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Drew Thurman (1:53 pm)

"Does Wilson have a 20 second miracle in his pocket? If not, the freshman quarterback at his first homecoming is going to be the homecoming king."

Those were the words of Brad Nessler in the waning moments of Ohio State's emotional 33-29 victory over Wisconsin. A victory that saw freshman Braxton Miller become the newest star for the Buckeyes, thanks to his playmaking ability and poise.

On the biggest stage of his young career, Braxton put together a phenomenal 2nd half, scoring three touchdowns. While all three of those scores showed off his raw athleticism, none will be more remembered than the final one. With 30 seconds left on the clock and the Buckeyes trailing 29-26, Braxton dropped back to pass and was quickly flushed out of the pocket. After avoiding and scurrying away from two Wisconsin defenders, Miller gathered himself quickly and made the decision to throw. At that moment he did everything a quarterback shouldn't; he threw across his body, away from his momentum, falling away on one foot. The result was an arm punt of sorts that hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity before falling to earth into the hands of fellow freshman Devin Smith. Miller had sucked the safties in with his mobility allowing Smith to sneak behind them on a post pattern.

As amazing as a pitch as it catch was, what was even more amazing was the cold stare Miller gave the Ohio State sideline after making the play. Rather than freaking out in jubilation or even acting like a freshman on such a large stage, Miller's gaze calmly communicated to his teammates and fans, "I got this." 

 
 
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Dave Thurman (9:13 pm)

Three years ago a freshman quarterback named Terrelle Pryor came of age with a fourth quarter drive at Wisconsin to lead the Buckeyes to a come from behind last minute victory.  Flash forward to last night.  Another freshman signal caller, Braxton Miller, showed his toughness, moxie (sorry Matt McGloin), and competitive spirit, when he led OSU to a last minute, come from behind win over those same Badgers.  Talk about an eerie pre-Haloween occurrence.

Don't get me wrong.  This was a very different game than the one Ohio State won 20-17 at Madison back on October 4, 2008.  And whereas the winning drive on that evening was marked by control and precision, last night's was more a case of an improvised, desperate, backyard play.  Still, the similarities are striking.

Pryor was a prodigy who took over for a senior quarterback and showed great promise, but had yet to put it all together.  But that one drive in Madison proved he had more than potential.  Although he would still take his lumps after that victory, there was no more debate about whether or not it was his team, and he never looked back for three years, leading the Bucks to a number of big wins. 

Last night at a packed Shoe it was deja vu all over again. A freshman ballyhooed as the next superstar took a reeling team on his shoulders, and led them on a drive that took down a good team, and helped salvage a season. 

Miller is clearly in a different situation, however.  Although he, too, replaced a senior quarterback, it was not one who had tasted success, as Todd Boeckman had, but instead a highly ineffective one in Joe Bauserman.  Miller also does not have the same kind of experienced talent around him that was at Terrelle's disposal.  If Pryor was needed to spark the 2008 team, Miller is needed to save this squad.  Talk about pressure.  And last night, in front of a national audience, he came of age.  Sure, he had played well at Nebraska before an ankle injury sidelined him late.  And, yes, he had managed the team to a solid win at Illinois.  But this was the night Braxton put it all together, making several huge plays with his legs and his arm.  And this was the night when he showed the kind of ice in the veins that defines great quarterbacks.  It was Miller time in Columbus, and hopefully the first of many big victories he leads the Buckeyes to in the next 3 1/2 years. 

 
 
It feels just as good to watch it a day later. We'll have a recap up later...
 
 
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Nike Pro Combat uniforms? Check. Scarlet out in Ohio Stadium? Check. Redemption for the 2011 Buckeyes? We'll see.

Party rock is in the house tonight as the #12 ranked Badgers come into Shoe. Wisconsin watched their dreams of a MNC go down in flames last week in East Lansing, a loss that also fed the belief in Columbus that OSU can pull the upset. Besides the atmosphere, the Buckeyes are coming off of a much needed bye week and will want revenge from the 2010 debacle. If Bielema and company make mistakes and Bollman rediscovers the forward pass, a miracle could just happen! Join us as we take in all the action...

The live blog is after the jump. 

 
 
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Bucky and the Badgers come to town Saturday
Dave Thurman (5:44 pm)

Ohio State, fresh off of a bye following a win that may have saved their season, prepares to host Wisconsin, whose hopes of reaching the National Championship Game came crashing down last weekend in East Lansing.  This is a big game that will be played in prime time, and provides the Buckeyes a chance to salvage a "lost" season and reclaim some national swagger.  Two teams that love to play old-fashioned smash-mouth football will take center stage in Columbus, and while it may not have the glamour some would have thought six months ago, it is still a big stage and a game that will have major implications in the newly formatted Big Ten Conference. 

The most interesting facet of the game may be the irony.  A few months ago Ohio State figured to have a huge advantage at quarterback with Terrelle Pryor at the helm, returning for his senior season.  Wisconsin, on the other hand, had a large void at signal caller, as Scott Tolzien used up his eligibility. Who would have guessed, then, that the Badgers would have a senior at the helm in Russell Wilson, while OSU would turn to a freshman in Braxton Miller?  The Scarlet and Gray hoped to have a Heisman candidate lining up behind center and instead that distinction belongs to Wisconsin. 

The other thing I find to be ironic is that Ohio State can make their season with a victory, but not many expect them to win, whereas Wisconsin has to win or watch what they thought would be a special season go down in flames.  The shoe is on the other foot from previous years, which is kind of fun if you are a Buckeye fan.

When Wisconsin has the ball:

The Badgers roll into town with one of the fiercest offensive units in the country, averaging 512 yards and over 47 points per game.  True, some of their competition hasn't been strong, but last weekend they scored 31 points against a very stout Michigan State defense, albeit in a losing effort.  As usual, UW runs the ball with great success, featuring two excellent backs behind their usual behemoth line.  Monte Ball is the power back, and has run for 768 yards and an eye-popping 17 touchdowns.  James White is more of a scatback, who relies on making cuts, and has another 458 yards.  Defenses also need to beware of Russell Wilson, who averages 6.6 yards per carry when he decides to tuck it and run.  Ohio State, which has struggled at times against the run, will have their hands full stopping the Badger running attack.

 
 
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Drew Thurman (12:59 pm)

With five games remaining on the schedule, there are some big questions currently for the Buckeyes. Can this team run the table and shock the world? What bowl, if any, will this team qualify for? Will there be any additional penalties handed down from the NCAA? Can Luke Fickell do enough to save his job?

While it's not quite as big of question as those I just listed, there is something else I have been wondering about as I watch this season unfold. How will Mike Adams, DeVier Posey and Boom Herron be remembered? It's an inquiry that really yields very little more than speculation at this point.

The interesting thing is that we can already start to see the legacies of some of the others involved in this scandal being shaped. For instances, we know how Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor will be remembered in Buckeye Nation. Tressel is already being enshrined all over the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, and will go down as one of the greatest coaches in OSU history. Though his accomplishments have been slightly damaged, it won't keep Buckeye fans from honoring him in the future as they have with Woody Hayes. Pryor though, will always stand on the opposite end of the spectrum. Whether fair or not, he will always be remembered as the guy that brought Ohio State down. Any hope of him eventually repairing his imagine went down the drain when he threw more evidence out to get himself in the supplemental draft.

What about the aforementioned "Returning 3," will they suffer a similar fate to Pryor or will the history books talk about the 2011 season repairing their legacy? Let's take a look at each of these guys individually.

 
 
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Dave Thurman (10:05 am)

Some teams are just easy to hate.  Rank Wisconsin near the top of my list.  Bucky, how (and why) do I despise thee? Let me count the ways:

1) Rude, ugly fans, who do more than just seek to intimidate the opposing team (I won't get specific because this is a family-friendly site)
2)  UW alumni who possess a smug attitude that they are just a little more sophisticated and intellectual than the rest of us Big Ten hayseeds.  After all, Madison is the "Berkley of the Midwest!" 
3) The fact that this year's squad was celebrated by Badger fans and media alike as being the Big Ten's best of the 21st century.  This really enraged me considering that a few wins over weak opponents at home somehow added up to greatness in everyone's minds.  And I wonder, have all the talking heads forgotten the 2002 and 2005 Buckeye squads?
4) Head coach Bret Bielema is just smarmy.  Tell me I'm wrong!
5) Wisconsin fans have cried about the Robert Reynolds strangling for years, while overlooking obvious Badger thuggery.  Yes, I'm talking about you Jay Valai!
6) Last year's Badger team ruined what could have been a very special season for Ohio State...although it would have been stricken from the books anyway!  (Still, I'm bitter about that game)
7) Wisconsin got lucky, because this year's squad had a huge void at quarterback before Russell Wilson plopped into their lap.

I could go on, but I won't.  Seven bullet points is enough to make me feel better.  So with my catharsis complete, let me tell you what I think about this year's Wisconsin team and the Buckeye hopes of victory Saturday night. 

First, in spite of my dislike of the Badgers I do respect them.  Barry Alvarez was a heck of a coach, and I always admired the physicality of his teams. Without doubt they will be heavy favorites on Saturday night, as they should be.  Wisconsin is physical, and talented.  I won't break down the game or make any predictions just yet - that will come later in the week.  But I do think the Buckeyes have a chance at winning, and might match up better with Wisconsin than many think.

The big question is whether or not the dramatic Michigan State victory over the highly ranked Badgers on Saturday night helps Ohio State's chances or hurts them.  There are two schools of thought on this matter.  On the one hand, Wisconsin could come in really angry and focused.  If they were guilty of reading their own press clippings, the MSU loss surely brought them back down to earth.  However, on the other hand, the Badgers might have lost some of their confidence and momentum, causing a young Buckeye team to believe UW can be beat.  Personally, I was thrilled to see the Spartans win, not only because it provided slim hopes of still grabbing part of the division crown, but because I like Mark Dantonio and was pumped to see him get the best of Bielema.  In addition, I  feel like Wisconsin's loss had to provide OSU with confidence that they can defeat the Badgers. 

So I say bring on Wisconsin.  This is going to be a good, old-fashioned smash-mouth game.  And though Buckeye fans may not be quite as drunk or rude as those in Madison, don't expect a warm welcome for Bucky and company in Columbus Saturday night!

 
 
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Drew Thurman (1:19 pm)

The recruiting news hasn't exactly been hot lately, as Ohio State's last official commitment was Roger Lewis on August 9th. The Buckeyes aren't exactly in position to wrangle in the recruits though. With Fickell's future up in the air and the NCAA ruling still looming, it really should come as no surprise that many recruits are waiting to see what goes on.

All of that hasn't stopped Buckeye fans from being impatient with what they are seeing on the recruiting trail. After a decade of being spoiled by top ten classes and a wealth of blue chippers, the restlessness isn't hard to understand. Still, as Alex Gleitman from 11W pointed out earlier this week, fans need to realize what Fickell has been able to accomplish with this 2012 class. Despite all the drama, there has only been one decommitment (think about that for a second) and the Buckeyes still have a very real shot at some big names on the board, including some 5-star prospects.

Let's take a look at some of the latest news...

* Last night Bill Kurelic of Bucknuts was the first to break the news that offensive lineman Alex Kozan finally received an offer from Ohio State. Kozan's recruitment has been a hot topic in Buckeye Nation, as many have accused Bollman of dragging his feet. The staff was quick to offer Pat Elflien of Pickerington North back in July, but has seemed to string the much more highly regarded Kozan (Highlands Ranch, Col./Valor Christian) along. Supposedly the staff wasn't sure they wanted to add another offensive guard in this class, as they already have Boren and Elflein on board, and have also been worried about the possibility of the NCAA handing down a scholarship reduction.

Regardless of whether or not you think those are valid reasons to not offer such a talented offensive lineman, Bollman and company finally got the job done. While the Buckeyes will be competing against schools like Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, LSU, Oklahoma State and Oregon for his services, Kozan has made it very clear that an OSU offer was what he was looking for. The Cincinnati native is a big Buckeye fan, and I think it's just a matter of time until he commits. If the staff does land him and possibly Nick Davidson, it would be a very solid offensive line class all things considered.

 
 
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Will the Buckeyes return to form in 2012?
Dave Thurman (8:39 pm)

There's not much worse than the common cold.  Body aches, a stuffy nose, and a stomach that feels like its turned upside down.  Making it more painful, the Buckeyes have a bye week (who created these anyway?), and the stinkin' Cardinals are looking like they might pull off the unthinkable and win the World Series. Not my best week of 2011.  Which kind of mirrors the entire year come to think of it.  And it all started with such promise as OSU finally exorcised the SEC demon by narrowly defeating the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Sugar Bowl. 

Not much has gone right since then. Luke "Skywalker" Fickell has not quite figured out how to harness The Force, as he has had to take on the big boys before his lessons were complete.  Darth Vader (aka Gene Smith) has tried to bring down the hometeam (but then again, didn't he play at Notre Dame). And Darth Sidious (Gordon Gee) has ducked and run hoping to save his job and avoid putting his foot in his mouth, again. As for Obi-Wan Kenobi, rumor has it that he is working for the Colts, who are having their own set of problems.  In the meantime my beloved Buckeyes have been mocked by ESPN and ridiculed by most of the nation, while struggling to post a 4-3 record.  

So is there any hope of the Scarlet and Gray clad Jedi Knights regaining their swagger in 2012?  Although a lot depends on what happens with the coaching staff, a look at the players on the roster does offer cause for optimism.   Nobody knows how many of the current Buckeyes will return if there is a coaching change, so it is all speculation at this point. but I'll offer my best guess at figuring out the next year's offense, and then take on the defense at a later date. One thing seems certain (and is the greatest reason for hope): No matter who roams the sidelines as head coach next year, Jim Bollman will no longer be calling the plays!

Quarterback:
 
Look for vast improvement here in 2012, as Braxton Miller will have a year under his belt, and hopefully a much better offensive mind running the show.  He has taken his lumps this season but shown plenty of promise, and should develop more of a pocket presence.  There are a host of candidates to back him up but I look for Cardale Jones to eventually win the job, which could be important since Braxton has been somewhat fragile throughout his high school and college career.  Jones ought to be able to run the same style offense, even though he is more of a passer than a runner.  Kenny Guiton, should he stick around, would be my pick for third team, and brings the same basic set of skills to the table.  That means the odd man out is Taylor Graham, who I expect to transfer.  Overall, it would be hard not to see improved numbers here in 2012.  But we'll all miss Joe Bauserman, who along with Bollman has become a favorite punching bag for frustrated fans. 

 
 
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Are the Buckeyes headed to a bowl game? (Shake, Shake)
Drew Thurman (8:52 pm)

The Buckeyes enter their bye week with a 4-3 record, coming off of a much needed victory over Illinois. Not only did that victory all but insure that Ohio State will be going to a bowl game this season, but you have to think it will give this young team a reason to believe in themselves moving forward. In fact, I think this team could end the season with a pretty decent record. Let's take a look at the remaining schedule.

Wisconsin (10/29):

Everyone knows the No. 4 ranked Badgers have passed the looks test. They stand at 6-0, averaging 50 points a game, and have yet to be challenged this season. Most experts and fans will give the Buckeyes very little hope in this game, but there are a few small things to remember. First, Bielema and company have not played on the road so far this season and have played a very weak schedule outside of Nebraska. I'm very interested to see how Wisconsin looks when they head to East Lansing this weekend to take on Michigan State. Second, Ohio State has two weeks to rest and prepare for what should be the most physical game they play all season. While traditionally the Buckeyes have been poor coming off bye weeks under Tressel, this year feels a lot different. With the Buckeyes entering this contest as major underdogs, I think they stay on task.

Still with a few things going for Ohio State in this game, I'm not sure it will be enough to win. I think they will play a competitive game and outperform the expectations nationally, but will ultimately come up short. The Badgers have arguably the best line in college football and I think they will wear down the Silver Bullets in the second half. I do think the offense will play better in this game, but they won't be able to sustain drives long enough to keep the defense fresh. Oh ya, Wisconsin also has that Russell Wilson guy. Early Prediction - Wisconsin 31, Ohio State 20