’s Spartans team, the defense was with out a doubt their strength. Coach Mark Dantonio was recently quoted as saying, “our 2013 Spartans had a defense who could’ve won a 4 team playoff”. The Spartans lost six starters off a defense that ranked in the top three in the nation in all four major statistical categories, but coordinator Pat Narduzzi insists that the losses don’t mean his unit will drop off. “It’s called opportunity,” Narduzzi says. “We’ve got players.”

Michigan State possesses one of the top defensive end duos in the nation in reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Shilique Calhoun and fourth-year starter Marcus Rush. The Spartans have plugged the departures at defensive tackle adequately, and that’s before one of the top-ranked defensive line classes — headlined by Malik McDowell and Craig Evans — reports to camp.

The secondary appears sound, led by captain-in-waiting Kurtis Drummond at free safety and returning junior cornerback Trae Waynes. Sophomore corner Darian Hicks and strong safety RJ Williamson enter fall camp the other projected starters.

The biggest question mark is at linebacker, where Michigan State could have an entirely new look. Senior Taiwan Jones is the only returning starter, and he spent spring trying to transition from outside to middle linebacker. Darien Harris and Ed Davis will likely be the other starters, regardless of how the position shakes out. Read More

Never Too Early: 2014 Illinois Preview

Written July 27th, 2014 by Patrick

Who Has Two Thumbs And Is On The Coaching Hot Seat?

When the schedule came out and Buckeyes fans saw the Illinois game at night, there was a collective gasp as memories of 2007 came back to their minds. Thankfully Ron Zook and Juice Williams won’t be making the trip this time. The Bucks will be playing their 4th B1G contest of the season as the Fighting Illini will be battling a B1G opponent for the 5th time when the arrive in Columbus.

The third year has usually been the charm for Illinois head coaches. Mike White, John Mackovic, Lou Tepper, Ron Turner and Ron Zook all reached bowls in their third seasons. Now, it’s Tim Beckman’s turn to try to keep the streak going. While the school hasn’t issued an ultimatum, a bowl bid would help secure Beckman’s future.

Gone is his do everything Nathan Scheelhaase; Buckeyes fans remember last season when Scheelhaase single handedly kept Illinois in the game with 2 passing touchdowns and 1 on the ground as OSU won the battle for the IlliBuck 60-35.

Second-year offensive coordinator Bill Cubit wasn’t ready to name a starting quarterback in the spring. He wanted to watch the three challengers compete, but it was clear to those who watched the battle that there wasn’t much of one. Barring injury before the opener against Youngstown State, Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt gets the call. There are big hopes at Illinois for Lunt. He has a rocket arm and a quick release. The coaches also rave about his decision-making.

Lunt will rely plenty on running back Josh Ferguson. The dual-threat back led the team in rushing with 779 yards, averaging a robust 5.5 per carry. He was also second on the team in catches.

By far, receiver was the biggest area of concern for the offensive coaches going into the spring. They have to replace three key departed players. Geronimo Allison, Martize Barr, Justin Hardee and Mike Dudek all pushed for playing time with solid results. Jon Davis and Matt LaCosse are threats at tight end.

With four starters back, the coaches are hoping the offensive line will be a strength. Guard Michael Heitz enters his fourth year as a starter. Tackle Austin Schmidt could turn into a star. Read More

Never Too Early: 2014 Rutgers Preview

Written July 10th, 2014 by Patrick
Scarlet. That's cute.

Scarlet. That’s cute.

For the second time in as many games, the Buckeyes will play a new member of the B1G. After a bye week after their trip to Maryland, the Bucks return back home to play Rutgers. Rutgers will be coming off a bye week themselves and will already have two B1G games (Penn State/Michigan) under their belts when they play their first B1G road game. Rutgers will also be playing in their third conference in as many years (Big East, AAC, B1G) and are coming off of a 6-7 season that saw them lost to Notre Dame in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

Getting nine starters back on offense is a big positive and there are a lot of developing names on defense, but this team will have to improve significantly across the board if it wants to return to the postseason as a B1G representative. Head coach Kyle Flood is hoping that a reworked coaching staff will provide the spark needed to compete at a higher level in ’14.

Kyle Flood totally overhauled his coaching staff this offseason, bringing in offensive guru Ralph Friedgen to run the offense. His first order of business is to find a stabilizing force under center for the Knights after a season in which Rutgers quarterbacks threw 22 interceptions and just 22 touchdowns. This is why Flood has opened up the position battle this spring despite Gary Nova (2,159 yds, 18 TDs, 14 INTs) returning after starting most of last year (until the final three games). Read More

Never Too Early: 2014 Maryland Preview

Written July 3rd, 2014 by Patrick

Gonna’ Take Some Getting Used To

After 4 non conference games and a bye week, the Buckeyes finally launch into B1G play. The scarlet and gray make their second trip in to the state of Maryland for the 2014 season and introduce the Maryland Terrapins to the B1G. The welcome gift the Terps get…..a B1G home opener against the best team in the conference.

The Buckeyes will be coming off a tougher than usual non conference schedule and they’ll play the Terps with a bye week to follow. The Terps will be playing their sixth game in as many weeks and will have one B1G game under their belts as they travel to Bloomington the week prior to Ohio State.

The Real Deal

There is little doubt that the Terps boast the best young WR in the country in Stephon Diggs, but quite possibly could have the best WR tandem in the country when you add Deon Long. Most notably, though, the Terps will try to overcome a horrendous injury plague season that was 2013. What would you think if I told you they ended the season with a freshman linebacker……AT QUARTERBACK. Yes, you read that right. The Big Ten’s new kid on the block has the potential to be potent offensively if it can get healthy.

Senior quarterback C.J. Brown became the first Terrapin to ever pass for 2,000 yards and rush for more than 500 in a single season, but his physical style makes him prone to injury, particularly behind an unproven offensive line still hoping to add pieces this summer.

But what Brown can do for you, besides make chunk-yardage plays on the ground, is get the ball to the aforementioned Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, both back from broken legs. Their return should make the Terps better on third down — where they converted just 32 percent of the time (114th nationally) in 2013 — and make Maryland a quick-strike team in a pound-on-the-ground league.

The return of sophomore tailback Wes Brown from suspension improves a running back-by-committee that boasts Brandon Ross and his 776 rushing yards last year. C.J. Brown and Diggs, who will get the ball in a variety of ways in multiple receiver formations, are the main threats, though. Read More

Campus Insiders: 2014 Ohio State Preview

Written July 1st, 2014 by MaliBuckeye

Our friends at Campus Insiders are taking a look around the nation to help fans get ready for the inaugural “College Football Playoff” season. Here’s their take on the Scarlet and Gray, including a look at breakout players and scheduling possibilities:

Gotta’ say that I agree with their assessment of the Buckeyes’ biggest challenge, but disagree vehemently with their prediction on that outcome.

2014 Big Ten Conference Preview: East Division

Written June 30th, 2014 by Patrick
Part two of our conference preview looks at the “group of death” and a likely conference title game:

2014 EAST DIVISION PREVIEW

Many feel the east will be a battle of 2 teams and the winner of the November 8th battle in East Lansing between Ohio State and Michigan State can go ahead and make plans for Indy.

EAST PREDICTION

  1. Ohio State
  2. Michigan State
  3. Penn State
  4. Michigan
  5. Indiana
  6. Maryland
  7. Rutgers

OHIO STATE 12-2 (8-0)

Heisman Run?

There is no doubt that all of Buckeye nation is still reeling from the 10 point loss to Michigan State in last year’s B1G Championship game.

There are so many “what if’s” from that game: What if they don’t have the 3 personal fouls on the Spartans first drive? What if they give the ball to Hyde on 4th and 1? What if……..okay, I’ll stop. There’s no doubt Urban Meyer will use that loss as motivation for the 2014 Buckeyes.

The turnover for this squad was quite large. Gone are 4 5th’s of an offensive line that many believed was one of the best in the nation last year as is its work horse back Carlos Hyde. Also gone are Philly Brown, Ryan Shazier, Bradley Roby, Christian Bryant, and C.J. Barnett.

Now, some will say that losing players on defense isn’t such a bad thing. The front seven should be very very solid. Joey Bosa, Noah Spence, Adolphis Washington, and Michael Bennett should keep a ton of pressure on B1G qb’s while the secondary led by Doran Grant and Von Bell begin to mesh.

The best news of the offseason was most surely the return of Braxton Miller. Miller is considered by many to be a preseason top 5 Heisman candidate but will have to do it behind a rebuilt offensive line and with a new running mate in his backfield. Ezekiel Elliott is the odds on favorite to take the torch from Hyde. Elliott showed glimpses of greatness when given a chance last year. The Buckeyes B1G portion of their schedule shapes up rather nice.

Home games against Rutgers, Illinois, Indiana, and TSUN seems rather easy and to most, their only tough road test will fall on November 8th as they travel to East Lansing for a date with Sparty. Other road games include Maryland, Penn State, and Minnesota putting the Buckeyes in a great position for a return trip to Indy and a date with Wisconsin.

MICHIGAN STATE 13-1 (8-0) Read More

2014 Big Ten Conference Preview: West Division

Written June 30th, 2014 by Patrick
Not content to only preview Ohio State’s schedule, Patrick is taking a two part look at the B1G for 2014. Here’s a look at the newbies and our Western Division brethren; after lunch the East gets due scrutiny in addition to the championship game predictions.

Motivation Fuel

When the dust settled on the 2013-14 season, the B1G had a Rose Bowl champion and……another bad bowl record as a conference.

Michigan State and Nebraska were the lone winners (Rose and Gator Bowls respectively) and the conference was 2-7 overall. Yet even after that showing, many pundits feel like the B1G is poised to be a top tier conference this season. When the season opens, they will more than likely have two top 10 teams (Michigan State and Ohio State) as well as a slew of others ranked in the top 25.

The B1G welcomes two new members this season as well. Maryland and Rutgers will make their football debuts in 2014. The B1G received a ton of criticism for the recent additions. Other conferences such as the SEC are adding schools like Texas A&M and Missouri while many people feel the B1G adding “schedule padders” for football. What people won’t tell you is that these two schools gets the B1G into markets (Washington DC and New York) that they haven’t been in since its inception.

The non conference schedules for a lot of the B1G schools is very very good this season. Defending champion MSU will travel west to Eugene, Oregon to take on the Ducks, Ohio State welcomes Va Tech into Columbus, Wisconsin takes on LSU in Houston, Nebraska travels to Fresno for a battle with Fresno St and then back home the following week to take on the Miami Hurricanes, Michigan will try to avenge a loss to Appalachian St (did I really just type that) as well as take on Notre Dame for the last time and welcome the Utes of Utah to Ann Arbor, and Minnesota will travel to Texas to battle TCU. The B1G as a conference will need a lot of wins from these non conference tilts in order to gain some respect from the rest of the country and the national media

2014 will also mark the first year of new conference alignment. Gone are the awful Leaders and Legends divisions and we finally get a traditional East/West divisions.

*2014 will also mark the 3rd year that Penn State will be ineligible for post season play.

2014 WEST PREVIEW

Even though the B1G divided up the divisions by east/west location, many feel the west is by far the weaker of the two. Nebraska and Wisconsin should battle for the next few years for the west crown with little challenge. Read More

Never Too Early: 2014 Cincinnati Preview

Written June 26th, 2014 by Patrick

Never Forget…

As the Buckeyes come off their first bye week of the 2014 season and prepare for B1G football play, they’ll have one more task standing in front of them in the form of the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. This will be the first meeting between the two Ohio schools since 2006 when the Bucks came away victorious 37-7.

The Bearcats are coming off the first year for head coach Tommy Tuberville and a very successful one it was. UC was 9-4 (6-2 in the AAC) and lost to North Carolina 39-17 in the 2013 Belk Bowl. The 2013 season also included wins over B1G members Purdue, and soon to be member Rutgers. They also beat something called Northwestern, but it’s not the one you’re thinking of.

The biggest and best news for the Bearcats this offseason was getting transfer QB Gunner Kiel. The former big time recruit made national news over his recruiting process by committing to Indiana, then LSU, THEN finally to Notre Dame. When Kiel found himself behind several other qb’s in South Bend including returning starter from 2012, Everett Golson, he decided to transfer to Cincinnati. Kiel sat out the 2013 season and has 3 years of eligibility remaining. Kiel impressed all during the Bearcats spring game and seems to have the lead for the starting job heading into fall camp.

He got away from Brian Kelly… wouldn’t you be smiling?

The Bearcats are looking forward to what could be a special season if their quarterback situation pans out and their defense will be more consistent with a new coordinator. Kiel has a big arm, is very accurate, can throw a nice deep ball and has good mobility. The one area he must improve on is throwing the football on the run. The one challenger he will have this fall is from junior college transfer Jarred Evans. Former starter Munchie Legaux will return for his fifth year after suffering a severe knee injury last September.

Whoever the quarterback will be Cincinnati will return its top three rushers including Hosey Williams, Ralph David Abernathy and Tion Green. The wide receiver position is in good shape with Senior Shaq Washington and Chris Moore. Washington is an excellent possession receiver who had 78 catches last year. The offensive line returns three starters including tackle Eric Lefeld (6-6 309).

Cincinnati’s defense ranked ninth in the country in total defense and yet still fired their defensive coordinator Art Kaufman. Coach Tuberville hired Hank Hughes to run the defense, and they will continue to run the 4-3 defense that was implemented last year. Read More

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