[Editor's Note: A few weeks ago a community member and fellow blogger approached us about contributing to Ohio State week. I was happy to oblige, considering it'd be one less article I'd have to write. In all seriousness, we truly value reader perspectives. Enjoy Ian's season roadmap, and make sure to check out his blog: Inside the Shoe. And don't worry, we haven't forgotten about Rivalry Friday. Look for our infamous Keeping the Enemy Close - Rival Blogger Interview feature around lunchtime.]
THE ROAD AHEAD - OHIO STATE
Special Guest Contributor to The Rivalry, Esq.
At first glance, the Ohio State schedule looks pretty easy with teams like Marshall, Eastern Michigan, and Ohio (nevermind what happened last time). Then you start to look down the list to teams like at Wisconsin, at Iowa, and plenty of upset-minded opponents. Don't get too worried though, fans aren't saying this is a national championship season for nothing. The Buckeyes have the talent to chew their way through it, and have the head coaching staff to do it on the sidelines as well.
To start the season off, the Buckeyes get a home game against the Thundering Herd. Although it is on a Thursday, expect a huge showing to see how all the positions will play out.
Star Watch: Terrelle Pryor and Cam Heyward. On down the list, you'll be seeing a lot of these two. Terrelle Pryor needs to show that the progression he made against Oregon is carrying over into this year, and he can be a contender for not only a MNC, but a Heisman as well. Heyward needs to lead the defense, and I think he can do it. With a pretty darn good line, a strong defensive backfield, and linebackers to boot, there's no reason he shouldn't be the star.
Key Match Up: Ohio State vs. Marshall - I think for the first game it's important to see what kind of progress was made on both sides of the ball. We'll get a good idea of how the Buckeyes will fare in 2010 in that very first game.
One of the key games this year for the Buckeyes comes from a team that gave them the National Championship 8 years ago. Miami is looking for revenge, but they're a very different team from then. Jacory Harris' arm will determine whether or not the 'Canes can stay in the game.
Star Watch: Cameron Heyward. Heyward is going to have either a really great night, or a very frustrating night, as he gets the task of defending one of the most confusing quarterbacks in the country. He has to be prepared for the good version of Jacory, otherwise he will get smoked.
Key Match Up: Terrelle Pryor vs. Jacory Harris - This one may be a bit obvious, but it certainly tells the truth. Much of the offense depends on how these 2 play. If we see Rose Bowl Pryor, expect a win for sure, but if they are both playing good, or bad, then watch out, that's when it gets fun.
It's been so long. How about a hug?
They're baaaaaaaack! 2 years ago, the Buckeyes were almost upset by the Bobcats in a shocking 26-14 victory that was a lot closer than even the scoreboard showed. Without Ray Small's punt return for 6, Ohio could have come back very easily. This year it will be no mercy, and no surprises.
Star Watch: Terrelle Pryor. Last time against the Bobcats he was a freshman that wasn't even starting. Tressel thought he could maybe light a fire under the offense by putting him out there, but instead, he went 0-2, and managed very little yardage. This year he is much more mature, and has honed most of his skills. In other words, watch out Bobcats.
Key Match Up: RB depth vs. Ohio D - I think in this game we will see a lot of the running backs take over. They will be running through and around Ohio's defense. The Buckeyes have too much talent not to use it in this game. Expect to see Jaamal Berry, Carlos Hyde, and Rod Smith show up in the late 3rd quarter, early 4th quarter.
If you thought the Ohio game was the tune-up, you'd be wrong. Eastern Michigan comes into the 'Shoe pretty much knowing they don't stand a chance. Don't sleep on them quite yet though, we've said that before about the Bobcats, and they've scared the hell out of us. It will be interesting to how our players react to Eastern Michigan with the Big Ten schedule just around the corner.
Star Watch: Ross Homan. You won't hear his name too much but he'll be everywhere. Expect to see Ohio State's defense destroy the Eagles. They need to play aggressively, and keep it up. It's not a tune-up game for nothing.
Key Match Up: RB vs. EMU D - Once again, we will most likely see the running back depth flex its muscle, and I'm happy for it. Wouldn't it be nice if Tressel would show the same bluntness against more formidable foes like Wisconsin? If USC can do it to us, we can do it to them.
The Buckeyes kick off the Big Ten season with a road game to Champaign -- this time with no Beanie. If you can remember, Beanie had some good yardage in 2008, carrying the Buckeyes to victory. If you also rememebr, Terrelle Pryor didn't throw the ball. He did have a couple of good throws, but he was mostly kept under wraps.
Star Watch: Terrelle Pryor. He needs to lead his team to victory by showing the Illini that he's not afraid to run and pass.
Key Match Up: Offense vs. Illini D - Folks, this isn't Eastern Michigan, and althougth they might not be one of the best teams in the Big Ten, this is exaclty the kind of team that would simply love to destroy Ohio State's MNC hopes. The offense needs to bring it to them, and not let up.
Indiana gave us a good game last year in Memorial Stadium, but the Buckeyes eventually overpowered them. I think the same will happen this year. The defense will have to play pretty well, and shut down a capable Indiana offense.
Star Watch: Cameron Heyward. Heyward needs to have a good day to avoid upsetting the defense, and then the Hooisers taking advantage of it.
Key Match Up: Defense vs. IU's Offense - I might be exaggerating Indiana's offensive prolificness, but I would rather be protective than get suprised and upset.
You know that when Ohio State visits Camp Randall, its either an upset or a really good game. Last time the Buckeyes were here, Terrelle Pryor led the Bucks in a last minute drive to secure a win, and people started thinking that he could be the next big thing. They were right.
Star Watch: Terrelle Pryor, Brandon Saine. TP will look to impress again aganist Wisconsin, and he will. Brandon Saine is going to have a chip on his shoulder, I can just feel it. I have a good sense he might blow up this game taking the majority of the hand-offs and going for big plays. Channel your inner Beanie, Saine.
Key Match Up: Defense vs. Wisky O- It's time again for the defense to step it up and they will need it. John Clay is good, but he's even better at home. Cam Heyward and Ross Homan need to get in his face and let him know they aren't backing down.
Payback time. Last year Purdue Harbour happened, and Terrelle Pryor knows it was on his shoulders. He will be looking to bring a win to the 'Shoe and make us proud. He wants to pound it in their faces. He's not the only one.
Star Watch: Ohio State vs. Purdue. I would like you to point out one person on this team that doesn't want serious revenge on Purdue for dashing hopes last season. Go ahead, take your time. Find one? Didn't think so.
Key Match Up: O-Line vs. Defense - Last year Purdue brought many different blitz packages to the Ohio State line and confused many of them, opening up to Pryor, making him get nervous on every play, and frustrated. It worked, and this year I guarantee they will try it again.
The Buckeyes are headed to TCF Bank Stadium for the first time. I want a win to christen the new stadium.
Star Watch: Terrelle Pryor. I wouldn't say this is a huge stage, but it will seem like everyone's eyes are on Pryor for this game. I think he delivers.
Key Match Up: Defense vs. Minny Offense - Minnesota is going to come out firing, and the defense can't get off-guard and let it happen. They need to play with intensity as the next 3 games might be the most important.
Last time the Nittany Lions were here I seem to remember somehting about a horrible loss and some kind of a fumble. Not sure why. Once again the Buckeyes want payback, even after last season's 24-7 win over the Lions.
Star Watch: Cam Heyward. Had a terrifc game last year at this time and will destroy the PSU line and their QB.
Key Match Up: TP vs. Defense. How will TP fare, knowing he lost last time in the Shoe against these guys? Hopefully it won't play mind games on him.
Most likely the Big Ten de facto Championship. We're going to Kinnick, and it's going to be cold. They'll be loud fans, and possibly the Big Ten on the line. Pressure will build, and I have no doubt that this will be the hardest game of the year.
Star Watch: TP and Cam Heyward. Both need to have outstanding games and light up Kinnick. They can't allow their side of the ball to get tired, and need to bring all they've got. This is the moment they've been waiting for all year.
Key Match Up: Ohio State vs. Iowa - This is it, ladies and gentleman, I don't know who will win this game, but I do know it's going to go down as one of the best this season. In the case of match ups, all you can do is watch the entire game, and then you can tell me.
We get the Wolverines to finish the season off at the 'Shoe, and the place will be rocking if we are still undefeated. I don't see us losing this game, but after 6 straight losses, some fire has to be welling up.
Star Watch: Terrelle Pryor. Lead your team to victory, and you most likely have a MNC date ahead.
Key Match Up: Jim Tressel vs. RichRod - Battle of the coaches here. Who wants it more? The improbable upset to save your career, or another chance to solidfiy your career, or at least the chance to in the MNC?
So what do you think? How does Ohio State end up?