Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ohio State 2011 Football Schedule: Game-By-Game Breakdown

By Tim Beilik - BlockONation Featured Contributor

After finally getting the SEC monkey off their backs in the Sugar Bowl over Arkansas, Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes have their work cut out for them in the 2011 season.

This season will be a challenge not only because of the loss of the Suspended Five, but also because the Big Ten is as strong as it's been in quite a few seasons.

For the Buckeyes to make a seventh straight BCS bowl game, they will need to find a way to stay afloat without Terrelle Pryor and company for at least the first month of the season, and then find a flow immediately upon their return.

The schedule is not too favorable past September, especially in their own division.

Here is a look at the Buckeyes' 2011 schedule.

Week One - Akron Zips

When: September 3

Where: Home

Time: TBA (most likely noon)

Opponent's 2010 Record: 1-11, 118th in scoring offense

Breakdown: Rob Ianello's club is a good chance for Ohio State to see what they have in their backups.

The Zips did not win a game in 2010 until the last week of the season at home against Buffalo, but return QB Patrick Nicely for his third year under center.

However, even without the Suspended Five, don't be surprised if the Buckeyes win by at least 30 in their home opener.

Week Two - Toledo Rockets

When: September 10

Where: Home

Time: TBA (most likely noon)

Opponent's 2010 Record: 8-5, lost to Florida International in Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl

Breakdown: Tim Beckman's crew presents a little more of a challenge than the Zips, although this is still somewhat of a typical MAC cupcake game.

The Rockets had a strong 2010 including an upset win at Purdue, featuring a talented wideout in Eric Page in a two-QB system.

This game will put some stress on an OSU secondary that must replace both starting corners, but they should be able to take care of business against the Rockets pretty handily.

Week Three - Miami Hurricanes

When: September 17

Where: Away (Sun Life Stadium - Miami, Fl.)

Time: TBA (3:30/8:00 depending on national preference)

Opponent's 2010 Record: 7-6, lost to Ohio State 36-24

Breakdown: Last season was the first time since the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, in a game where the Buckeyes fell behind early but used big turnovers and explosive plays to take down the Canes.

This matchup might not have Terrelle Pryor, but the Canes also have to replace several skilled players including DE Allen Bailey, WR Leonard Hankerson and DB Brandon Harris.

Much of the success for Al Golden in 2011 will depend on if Jacory Harris doesn't continue to regress like he did last season.

Regardless of who starts at QB for OSU—whether it's Braxton Miller, Kenny Guiton, Taylor Graham, or Joe Bauserman—expect a heavy dose of the ground game, which should help the Buckeyes get a big road win in South Beach (sorry LeBron).

Week Four - Colorado Buffaloes

When: September 24

Where: Home

Time: TBA (most likely noon)

Opponent's 2010 Schedule: 5-7, left Big 12 for Pac-12 beginning in 2011

Breakdown: This game appeared late on the schedule when the Buckeyes had a vacancy on the 2011 schedule, so they host a Colorado team in its first season in the Pac-12.

After the disappointing reign of Dan Hawkins as head coach, Jon Embree takes over a team that returns 16 starters.

Their third game, all away from Boulder, will be their toughest test against a Buckeye team that should by this point have learned how to play without the Suspended Five.

This will most likely be a win for OSU as they should get to 4-0.

Week Five - Michigan State Spartans

When: October 1

Where: Home

Time: TBA (most likely 3:30)

Opponent's 2010 Record: 11-2, lost to Alabama 49-7 in Capital One Bowl

Breakdown: Without question, this is the toughest of the first five games of the 2011 schedule.

After Michigan State's breakout season in 2010, Sparty returns Kirk Cousins, their three best RBs, and WRs B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin.

But the loss of LB Greg Jones is a huge loss for Michigan State to overcome, although returning depth on the defensive line might help the defense to stay afloat early on in the season.

Were Pryor and Co. intact for this game, and they potentially still can be depending on NCAA appeals, this could be the matchup many fans wanted considering the three-way tie atop the Big Ten last season.

But this year, it will be a war where Ohio State should just be able to escape behind an aggressive defense and a powerful running attack.

Week Six - Nebraska Cornhuskers

When: October 8

Where: Away (Memorial Stadium)

Time: TBA (most likely 8:00)

Opponent's 2010 Record: 10-4, Big 12 North Champions, lost to Washington 19-7 in Holiday Bowl

Breakdown: This is the game everyone in the Big Ten is talking about, with the new kid on the block in Nebraska squaring off with the powerhouse of the conference in the Buckeyes.

The Suspended Five will return for this game, so OSU should be at full strength albeit lacking chemistry because of missing the first five or less games.

Nebraska returns both Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead from a team that ranked No. 9 in rushing offense, and also keeps DT Jared Crick and DB Alfonzo Dennard from a powerhouse defense.

The Buckeyes' first game in the Sea of Red might be a rough night, as even the return of Pryor might not help them escape their first loss of the 2011 season.

Week Seven - Illinois Fighting Illini

When: October 15

Where: Away (Memorial Stadium, Champaign, Ill)

Time: TBA (most likely noon)

Opponent's 2010 Record: 7-6, defeated Baylor 38-14 in Texas Bowl

Breakdown: Should Ohio State fall to Nebraska in Week Six, that might be the worst possible thing for the Illini.

Mikel Leshoure and Martez Wilson have moved on to the NFL, but Illini fans should expect big things from second-year starter Nathan Scheelhaase at QB.

But the problem for the Illini is that the last time Ohio State lost a Big Ten game, they shut down Purdue 49-0 and held the Boilermakers to just over 100 yards of offense in an emotional blowout win.

If OSU loses in Lincoln, the Buckeyes should win this one going away.

If the Buckeyes are still undefeated going into this game, this will be a matchup similar to last year where it was too close for comfort for OSU, but they still pulled off the win.

Week Eight - Bye

Week Nine - Wisconsin Badgers

When: October 29

Where: Home

Time: TBA (anytime but 8:00 would be a shock)

Opponent's 2010 Record: 11-2, lost to TCU 21-19 in Rose Bowl

Breakdown: Two weeks to prepare for Ohio State, plus a motivated senior class upset at the 2010 loss in Madison = bad news for Wisconsin.

The Buckeyes should have this game circled and come out fired up to send a reminder to Bucky Badger that the guys in the scarlet and gray are still in charge.

After a loss at Wisconsin where the Buckeyes were physically whipped in a way they had not been in a long time, to say OSU will come out with a chip on their shoulder would be an understatement.

With the departures of J.J. Watt, John Clay and Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin might not be in great shape to make a repeat run to the Rose Bowl.

All signs point to a big time OSU win considering the motivational edge and the fact that this matchup is in Columbus and not Madison, which is good news for the Buckeyes in just about every sport.

Week 10 - Indiana Hoosiers

When: November 5

Where: Home

Time: TBA (most likely noon)

Opponent's 2010 Record: 5-7, lost to Ohio State 38-10

Breakdown: Former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson is the latest to get his shot at trying to make Indiana football relevant in the Big Ten.

However, he will not have gunslinger Ben Chappell to lead the offense, and will have to find a QB between sophomore's Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker.

Unless the Buckeyes lack emotion after what could potentially be a draining game against Wisconsin, Tressel's crew should win going away.

Week 11 - Purdue Boilermakers

When: November 12

Where: Away (Ross-Ade Stadium)

Time: TBA (most likely noon)

Opponent's 2010 Record: 4-8, ended season on six-game losing streak

Breakdown: Ohio State fans still remember the last time the Buckeyes traveled to West Lafayette, where Danny Hope's Boilermakers stunned OSU in an upset win 26-18.

Devastated by injuries last season, Purdue should return Robert Marve at QB and sensational RB Ralph Bolden, who missed 2010 with an ACL injury.

Should they be healthy, Purdue can certainly give the Buckeyes a late season scare. But don't count on it, especially in November where OSU is dominant.

Week 12 - Penn State Nittany Lions

When: November 19

Where: Home

Time: TBA (most likely 3:30)

Opponent's 2010 Record: 7-6 lost to Florida 37-24 in Outback Bowl

Breakdown: Penn State struggled in 2010, but that didn't stop them from holding a good first-half lead on Ohio State last season.

But the Buckeyes exploded in the second half for 35 unanswered points including two pick-sixes to win 38-14.

Joe Paterno's team makes an unusual second-straight trip to the Horseshoe and still has to decide whether or not QB Matt McGloin who played well for the second half of the season is their guy in 2011.

However, RB Silas Redd is very much the real deal and should have a breakout season.

This game, like most OSU-PSU games, should be a close one but expect the Buckeyes to prevail one more time, and in what always could be Paterno's last season as coach.

Week 13 - Michigan Wolverines

When: November 26

Where: Away (Michigan Stadium)

Time: TBA (noon based on history of the rivalry)

Opponent's 2010 Record: 7-6, lost to Mississippi State 52-14 in the Gator Bowl

Breakdown: Rich Rodriguez is no longer at Michgan, and "Michigan Man" Brady Hoke along with former Ravens' defensive coordinator Greg Mattison are in town.

Those two coaches understand what The Game means, something Rodriguez never fully grasped.

And while they should be able to help rekindle the rivalry, Michigan does not have enough talent to match up against an Ohio State team looking for a berth in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game.

This game may be closer than some think, but expect the streak for Ohio State to continue to eight straight years where the Wolverines lose.

Week 14 - Big Ten Championship Game (if winner of the Leaders division)

When: December 3

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium

Time: TBA (most likely 8:00)

While the Big Ten Championship Game is not necessarily a guarantee for Ohio State, they should be able to sweep the Leaders' Division and make an appearance in Lucas Oil Stadium come December 3.

Their opponent will most likely come down to either Nebraska, Michigan State or Iowa.

Of course, there is plenty of time for some surprises along the way before December.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

National Signing Day 2011: Ohio State Adds QB Jones, LB Grant

With the additions of Cleveland Glenville QB Cardale Jones and LB Curtis Grant (pictured at right), Ohio State's 2011 recruiting class moved up from fourth to third according to Scout.com.

Jones, a three-star recruit, will likely follow in the footsteps of Eddie George and Carlos Hyde by gray-shirting to attend a prep school for six months before arriving on campus. He will then be expected to red-shirt as a member of the 2012 class, allowing for a year or two of separation from 2011 top QB recruit Braxton Miller.

With the loss of Ross Homan and Brian Rolle, five-star and No. 1 OLB prospect Grant could immediately find himself in the two-deep for the 2011 Buckeyes.

In 2008, Etienne Sabino came to Ohio State under similar circumstances as the top-rated MLB prospect in the nation. He has two years of eligibility remaining so he may still eventually live up to the expectations he arrived with, but it does go to show that not every highly-touted guy makes an immediate impact on a program from day one.

It would be great to see Sabino have huge years in 2011 and 2012 and hopefully, Grant will have at least three huge years for Ohio State as well. He certainly has all the physical tools to succeed at Ohio State and potentially be one of the next great linebackers to come through Columbus.

Coach Tressel and his staff have once again assembled a great recruiting class and heading into 2011, the excitement as Spring ball and Fall camp near will be electric.

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(Photo copyright: Tim Casey - GatorCountry.com)
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