After what was an incredible finish to the 2009 season that saw Ohio State win the Rose Bowl, 2010 is shaping up to be the best team Jim Tressel has ever had at Ohio State.
But with all of those expectations, there is the "what if?" factor.
What if Ohio State has another "Purdue" game?
What if Terrelle Pryor goes down with an injury? (*knock on wood*)
What if the defensive line isn't as dominant as in 2009 and late 2008?
Regardless of the reasoning, everyone knows that teams, especially in the Big Ten, will be gunning for the Buckeyes and trying to end their stronghold grip on the conference.
There are obviously high expectations for Ohio State in 2010. Many "way too early" 2010 rankings have put the Buckeyes as high as No. 2, but none of that matters if expectations don't translate into reality once the season begins.
Here are five Saturdays that could potentially cost Ohio State a shot at the BCS National Championship Game in Glendale.
No. 5—November 27 at Home vs. Michigan
This one is the least likely of the five, and some fans may consider it a stretch, but remember, it has happened before. Anything can happen in a rivalry game.
That being said, over the last six years, this rivalry have been very one-sided. Ohio State has not lost to Michigan since John Navarre and Chris Perry were running the show for UM back in 2003.
But there's always cause for concern when the Wolverines come to town because of the rivalry that it is. It's always one of those games where the records need to be thrown out when these two teams meet.
Of course, that meant very little the last time Michigan played in Columbus...UM got "McGuffied!"
Still, it is the biggest game of the year, even with UM down right now. To give an example of how the Buckeyes focus on Michigan, their training facility has active countdown clocks set specifically to countdown to the Michigan game.
With the Big Ten adding a bye week as of this year, this will be the first time the teams meet after Thanksgiving ever.
Could changing that 100+ year tradition of THE GAME always being played on the third Saturday of November finally change the recent misfortunes of the Wolverines?
It could happen, but even most logical Michigan fans (that is definitely an oxymoron, and a very small group of people) do not expect a win in Columbus this coming season.
No. 4—September 11 at Home vs. Miami (FL)
These two teams last met in 2003 for the National Title, which the Buckeyes won in double-overtime after a controversial (only in Florida) pass interference flag by referee Terry Porter.
Deja Vu coming for Miami fans?
Seven years later, the Hurricanes come North looking for revenge, and QB Jacory Harris will get to face off against his good friend Terrelle Pryor.
Miami should have reason for motivation, especially coach Randy Shannon, who was the Defensive Coordinator when these teams last met.
The 'Canes will likely be a top 10 team when they meet Ohio State, but this Miami team lost in the Champs Sports Bowl to a Wisconsin team that the Buckeyes beat by 18 points earlier in the season.
This game will be the barometer as to where the Buckeyes and the Big Ten stand in 2010. So to will the Penn State vs. Alabama game that will be played the same day.
Wins by each would be an even greater boost to the steadily recovering perception of the Big Ten conference, and could potentially set up a huge top-five showdown between the Bucks and Nittany Lions once conference play begins.
Speaking of Penn State...
No. 3—November 13 at Home vs. Penn State
Two years ago, when Penn State came to Columbus undefeated, the Buckeyes had the Nittany Lions on the ropes until a fumble by then-true freshman Terrelle Pryor, led to the game's only touchdown, allowing PSU to escape with a 13-6 win—their first in Ohio Stadium since 1978.
Terrelle Pryor giveth...
Last season, despite the Terrelle Cryor t-shirt non-sense, and a "white-out" in Happy Valley, OSU left no doubt, beating up on the previously once-beaten (by Iowa) Nittany Lions, 24-7.
In recent years, this matchup has become quite the rivalry in the Big Ten, though OSU fans still recognize Michigan as their true No. 1 rival, not Penn State, much to the chagrin of jilted PSU fans.
But this years meeting brings some interesting storylines, with QB Kevin Newsome making his first trip to Columbus after the departure of Daryll Clark, and the final year of RB Evan Royster's outstanding career.
These games are some of the most physical in the country, so by no means will this one be pretty.
The Buckeyes certainly can't take this one for granted, but with the experience edge in their favor, another "per-usual" home win over the Nittany Lions should be the most likely outcome.
No. 2—October 16 at Camp Randall vs. Wisconsin
Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin is no doubt one of the toughest venues for a visiting opponent to play in, in all of college football.
And in mid-October, the Buckeyes will get a refresher course against a much-improved Wisconsin team, led by QB Scott Tolzien and 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year RB John Clay.
Clay is the best RB in the conference, although to be fair, I must also mention that Ohio State's defense held him to just 59 yards on 21 carries last season, as the Buckeyes defeated the then-unbeaten (5-0) Badgers, 31-13.
Wisconsin fans surely have fresh memories (and revenge on their minds) of Pryor's big drive and late touchdown scramble and dive to win the game the last time the Badgers hosted Ohio State in 2008.
And Terrelle Pryor, taketh away...
Winning in Madison can often prove to be difficult for any team, especially at night under the lights. This game will be physical, and both teams will bring their "A" games.
Ohio State and Wisconsin both could be, and probably will be, undefeated when they meet, meaning the team that wins will very likely solidify their position at or near the top of the conference, and near the top of the national rankings.
With Pryor entering his third season as a starter, and the OSU defense looking like it should once again be dominant, the Buckeyes have to be the favorite in this game as of right now.
But, much like with Penn State, they cannot afford to overlook the Badgers, especially on the road.
No. 1—November 20 at Kinnick Stadium vs. Iowa
There is no bigger threat to the Buckeyes reign in the Big Ten than the team they escaped against to win the conference title outright in 2009 than the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Kirk Ferentz's teams are almost impossible to beat at home in November, and that's exactly when these two teams will meet head on, possibly for a conference title, and a trip to the BCS title game.
This time around, Ohio State should be dealing with Ricky Stanzi, who is one of the best QB's in the conference, and maybe even the nation.
With Stanzi out with an ankle injury last season, OSU nearly saw backup James Vandenburg lead Iowa to a win in Columbus.
Could the 2010 meeting be even better? In a word, YES!
Iowa, much like Ohio State likes to run the ball, control the time of possession, and play great defense.
I'm thinking Ferentz recently decided to copy Tressel's formula for success—If you can't beat'em, join'em, right?
In all seriousness, this game on paper should be just as good as last years. Both teams have veteran QB's, solid RB's, a a stud defense.
Adrian Clayborn and Tyler Sash are back, along with most of Iowa's talented skill players.
There's no doubt that Iowa will be motivated and wanting revenge after losing the game, and the conference title, in Columbus by a field goal in OT.
This could be the college game of the year if both teams are undefeated (a distinct possibility) when they meet.
Just like in 2006 when Ohio State and Michigan were both unbeaten in the final game of the year, we could see another No. 1 vs. No. 2 between OSU and Iowa if Alabama, Boise State and a few others (Texas, Florida, TCU, Va Tech, etc.) lose before week 13.
Original article written by Tim Bielik—B/R OSU Featured Columnist & Block-O-Nation Contributor
Edits, changes, and additions to the original article made by HD Handshoe—Founder—Block-O-Nation
Photo Copyright of Jim Davidson--TheOzone.net