I'll admit it - my favorite time of the year is September through November, followed closely by the week of the bowl game (always after Christmas in the Tressel era) and then the push to Signing Day in early February. In other words, Buckeye football is my greatest obsession, and as exciting as basketball has become during the Thad Matta regime, I still miss Ohio State football. If you are like me, don't despair, as there are some very compelling story lines about to be written in the next couple of months, and I want to briefly highlight them by asking some important questions that should soon be answered:
1) Will the Ohio State basketball team finish strong, win the Big Ten title, and make a run at the National Championship? This has been a very special team, which possesses everything but depth. There is senior leadership, youthful enthusiasm, strong post play, a heady point guard, good outside shooting, and terrific defense. Using multiple weapons, Thad's boys have carved out a special place in Buckeye lore, but they need to finish strong. Unless they tank down the stretch, the team will win the Big Ten regular season title, but it remains to be seen if they are a good tournament team. Can they continue their domination at the Big Ten Conference Tournament in Indianapolis the second week of March? And, can they make a solid run at the Big Dance later in the month? Honestly, as strongly as this squad has played all year, anything less than a Final Four appearance will probably be a disapointment.
2) Can Jared Sullinger wrap up Big Ten and National Player of the Year awards? Sully has been even better than advertised, and I think it is a foregone conclusion that he will be named the Big Ten and National Freshman of the Year. Who else is even close? But the truth is, he has a real shot at some even bigger hardware. A picture of consistency, Sullinger is averaging 17.8 ppg, 10 rpg, and 1.4 apg, while shooting .564 from the field. In the Big Ten his competition for Player of the Year will come from two players: Purdue's JaJuan Johnson (20.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg), who is an offensive machine but not as potent on the other end, and Wisconsin's Jon Leuer (19.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.8 apg) who is a pretty complete player, but may be upstaged by teammate Jordan Taylor who is finishing strong and may throw his name into the hat. I like all of these guys, but would give the nod to Sully based on the fact that OSU has the best record.
3) Can Braxton Miller win the starting quarterback job this spring? In truth, nothing will be decided until fall camp, but the spring practices and the Spring Game will go a long way to determining who is under center when the season begins. With Terelle Pryor on the sideline for the first few games it will be a dogfight between the veteran Joe Bauserman, super quick sophomore Kenny Guiton, strong-armed redshirt frosh Taylor Graham, and the next big thing, true freshman Braxton Miller. I have already gone on record as saying I think Joe starts against Akron, because Tress is loyal to his seniors. But who gets the most meaningful minutes that game, and more importantly, who starts when the team heads to Miami in week three? A whole lot of people think it will be Miller Time sooner rather than later, and this spring will give us our first clue as to whether he is up to the task.
4) Who will fill other key vacancies on the football roster? Quarterback is getting the most press for obvious reasons, but there are plenty of other positions that are a long way from being settled. The fight for playing time at tailback should be very interesting with no less than four players in the fray, and that doesn't count Boom Herron who should reclaim his starting spot when he returns from his suspension. Wide receiver is another interesting position to watch, with only Corey "Philly" Brown having any real experience - at least until Posey returns. The offensive line has two spots to fill (three if you count left tackle, where Mike Adams must sit as part of the Tat Five). On defense, the line is unsettled, returning two starters (Simon and Williams), linebacker has two spots to fill, and corner lost both starters. So, this spring is one big audition for starting spots and playing time. I weighed on with my thoughts on who starts against Akron back on January 7th, but as previously mentioned, it may be more telling to see who is getting playing time when OSU visits the Hurricanes on September 17th.
So, the next couple of months ought to be a whole lot of fun for Buckeye Nation as we begin to get our questions answered!