While Wisconsin fans are drooling over the prospects for the 2003 offense, Ohio State fans might have even more to be excited about as the season approaches. The Buckeyes' offense might be the best in the nation, on paper, with the return of the majority of a unit that won a national championship last season.
The battle in Madison on Oct. 11 could be an explosive affair, with both teams more than capable of putting up points in a variety of ways. Here is a glance at what the Badgers have to contend with when the Buckeyes come to town in week three of the Big Ten season:
Badger fans can certainly relate to the story of Craig Krenzel. The 6-4, 225-pound senior quarterback was blasted by critics throughout 2002, saying he might be the weak link that prevents the Buckeyes from winning a championship. They said he wasn't athletic enough, his arm wasn't strong enough, and he simply wasn't good enough to lead a championship team.
Sound familiar? Much like some of the maligned quarterbacks in recent UW history, such as Brooks Bollinger and Mike Samuel, Krenzel did nothing but win, win and win some more. And when the season was over, Krenzel stood with the team's co-MVP award in his arms, along with the offensive MVP award from the national championship game. Krenzel's performance down the stretch, particularly in OSU's classic 31-24 overtime victory over Miami, silenced all of the naysayers.
Krenzel, a molecular genetics major, clearly translates his intelligence to the football field. He makes smart decisions, he stays calm under pressure, and simply delivers. Now the Buckeye faithful are expecting huge things out of him in his senior year. Once regarded as a weak link, Krenzel is now viewed as one of, if not the best quarterback in a league filled with great ones.
Anybody that hasn't lived under a rock for the past week knows that Maurice Clarett is facing some major adversity with allegations that he received special treatment in passing exams last season. If Clarett is found guilty and suspended for any length of time, it could have a major effect on OSU's chances at making another championship run.
But most likely, Clarett will be eligible to play next season, and that spells a lot of trouble for Buckeye opponents. There hasn't been a tailback to make such an immediate impact in college football since Ron Dayne's freshman season. Clarett missed a ton of time due to injuries last season, yet still set an Ohio State freshman running record. Before he was injured, there was talk of the true freshman getting a serious look at the Heisman Trophy. If he stays healthy this season, he could be right there again. Clarett is an explosive, elusive, speedy back whose athleticism outclasses almost everyone else on the field.
But when Clarett is unavailable, the Buckeyes aren't out of luck. Lydell Ross is one of the best backup tailbacks in the nation. He rushed for 1,067 yards last year, and he will get a ton of reps this season.
As solid as UW's receiving corps is, some feel OSU's unit is even better. The Buckeyes return gamebreakers Michael Jenkins and Chris Gamble following outstanding seasons for both.
Jenkins became just the fourth OSU receiver in school history to record a 1,000-yard receiving season. The 6-5, 215-pound senior is considered one of the top receivers in the nation, and an early-round prospect in next year's NFL draft.
Teams can't focus on stopping Jenkins alone, because two-way star Chris Gamble is usually on the field as well. Gamble, a 6-2, 180-pound junior, is one of the best athletes in the conference and has unbelievable speed. But the coaching staff would like to give Gamble more rest this season, so he can focus on his duties as a starting cornerback.
The presence of redshirt freshman Santonio Holmes might allow them to do that. In addition to senior Drew Carter, Holmes is expected to see a lot of action this season. Holmes and Carter provide Tressel with a lot of quality depth in a loaded receiving corps.
Considered the primary weakness of last year's team, the offensive line is now considered a strength, with all five starters returning from last season. The unit is led by center Alex Stepanovich (6-4, 310-pound senior) and Shane Olivea (6-5, 310-pound tackle).
But there will be plenty of competition in fall camp for the remaining three spots. While the Buckeyes expect returning starters Adrien Clarke, Bryce Bishop and Ivan Douglas to retain their starting spots, if they falter in August, the Buckeyes have some young talent waiting in the wings.
OSU Week: Offensive Preview
Badger Nation Top Stories
Wisconsin vs. Nebraska: Need To KnowHow to watch or listen to No.11 Wisconsin's Big Ten contest against No.7 Nebraska at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday and what you need to know.
Badger Nation8:58 AM
Know Your Foe - No.7 NebraskaBefore No.11 Wisconsin takes on No.7 Nebraska at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday, we get the inside scoop on the Cornhuskers from Big Red Report publisher Josh Harvey.
Badger NationYesterday at 12:15 PM
The Freshman Fifteen – Patrick KaslOne of three Midwest offensive linemen signed by Wisconsin in the 2016 class, Patrick Kasl is rising up the depth chart. Badger Nation gets to know the freshman a little better in…
Badger NationYesterday at 10:27 AM
Front 7 - No.7 NebraskaBadger Nation's Front Seven ranks the top seven players based on performance, expectations and need for this week's game against No.7 Nebraska at Camp Randall Stadium.
Badger NationYesterday at 8:05 AM
Recruiting Breakdown: Nebraska vs WisconsinA look at the Badgers and Cornhuskers from a recruiting perspective. Where did the starters rate coming out of high school?
Big Red ReportYesterday at 7:19 AM