As part of the redesign of the Bucknuts.com web site, we have added an area where we can publish excerpts from Bucknuts The Magazine. Each week, we will put in a new excerpt from the latest edition of Bucknuts The Magazine.
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In each issue of Bucknuts The Magazine, we have in-depth features on Ohio State football players, coaches and prospects. We also have analysis pieces on the Buckeyes as well as their opponents, the Big Ten and college football world in general. Plus, we have features on OSU athletes in a variety of sports, including men's and women's basketball, hockey, wrestling, baseball and other sports.
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In our most recent issue of Bucknuts, we gathered Bucknuts staffers Dave Biddle, Steve Helwagen, Duane Long, Gary Housteau, Mr. Bucknuts, Kirk Larrabee, Jerry Rudzinksi, Charles Babb, and JJHuddle.com's Matt Natali to get some out-on-a-limb predictions for the coming season. Today's magazine excerpt will reveal to you what Biddle, Helwagen and Rudzinski predicted.
Headline: Opinions, Everybody Has Them
By Bucknuts Staff
It's that time of the year again… time to put it on the line and make some preseason predictions. This year, the Bucknuts staff will weigh in with their opinions on 13 different topics, including OSU's final record, what players will stand out, and who will win the * National Championship. So without further ado…
Dave Biddle, Bucknuts Assistant Editor
* Projected Overall Record (Including Bowl): 11-1
* Games OSU Will Lose and Why: USC in the Rose Bowl. If this game happens, the Buckeyes will have a very good chance of winning. Better than most will think. But I'll say USC in a close one. And Matt Leinart, what were you thinking? How could you not go pro?
* Game That Will Be Unexpectedly Difficult to Win and Why: Playing at Penn State at night could be an ambush, much like the Wisconsin game in 2003.
* Game That Will Be Easier Than Expected to Win and Why: Texas. The OSU players have been talking about this game for three years (the UT and OSU recruiting classes were ranked 1-2 in 2002) and there is something special about night games at the Horseshoe. This has the feeling of Notre Dame '95. Will it have a similar result? Count on it.
* Offensive MVP and Why: Troy Smith. He's the one responsible for getting the ball to Ginn, Santonio Holmes and the rest of the offensive weapons. Smith's strengths are his fiery leadership and NFL-ready arm. But he is inexperienced and the jury is definitely still out. It could go either way, but I expect big things.
* Defensive MVP and Why: A.J. Hawk. Will cement his place as one of the all-time greats at OSU. Racks up tackles like a middle linebacker, but has the athletic ability to be more than effective on the outside.
* Breakout Player on Offense and Why: Antonio Pittman. He will rush for just over 1,000 yards, giving the Buckeyes a solid running game.
* Breakout Player on Defense and Why: Jay Richardson. Likely to be the Buckeyes' most effective pass rusher. Does not have a good motor, but this is the year he might put it together and play with consistency. Marcus Green is another player to watch. He will be a solid veteran defensive tackle.
* Unheralded Player Who Will Have a Big Season: Marcel Frost. The Buckeyes need a young tight end to step up and Frost's athletic ability is impressive. Has battled injuries thus far.
* Area of Biggest Concern and Why: Pass rush. Even if Richardson steps up, questions remain (and Richardson is by no means a sure thing). The Buckeyes do have a lot of young talent at end, but might be a year away from being a good pass rush defense.
* Area of Least Concern and Why: Linebackers. Hawk, Carpenter and Schlegel (and D'Andrea, Freeman and Hoobler) form the nation's best unit.
* Impact Freshman and Why: Offensively, Jim Cordle. He will be a solid backup to Nick Mangold and could also provide depth at guard. Coaches and players have singled him out. Defensively, Lawrence Wilson. He could provide the instant pass rush that OSU needs.
* Expectations For This Season: Big Ten champions and a spot in the national championship game.
* National Champion: USC
Steve Helwagen, Bucknuts Managing Editor
* Projected Overall Record (Including Bowl): 11-1. Somewhere in there, one of OSU's opponents will outscore the Buckeyes. However, they will still get at least a piece of the Big Ten title and, in my way of thinking, a bid to either the Orange Bowl or the Rose Bowl (if a one-loss team can make it).
* Games OSU Will Lose and Why: The three games that trouble me the most are at Penn State, at Minnesota and at Michigan. I will go with the trendy pick, I guess, and say PSU gets it done. OSU's record on the road at night in the conference ain't exactly the things dreams are made of (see Wisconsin, 2003; Northwestern, 2004).
* Game That Will Be Unexpectedly Difficult to Win and Why: You would never assume an OSU win at Michigan. But the Buckeyes will be favored against both Penn State and Minnesota. Somehow, I see both games going deep into the fourth quarter – maybe beyond – before they are decided.
* Game That Will Be Easier Than Expected to Win and Why: I'm going to say Texas and Iowa. With apologies to Oklahoma (which is renting Texas with an option to buy), OSU may be the only team that dings Texas during the regular season. Iowa should be 3-0 for the Big Ten opener in Columbus, but if the Buckeyes aren't ready for that one somebody will have some 'splainin' to do.
* Offensive MVP and Why: It's either Troy Smith or Ted Ginn Jr. If it's Smith, you will know he saved the day in a relief role against Texas and went on to have a great year. Some of Ginn's heroics (four or five touchdowns, probably) will come on special teams. My vote is Smith, although I readily admit he may never have another day like that Michigan game.
* Defensive MVP and Why: A.J. Hawk. The best linebacker in the country, period. Everybody knows who he is now and nobody outworks him. He's the best.
* Breakout Player on Offense and Why: Antonio Pittman. He was solid in the spring and his competition at the position seems light with Erik Haw coming off some off-the-field problems and Maurice Wells just arriving in Columbus.
* Breakout Player on Defense and Why: Everybody should know Quinn Pitcock by now – did you see the way he ran sideline-to-sideline in the Alamo Bowl at 290 pounds? So, discounting that All-American-in-waiting, I'll go with Alex Barrow at end. He plays with a high motor and is all about getting into the backfield. The inexperience will hurt him, but he will be in the game quite a bit in obvious passing situations.
* Unheralded Player Who Will Have a Big Season: The Marcel Frost meter continues to tick. OSU also has Ryan Hamby and Rory Nicol at tight end. But look for Frost in the spread, creating mismatches galore against linebackers.
* Area of Biggest Concern and Why: The pass rush and the kicking game. I liked what I saw in the spring game with a number of guys getting after the passers, although the conditions were terrible for scoring. That leaves the kicking game. I think A.J. Trapasso can be solid at punter. Many have been waiting five years for Josh Huston to (finally) make his mark. Will this be his year? Hmmm.
* Area of Least Concern and Why: The linebackers and, by proxy, the defense. Nobody has six LBs this good, and, because of that, offenses – spread and otherwise – will have a tough time against the Buckeyes.
* Impact Freshman and Why: On offense, Maurice Wells will be thrust into a key position early on. We will see if he sinks or swims against great competition. Defensively, this could be Lawrence Wilson or Doug Worthington at end or Jamario O'Neal at corner. I'll go with O'Neal. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think they'll find their best lineup will be with Tyler Everett at nickel and O'Neal at corner – or vice versa.
* Expectations For This Season: Big Ten champions and a spot somewhere in the BCS.
* National Champion: Who else? USC. This is the greatest three-year dynasty in college football history. Move over, Archie. Matt Leinhart's media-friendly motif makes him the obvious repeat Heisman Trophy pick. And, playing the title game 20 miles from the USC campus, makes that an easy game to pick as well.
Jerry Rudzinski, Former OSU captain, Bucknuts Radio Hour
* Projected Overall Record (Including Bowl): 11-1. A lot of Buckeye Leaves on the helmets in 2005.
* Games OSU Will Lose and Why: Look for the Buckeyes to play Iowa, Penn State, Minnesota and Michigan very well. With those four games though, the Buckeyes bat .750 instead of 1.000. Penn State and Minnesota are really creepy.
* Game That Will Be Unexpectedly Difficult to Win and Why: Many Miami (Ohio) starters could play and start at OSU. I didn't say "all" of them, I said "many" of them. The squad in Oxford thinks they win this game on the road with or without the breaks. A confident opponent is scary.
* Game That Will Be Easier Than Expected to Win and Why: Texas. The highly mobile and athletic Vince Young will have to face a highly mobile and athletic OSU defense. Do you think the OSU players and OSU crowd will be ready for this one?
* Offensive MVP and Why: Troy Smith walks like a valuable leader and he will perform like a valuable player. The cheers and play calling will be spread among receivers and Pittman, meaning Smith stands out in the end.
* Defensive MVP and Why: A.J. Hawk will win the Butkus. A.J. Hawk will win the defensive MVP.
* Breakout Player on Offense and Why: OK, the best cornerback gets put on Ginn. That means the second best corner locks up with Holmes. So there is a No. 3 on Gonzalez. Gonzalez is sneaky fast and sneaky good.
* Breakout Player On Defense and Why: Donte Whitner is no stranger to headlines, but he will be talked about throughout the Big Ten for his Ed Reed-like hitting and play-making. We knew he was good, but we had no idea he was this good when healthy.
* Unheralded Player Who Will Have a Big Season: Chad Hoobler will make the post-Hawk/Carpenter era easier to accept. All he has done since arriving on campus is improve. By the way, he was already really good when he got to Columbus.
* Area of Biggest Concern and Why: They need more tailbacks. Antonio Pittman will make things look easy, but the lack of experience behind him has me worried. The days of one tailback getting you through the year are over.
* Area of Least Concern and Why: Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, Marcus Freeman, Mike D'Andrea, Hoobler, Anthony Schlegel, etc. We can go ahead and check the box next to linebackers.
* Impact Freshman and Why: Players with the swagger and talent of Jamario O'Neal can win you national championships.
* Expectations For This Season: I expect nothing short of domination. This team understands effort and potential mean absolutely nothing. It is all about results. They will play with maturity and character on the road, which will translate into a BCS bowl bid.
* National Champion: USC. Their practice habits and talent are just too good.