What to Make of the 2011 Ohio State Buckeyes

It’s college football season… and I couldn’t care less.  You heard me right.  I could care less that college football is finally kicking off.  This is probably the first time since I was about 6 or 7 that I didn’t hold a real legit interest in college football.  I guess an offseason that involved an NCAA investigation into improper benefits, the “resignation” of one of the greatest coaches in OSU history, the subsequent uncovering of lie after lie, and the loss of start players, wins, and Lord knows what else can have that effect.

For me the 2011 season was over before it even began.  I just can’t get excited knowing everything that’s gone on and everything that is left to be uncovered.  At this point we are still left with so many more questions than answers.  It’s depressing to even think about.  This team was supposed to be so good this year.  Now it’s just an empty shell of itself and a symbol of everything wrong with college athletics.

However, with all of that in mind what can we honestly expect from the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2011?

To quite honest, I haven’t the slightest idea.  We have a new coach, new players, new philosophy… basically if you can name it, chances are it’s new.  There’s been a lot of change over the course of this offseason.  First and foremost, the loss of Jim Tressel is a huge blow to the program.  Say what you want about how everything unfolded or even Tressel’s late game ball management over the years, but the man knew how to win.  You just don’t replace the kinds of things he brought to the table, at least over night.

That’s the task new head coach Luke Fickell is faced with.  In his first head coaching job at any level, all Fickell has to do is steady the swaying ship of one of the most prominent football programs in America.  No biggie.  Many feel as if Fickell was being groomed for this opportunity, alumni and members of the media have said as much.  The only problem is that no one in their right minds would have believed the Fickell era would begin in 2011.  Not with how much Tressel had left in the tank as a coach.  Of course, no one can predict the future.  If they could, they surely would have planned for this transition.

Part of me feels bad for Fickell.  He faces an overwhelming amount of pressure in 2011.  This was the year in which it was supposed to all come together.  A Buckeye’s team led by senior QB Terrelle Pryor was supposed to compete for a national title.  Instead, Fickell is looking to merely put up a winning record all while molding freshman QB Braxton Miller into the next great OSU quarterback.  No pressure.

Speaking of Miller, with the suspension and eventual exodus of Pryor, has only accelerated the learning curve for the young phenom.  This was supposed to be a learning year behind Pryor.  Instead, Miller is being forced into the mix as the top QB for the Buckeyes.  It a position many believe he will excel in… eventually, but like with many young qb’s you never really know what to expect.  Yes, Miller is regarded as a better pocket passer than Pryor ever was, but that doesn’t make up for the lack of experience.  Can he do all the extra things Terrelle Pryor was capable of?  Can he extend plays?  Can he make a few highlight runs?  Can he hit the deep ball?  No one really knows.  Everyone wants to believe he can, but we’ll all have to wait to find out.

Can Braxton Miller be everything Terrelle Pryor was billed to be... and more?

As the 2011 season unfolds for the Buckeyes I really only hold two hopes or expectations. 

First off, I hope and expect them to finish with a winning record.  Despite the issues and the lost recruits, this team is still one of the most talented in the Big Ten.  Do I expect the customary 11-1 or 10-2?  No.  I fully believe 8-4 is the realistic expectation.  It’s good, but not great and I have a feeling that’s what we’ll be saying about this team all year, “they’re good, but not great.”

Second, and most importantly… beat Michigan.  Tressel may be gone, but that’s no excuse to allow the bastards from that state up north to steam roll us.  Allowing Michigan to beat us this year, under these circumstances could serve as a changing of the tide.  The Buckeyes can not allow this to happen.  They have to make it known that even though we may be down and we may be out… we’re still better than you.  With that said I guess there’s only one thing left to say…

O-H!

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