The Staff Crystal Ball

Over the past few days, we've been getting hyped up for the season, and today, some of the rest of the Bucknuts crew chips in. Dave Biddle, Duane Long, Jerry Rudzinski, Kirk Larrabee, and Mr. Bucknuts all take stabs at answering some of the more pressing questions about this team as well as some "just-for-fun" type questions. Without further ado...

Predicted Overall Record (Including Bowl): 

Dave: 12-2

Duane: 13-1

Jerry: 11-3

Kirk: 12-2

Mr. Bucknuts: 11-3

Games OSU will lose and why:

Dave: Funny, I pick them to lose two games, but when it comes time to specify, I can't think of a team they'll actually lose to. OK, if I have to pick, I'll say at Wisconsin and Michigan. Can't really give reasons why because deep down I'm convinced the Bucks will win both of those games.

Duane: Whoever the Buckeyes play in the bowl game. If I am right they will play in one of the elite bowls and will not be a good enough passing team to win. Someone will stack the line and make the Buckeyes pass.

Jerry: With the talent level of our coaches, players, and Kirk Larrabee, we could/should beat them all (although Wisconsin, Illinois, and a tough bowl opponent have me very worried).

Kirk: The teams I cheer for have never won any sort of big championship in my lifetime, so I think Jerry overrates my impact on the team.  However, I am changing my prediction from what I have said earlier from three losses to two losses.  Previously, I said Wisconsin would be a loss, but I am switching that game from a L to a W.  So my picks as losses now are Texas Tech (I hate to make this pick, especially since Texas Tech fans have been a little obnoxious lately on our message boards, but I think the Buckeyes will drop one game early, and this is my guess.  TT is an experienced team with a good QB who I think will give the OSU secondary problems.  I don't like the matchup) and Illinois (I think they'll lose one out of Illinois and Purdue on the road; I think this game will be close, but the Illini bring plenty back from last year's team that beat OSU, and I think they'll be the team to knock them off in the Big Ten).  By the way, I'm going out on a big limb and predicting an OSU/Washington State rematch in the Rose Bowl, with another OSU victory.  On paper, Ohio State does not seem like a 12-win team, but I think that while the schedule is challenging, the toughest opponents come at home and because of that and the fact that the Big Ten seems a bit down again, every game is winnable.

Mr. Bucknuts: Washington State because of the cornerbacks; two Big Ten road games because of the quarterbacks – I'm speculating Wisconsin and Illinois.

Game that will be more difficult to win than people think and why: 

Dave: Cincinnati, because Gino Guidugli is the real deal and winning this game will be like winning the national title to the Cubkittens.

Duane: Purdue. The game is at Purdue and they return 8 starters on a defense that ranked 3rd in total defense and the spread offense will be a problem for the Buckeyes with the corner situation. I think the Buckeyes can come up with 2 corners but that is not enough for a spread offense.

Jerry: Quite simply, Glenn Mason and his Golden Gophers don't back down from us.  Marion Barber III's rushing will set up their play action package perfectly.  They'll also field one of the best secondaries in the league.  Remember how we always seemed to play great against Iowa... well we are the Golden Gophers' "Hawkeyes."

Kirk: I hope Jerry is right about this game (see below), but I will stick with Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium.  This is a natural pick, but I think this game will be close.  Cincinnati has enough offense to stay in the game for four quarters.

Mr. Bucknuts: Cincinnati: Strange environment and a strange UC offense; plus, UC plays "those games" historically well. Texas Tech bothers me as well since there are so many unknown variables (on both sides) and because of their passing attack.

Game that will be easier to win than people think and why:

Dave: Kent State. I know everyone is picking the Bucks to lose this game, but I think they'll scrape by somehow… On a somewhat serious note, I am going to say Washington State. They have a very good team, but if the Buckeye D (and the louder-than-ever fans; right you crazy Bucknuts?) gets in their head early, it could be a quick TKO. Too bad this isn't a night game. (You out there Andy Geiger?)

Duane: Michigan. I think they are reeling. Buckeye fans thought Steve Bellisari was the worst QB in the Big 10 last year. I thought John Navarre was and now he doesn't have Marquis Walker. There is no big-time back now with Kelly Baraka out of the program.

Jerry: Cincinnati.  Don't tell me about the 99 game in the Horseshoe or the UC win over Ron Dayne and the Badgers.  This is a dream game for the Buckeyes.  If we came out flat, sure they could upset the Buckeyes, but playing in your home state at Paul Brown is enough to make our guys sky high.  The Bearcats will get our best shot…believe me.

Kirk: Michigan.  I am not convinced at all Michigan will have enough offensive firepower to win the Big Ten.  Granted, all this could change by the time these two teams play, but I think UM will struggle offensively all year.

Mr. Bucknuts: Purdue, because I don't think they will be prepared defensively and I'm not that high on the new Brees-less attack.

Offensive MVP:

Dave: Michael Jenkins. His stats from last year (49-988-3) still baffle me considering how much the Bucks struggled in the passing game. With more games on the schedule and with better play from the quarterback position, look for Jenkins to go well over the 1000-yard mark.

Duane: Maurice Clarett

Jerry: Craig Krenzel is my guy.  His behind-the-scenes leadership and intelligence will fuel the offense.  Besides, the receiving and rushing yards will be too spread out.

Kirk: Tough one.  I'm going to go out on a big limb and say Maurice Hall.  He's my pick to steal the show at TB, and since this team will be running the ball quite a bit, I pick him.

Mr. Bucknuts: First choice: Flydell. Second choice: Clarett. One of them is going to have a breakout season behind a surprisingly solid offensive line.

Defensive MVP: 

Dave: Mike Doss. Best DB in the college game. People who still think he's a liability in the passing game will find out this year that they're wrong. And he can hit a little bit too… As for returning kicks, I like it. Those who saw him play in high school said he could have easily played running back on the D-I college level.

Duane: Mike Doss

Jerry: Some guy named Michael Doss.

Kirk: Easy one.  Mike Doss.  No explanation needed.

Mr. Bucknuts: Matt Wilhelm (see below…)

Player not named Will Smith who will have a huge breakout season and why:

Dave: Rob Reynolds. He has the speed, toughness and smarts to get it done. This will be the first year he really gets a chance to show what he can do.

Duane: Simon Fraser. Smith and Anderson will draw the double teams freeing up Fraser to cause havoc.

Jerry: Will Smith and Chris Gamble.  But if you are making me actually think about this one, I would have to go with Maurice Hall.  Ross was the story last fall, and Clarett stole the headlines this past spring, but Hall's speed will surely put him on the highlight reel.

Kirk: I will once again put Maurice Hall in this category because I said he will wind up as the team's leading rusher.  I also love Dustin Fox's talent.  I think he will make himself known this year, at least around Big Ten country.  If he gets the CB position down, he could make himself known as a future star.

Mr. Bucknuts: Matt Wilhelm. He is so good he would have left early for the NFL had he not been hurt. Great instincts, terrific size and a nasty streak. Plus, he knows the program and will have good support on either side.

Non-starter not named Chris Gamble or who is not a running back who will have a breakout season and why: 

Dave: Ivan Douglas. This guy will be an NFL prospect by the end of the season… Hopefully all of the junior linemen stick around for their senior year next year. Adrien Clarke is another player who might have a big year and think about leaving early for the pros (Douglas and Clarke are both fourth year guys; this has Derek Ross and Darnell Sanders written all over it).

Duane: Shane Olivea. He is moving to left tackle which will put him in the spotlight at the most important offensive line position then Maurice Clarett will make the entire line look good.

Chris Gamble or who is not a running back who will have a breakout season and why:  Chris Gamble and our running backs.  But if I had to dig deeper, I would go with Drew Carter.  He was tentative early in the spring with his knee, but by the end appeared fearless.  Speed and range make him a sleeper when the starters are resting.

Kirk: Drew Carter.  I love his ability, and let's not forget that he was projected to be the man who would be the #1 WR last year.  He may not start, but he'll be too good to keep off the field.

Mr. Bucknuts: E.J. Underwood. He will take over one corner spot by the third game and be a starter for the rest of his Buckeye career.

Running back who will have the biggest year and why: 

Dave: Maurice Clarett. I don't think his stats will be that much better than Mo Hall's and Lydell Ross', but I just think Clarett will get the most carries. As long as he's not a fumbler, Tressel will feel comfortable giving the ball to his 230-pound bruiser late in games. Especially when the Buckeye D is shutting down their opponents (which will be often) and Tress wants to run some clock. But get ready for a three-man tailback rotation with a lot of swing passes to Hall.

Duane: Maurice Clarett. He is just that good.

Jerry: A healthy Lydell Ross should grind out impressive yardage.  Hall will provide some pop, and Clarett will be extremely impressive, but I see Ross gutting out those tough 2nd and 8-type runs between the tackles.

Kirk: I like Maurice Hall.  I think he has developed and built himself into a feature back, and I think his speed will make a big difference.

Mr. Bucknuts: I already mentioned Ross and Clarett but everybody knows that landscape. I think it will be Ross; he has size, speed, elusiveness and is cocky enough to pull it together. The fact that the Maurices are pushing him will help, as well.

Impact Freshman and why:

Dave: Mike D'Andrea. I'm on record saying I'm expecting a similar impact as Andy Katzenmoyer in 1996. That's a hell of a lot to live up to, but D'Andrea can do it, as long as he doesn't mind playing on the outside for a season. I love the thought of him and Matt Wilhelm on the field at the same time. Heads will be rolling.

Duane: E.J. Underwood. He is much underrated and with the corner situation he will be in the mix from the first snap of fall camp. I believe he will be the starter in game 1.

Jerry: E.J. Underwood seems to have the confidence to play right now.  It doesn't hurt that the cornerback spot is questionable as well.

Kirk: I agree with Dave Biddle and I'm going to say Mike D'Andrea.  I'm not 100% sold on the LB corps, and I think there will be opportunities.  Mike has been busting his butt in the offseason, and I think he is coming in with the intention of doing big things early.  I don't think he'll have a year quite as good as Katzenmoyer did his first year, but he'll make a difference.  Maurice Clarett is right up there as well, of course, although since he's been through spring ball, you might actually call him a "freshman-and-a-half" instead of a true freshman.

Mr. Bucknuts: E.J. is the obvious choice (see previous answer) but I think Pitcock and AJ Hawk will overwhelm some people.

Player who not many people are talking about to keep an eye on because he might surprise and have a big year and why: 

Dave: Will Allen. With all the passing teams on the schedule, Allen will get a lot of time in nickel and dime situations. Look for Allen to spell Donnie Nickey at free safety from time to time as well. Mel Tucker said they will find a way to get this kid on the field.

Duane: Ben Hartsock. He is a good blocker on a team that will hang its hat on the running game. I think the passing game will be a safe one and the coaches will encourage the QB, whoever that might be, to make safe passes. Hartsock has shown that he is a dependable receiver. I think coach Tressel wants to get the TE involved more anyway.

Jerry: Nickey and Doss get the pub, but watch how hard Will Allen hits people when he comes in for our nickel package.  He is a stud.

Kirk: I think Kenny Peterson is going to go out with a bang.  I think someone on that defensive line is going to have some great opportunities with all the attention other teams will be paying to Will Smith and Tim Anderson, and I like Peterson and the quickness he brings to that DT position.

Mr. Bucknuts: Pitcock, Hawk and Joel Penton as freshmen. Stepanovich as an offensive lineman – he's got the whole package and a sincere nasty streak (plus, something to prove…). Doss as a kick returner!

Player under the most pressure to perform who is not a QB and why:

Dave: Doss. He is the emotional leader of the team and he relishes the role. I expect the intensity level of the defense to be extremely high and Doss will be a big reason why. But, as the leader of the team, No. 2 cannot have mental lapses. He needs to be more consistent and I think he will be. If he is playing well and his emotions are running high, the entire team will feed off of him.

Duane: (tie) Shane Olivea and Ivan Douglas or whoever is playing right tackle.

Jerry: Alex Stepanovich is the glue to our offensive line.  We go as he goes.

Kirk: Richard McNutt, because his starting spot seems to be the one that is the most likely to have someone else jump up and take it.

Mr. Bucknuts: Either cornerback. McNutt –without the chronic ankle problem – could be the real deal, but my latent cynicism says that won't happen.

The single most talented player on the team is:

Dave: How's this for a tough question? Hmmm, how about Will Smith (just because I haven't seen quite enough of Chris Gamble yet).

Duane: Maurice Clarett.

Jerry: Chris Gamble.

Kirk: This is a tough call… Chris Gamble is up there, as is Mike Doss and Will Smith, but I also like Dustin Fox.  I don't know if anyone on this team has more natural ability.  However, we may see someone named D'Andrea come in and stake his claim to that title.

Mr. Bucknuts: Michael Doss – a rare package of extraordinary physical ability with a veteran outlook and mindset. A second place finish to the gifted Darrion Scott, who toils in an unglamorous situation.

The player most likely to be a leader is:

Dave: Doss, with Wilhelm not far behind.

Duane: Mike Doss.

Jerry: Gotta go with Wilhelm, since he has been leading for so long.

Kirk: I think Craig Krenzel will become this team's leader, if he isn't already.

Mr. Bucknuts: Matt Wilhelm – vocal, high profile and unintimidated (see previous underclassman years…).

Area of Biggest Concern and why:

Dave: Cornerbacks. Young and unproven. But I am more optimistic than I was a month ago. I think at least two of the guys (Dustin Fox and ??) will be solid and the safeties will make up for some of the mistakes that they do make.

Duane: Cornerback. This is the same group of returning veterans who gave way to a linebacker last year after only 2 days of practice. The only one I have faith in is Underwood. Dustin Fox may have to play the other corner.

Jerry: The health, conditioning, and depth of our offensive line.  With 13 games and a lack of numbers, guys can get tired and that means injuries.

Kirk: Quarterback.  We can talk about the lack of depth at OL or the apparent lack of overall talent at CB, but in the end, if this team doesn't have a solid quarterback, this team could be playing in the Sun Bowl.

Mr. Bucknuts: 1) Can Krenzel be relatively mistake-free and can he make a few third downs on his own? 2) Will the cornerbacks step up and 3) Can Bollman/Tressel customize on offensive game plan for the unique talents on this team and not hide behind blatant conservativism?

Area of Least Concern and why:

Dave: Defensive line. They will give quarterbacks fits this year and the parts are interchangeable But this is by no means a perfect unit. They must improve on stopping the run and getting more push. They are a bit undersized at tackle, but if Marcus Green and Quinn Pitcock can step up, that won't be an issue. Tim Anderson thinks it's already not an issue. He's headed for a big year, but he needs some help down there.

Duane: Defensive line. I think there is an argument for this lot being better than the Silver Bullets and I am sure there is better depth. This is also a deep and talented receiver corps, but I don't know if there will be a lot of opportunities for them to shine.

Jerry: Receivers and safeties.  There is no substitute for experience and talent.  Get out of our way.

Kirk: Wide Receiver.  I'd hate to see an injury to anyone, but I chose this area because the Buckeyes could lose both their starters to injury and likely still be just fine at this position.

Mr. Bucknuts: 1) The defensive line – might be the deepest and most talented ever; so much so that "highlight players" like Kudla won't have a chance to see the field.

Area you might be more concerned about than other people and why:

Dave: Offensive play calling. I think Tressel will be conservative, partially because that's his style and partially because he'll want his defense to decide games. I think with the talented receiving corps, Tress needs to let Krenzel and McMullen air the ball out early in the year. That's the only way they'll get the confidence they need for the Big Ten season. And I'm also concerned that Jim Bollman won't be up in the press box calling plays. Offensive coordinators need to be up in the box; all the successful ones are. Mike Martz says the one thing he hates about being a head coach is that he can't be up in the box anymore… Of course, Tressel is the real offensive coordinator of the Buckeyes. He calls the plays. But if Bollman is going to be listed as the OC, he needs to be up there like every other OC in the country.  

Duane: Offensive line. On paper I like them, but the tackles concern me. Olivea is a natural guard playing the most demanding position on the field at left tackle, not to mention he is coming off a broken ankle that took a lot of reps away from him this spring. Ivan Douglas is projected as the other tackle right now, but he was laying in a hospital bed this time last year. Derek Morris was projected to help but that looks iffy as I write this so possible help at an already thin position may get thinner.

Jerry: Great teams play with consistency.  They beat the good teams they play.  They beat the horrible teams they play.  They win their home games.  They win their road games.  They dominate after bye weeks.  They dominate after playing a brutal opponent.  The 99, 00, and 01 teams looked awesome most of the time, but weren't consistent enough to earn a BCS berth.  The 13 game schedule and a balanced Big Ten have me worried about consistency.

Kirk: Linebacker, but just a little.  After all, two new starters are being broken in there, and unless a couple of freshmen live up to their billing, the depth might not be the greatest.  Let's also hope Andy Groom stays healthy at punter.

Mr. Bucknuts: Special teams could be the difference between 12-2 and 10-4. That's a difference-making situation…

OSU will play in a BCS game if:

Dave: The offensive line stays healthy and the field goal kickers are 60-70 percent accurate.  

Duane: The Buckeyes find another corner and the quarterback does a good job of managing the game though no injuries on the offensive line may be the most important thing when the smoke clears.

Jerry: Our special teams wins two games for us.

Kirk: The quarterback play is not a liability, the starting five offensive linemen stay healthy, the corner play is solid, the Bucks don't miss as many of those "3-pointers," and the team stays hungry and determined to win with no non-football-related incidents.

Mr. Bucknuts: We can play solid on the road, we can defense the pass-happy teams we will face, and we find a consistent offensive weapon and the brain trust allows the team to ride him.

To me, this season will be successful if:

Dave: The Buckeyes win the Big Ten and beat Michigan.

Duane: Win 11 games, beat Michigan and play in a New Years day bowl game.

Jerry: The offensive line allows a ball-control offense.  Krenzel, the receivers and our running backs should pick at defenses all game long if the o-line gets after it.  Washington State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Illinois, and Michigan can't score if they don't have the ball.  Take a look at the schedule; we play some INCREDIBLE defensive lines.

Kirk: The effort is 100%, the Buckeyes win 10 regular season games (one of them being Michigan), and there are no games where they get upset by someone like Minnesota and then we hear afterwards, "Duhh, well, we just weren't ready to play" or "They just wanted it more than we did."  To me, not giving 100% is 100% unacceptable.

Mr. Bucknuts: 1) We show "the offense of the future) 2) The defense lives up to their potential 3) We go 11-3, beat Michigan and win our bowl game!


We had a lot of fun with this, and hopefully you enjoyed reading it.  The responses were interesting... you can see how everyone has different views of what could happen this year.  What are your thoughts on this?  Feel free to talk about any of these subjects on the message board and let us know what you think!


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