Drew Thurman (9:17 pm)
ESPN once again has made it clear how much the Buckeyes are hated. In this newest campaign Ohio State is not only the most hated team in the Big Ten, but in the whole country. This is nothing new for Buckeye fans though, and many have actually embraced this. Just as Jim Tressel said in the lastest Big Ten Media Day, "...you know Woody used to always say, whether they're talking good or talking bad, keep them talking."
So with this said, are we getting to use to being the best in the Big Ten? Have we talked about the National Championship too much before this season starts? Are we too comfortable with being the "most hated?"
I am not sure the answer is a good one in my opinion. I think we are way too comfortable where the Buckeyes currently are. The talk on the boards is constantly about USC and the National Championship Game, but what about the rest of our Big Ten competitors? Let's be honest, this team and us fans are much more worried about losing a third National Championship than the eight Big Ten teams we have to get through to get there. It is kind of funny to me that we want SEC fans to respect the Big Ten, but we do not even respect it ourselves.
So if our goal is to not overlook the Big Ten, who poses the greatest threat? What teams could take the Big Ten crowd from the Buckeyes? Here's a look:
1) Wisconsin - The Badgers should scare Buckeye fans more than they do. They get Ohio State and Penn State at home, they have a killer running attack, and they are always well coached. Add that to the fact that they play the Buckeyes as tough as anyone year in and year out, and you have a scary combination. There are not too many teams that can say they are as physical as Ohio State in the trenches, but Wisconsin surely can!
2) Illinois - The Illini have caused the biggest problems to the Buckeyes the last several years. If they keep their recruiting success up like they have, they will be around for awhile to annoy the Buckeyes. The did lose Mendenhall after last season, but if they get anything from the quarterback position they could make a serious run!
3) Michigan - Rich Rodriguez and the Wolverines are getting very little respect from the rest of the Big Ten. Obviously they have a ton of holes to fill, but they could be much better than anyone thinks. The passing attack is a huge question mark, but the Buckeyes have not shown that they can stop the spread. You better believe that game will still be a tough one to get through.
4) Penn State - The Nittany Lions have had to deal with a ton of off-field issues, but that does diminish the talent they have on the field. They may have the best set of wideouts in the Big Ten, and their defense is always hard hitting. If Clark and the new play book have early success, Penn State will be a team to watch out for!
Obviously a team like Michigan State or Indiana could suprise people, but these are the teams that pose as the biggest threats. It's time for us to quit talking about the National Championship Game, and it's time to start talking about our eight tough games in the Big Ten. This team has a lot to prove before we start talking National Championship.