A perennial favorite of die-hard, stat-loving college football fans, Phil Steele’s preview magazine is arguably the most respected and certainly the most in-depth on the market. His rankings and predictions are eagerly anticipated each year, and when the latest edition hit the stands this spring, Ohio State once again found itself atop the conference by Steele’s estimation. Granted, this time it was in a three-way tie for the Leaders division with Wisconsin and Penn State, but still.
The only problem was, at press time our head coach was still Jim Tressel and the frustrating yet dynamic Terrelle Pryor would resume taking snaps by mid-season. Steele acknowledged that things could change depending on what sanctions Ohio State faced, and yesterday he updated his outlook for the Buckeyes and a couple other teams that have had some significant shifts this summer:
While losing Tressel will hurt, the Buckeyes do have a veteran coaching staff that has spent several seasons together. The loss of Pryor is less of an issue because he already was going to be suspended for the first five games and I thought they would probably have QB controversy on their hands when he came back for the 6th game but now that major distraction can be avoided. They still host Wisconsin and Penn St late in the year after the suspended players return and provided there are no more players suspended or bowl bids being taken away, I still have the Buckeyes going to the first Big Ten title game.
Interesting take on the Pryor situation that I hadn’t really considered and could also be applied to the coaching side of things in a smaller way as well. Continuity is important and while losing these two is not going to make us better, not having to slide them back in halfway through a campaign will avoid some awkwardness.
Also in the piece, Steele discusses Wisconsin’s addition of Russell Wilson, a move that led many to permanently elevate the Badgers above OSU for the Leaders title:
It’s been a long time since Wisconsin had a running/passing threat at QB and that will make them even more dangerous. But remember they have to travel to an underrated Michigan St team who beat them last year and also travel to Ohio St later in the year with the Buckeyes looking for revenge from their only loss last year. Even with Wilson I still have Wisconsin tied at the top of the Big Ten Leaders division.
So basically, no change, but it’s nice that a respected and generally unbiased analyst like Steele isn’t buying completely into the Wilson hype. Personally, I have doubts about Bielema’s ability to effectively exploit Wilson’s athleticism in his old-school smashmouth offensive scheme. It should be noted that Steele doesn’t even seem to believe that his presence will create enough separation between Wisconsin and Penn State to knock the Lions out of the three-way tie.
It doesn’t mean much, but it’s nice to get a little post-scandal vote of confidence from a solid analyst.