FanHouse's 2010 Preseason College Football Poll -- No. 2 Ohio State
Judging from the hysterical accounts, all Terrelle Pryor's 2010 Rose Bowl performance versus Oregon lacked was Prof. Henry Higgins in the background singing, "I think he's got it, I think he's got it!" Pryor, who ran and passed for 338 total yards in Ohio State's 26-18 victory, at last had his transformative Eliza Doolittle-meets-Vince Young moment in Pasadena.
Has the 6-foot-6 junior finally turned the corner? The good news is that it doesn't really matter. Jim Tressel's Buckeyes are loaded at offensive line, running back and along the front seven defensively. Craig Krenzel could "game-manage" this crew to an 11-win -- if not an undefeated 12-0 -- season.
But that's not enough along High Street. The Buckeyes are the only school north of Norman, Okla., to play for a national championship in the past eight years, but they've lost in their last two shots at the Sears Trophy by a combined 41 points. Having Pryor deliver up to expectations could be the difference between getting to Glendale and winning in Glendale.
THE BASICS: The Buckeyes have won outright or shared the Big Ten title five straight years, the longest current streak in any of the six automatic qualifier conferences. No. 6 is practically a Horse-shoo-in for Jim Tressel's team if it can overcome tough visits to Madison and Iowa City (even a split of those two would likely earn it a share of the title).
Pryor, who led the Buckeyes in both rushing and passing yardage a year ago, will garner the media's attention. The film-watchers, however, will notice a dominant defense that was in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense (5th), total defense (5th), rushing defense (7th) and turnover margin (5th). Defensive end Cameron Heyward (son of the late Craig "Ironhead" Heyward) is the first-round pick of the unit, but linebackers Ross Homan and Brian Rolle were the team's leading tacklers a year ago. Chimdi Chekwa may be the Big Ten's best cornerback.
"I don't want to offend any offensive guys or anything," Chekwa, a senior, said last spring, "but we play defense at Ohio State. That's what we do, and that's what we love to do."
KEY PLAYER YOU PROBABLY DIDN'T THINK OF AS A KEY PLAYER: Left tackle Mike Adams. The least accomplished offensive lineman mans the most important position on the front (we listened to Sandra Bullock's voiceover at the beginning of "The Blind Side," too). Adams is a behemoth at 6-foot-8, 300 pounds, but the junior has yet to approach the level of interior linemates Justin Boren, center Michael Brewster and Bryant Browning.
FLY IN THE OINTMENT: The safety position. The Buckeyes have established or budding All-America talent at every spot except safety. Part-time '09 starter Jermale Hines will man the free safety spot and sophomore Orhian Johnson, who saw limited action last year, gets the nod at strong safety. It's the closest thing the Buckeyes have to an Achilles heel.
DON'T MISS: Ohio State at Wisconsin, Oct. 16. It would be a mild surprise if both the Buckeyes and Badgers are not unbeaten when they collide at Camp Randall Stadium after sundown. This matchup features the Big Ten's two most valid Heisman candidates (Pryor and Wisconsin's John Clay), its two best offensive lines and its two most NFL-ready talents. Buckeye defensive end Cameron Heyward and Wisconsin left tackle Gabe Carimi are legitimate top five picks in the 2011 draft.
Above all that, the winner moves into the driver's seat for a BCS bowl berth, if not for the BCS championship game in this, the final season that the Big Ten is without a conference championship game. A reminder -- both teams must visit Iowa following this contest.
PREDICTED RECORD: 12-0
FanHouse's Ohio State team page with schedule