2010 was supposed to be "the" year. Ohio State had their best offense since 2006, a bunch of veterans on their roster, and a favorable schedule (read: no USC). Some fans had even booked their trip to Arizona for the BCS National Championship game before the first contest. Then came the Madison Massacre and everything changed. I haven't heard about any Buckeye fans jumping from bridges or high buildings, but a lot of us were greatly disappointed. Of course if we experienced that level of letdown, imagine how the players feel, especially the seniors. All those long hours in the weight room and running gassers at dawn was done with one goal in mind. It would be easy for them to feel like the rest of the season is somewhat anticlimactic.
To make matters worse, the Buckeyes have suffered a rash of injuries unlike anything I've witnessed during the Tressel regime. The back seven on defense is being held together by baling wire and duct tape, with freshmen and walk-ons on alert, knowing their number may be called next. Certainly it has to be somewhat discouraging for coaches and players alike.
So the question looms - will the 2010 edition of the Ohio State Buckeyes reach down deep and refuse to make excuses or will they phone it in? Certainly the Purdue game was a step in the right direction. However, that was a contest where motivation was never going to be a problem. Not only were the Bucks coming off an embarrasing loss to Wisconsin, they also had vivid memories of the Boilermaker beat down the year before. It was an angry, focused squad that took the field last Saturday. But what about the rest of the year? Let's take a look game by game.
- Penn State: This is a rivalry game often won by the visitors but this is not your usual Nittany Lion team. Led by a freshman quarterback.they have struggled to score points. And, since it comes after a bye week there is a chance Ohio State will be healthier, with the return of Ross Homan likely. Prediction: Solid victory.
- At Iowa: Now things get interesting. If the Buckeyes come to Iowa City with anything less than their "A" game, they will be limping home with a second loss. If the offense enters the game realtively healthy I think they will be able to move the ball against an overrated Hawkeye defense, but they had better be focused and hungry. This is when we will know for sure whether the '10 team has heart or not. Prediction: Close, hard fought victory.
- Michigan: The past couple of years "the game" was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Not this season. Denard Robinson is so explosive he will enable the Wolverines to move the ball and score points. This is where the injuries on defense might be most felt. But, we all know Michigan's defense is of the matador variety, so Pryor and company should be able to light up the scoreboard, too. In the end, I think our beat up, bandaged defense is still better than anything Michigan can offer. Prediction: Tougher than expected victory.
Although things have not gone as this year's team hoped, there is still plenty to motivate them. If Ohio State wins out there is a good chance they will share another Big Ten title. More than that, they can be sure to qualify for another BCS bowl. Yes, they are disappointed. Indeed, they are dealing with adversity. But this is Ohio State, where the shadow of Woody Hayes still stalks the sidelines. Toughness is supposed to be a given when you don the Scarlet and Gray. Let's hope that is the case again in 2010.