College Football is Finally Here: B1G Preview for the Weekend Ahead

After many long months of waiting college football season has finally arrived! As much as I love baseball, college football holds a special place in my heart. I especially enjoy watching B1G football.

Every year the B1G is expected to step it up and produce some impressive results on the field, with this year being no different from the rest. Last year the conference was hurt by two of its most illustrious programs, Penn State and Ohio State, being punished with bowl bans. Now that the Buckeyes have served their penalty, high expectations return to Columbus. Ohio State is the consensus favorite to not only win the conference, but run the table and play for it all in Pasadena. As far as the next best team in the B1G? That’s anybody’s guess.

In the Leaders Division Wisconsin lost Montee Ball, but have 10 other Wisconsin-like running backs waiting in the wings (namely James White and Melvin Gordon). Penn State is in year two of their bowl ban and break in two new quarterbacks. Indiana has a lot of starters returning to the team and the pressure is on head coach Kevin Wilson to get the team to a bowl game. Illinois head coach Tim Beckham is already on the hot seat in Champaign, despite the fact that its only his second season with the program. Purdue breaks in new head coach Darrell Hazel (former Buckeye coach) and look to begin rebuilding their program.

In the Legends Division Nebraska has Taylor Martinez return for what feels like his 10th year in the program, but their defense is a huge question mark. Michigan State is the exact opposite of Nebraska. They have a great defense, but four different players competed for the QB position. Northwestern is receiving the most preseason hype in decades, but many are unsure if they can handle the high expectations. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has been getting bashed by the media and fans all offseason and looks to silence the doubters. Minnesota looks to continue to build off their 6-6 season last year and move up the ladder in the conference. And the team up north finally has an actual quarterback again, but do they have enough to be considered an elite team?

Enough chatter, let’s get to the opening week games:

Thursday, August 29

Indiana State @ Indiana – If this was a basketball game taking place in the 70’s, with Larry Bird lacing it up for the Sycamores, I would be pretty psyched about this game. But instead it’s a football game in 2013. Even though I’m not thrilled about this match-up, these two actually played a tight game last season in the opener. Indiana only won 24-17 and only led by a touchdown at halftime also. I expect Indiana to learn from last season and dispatch Indiana State with ease.

UNLV @ Minnesota – This is another non-conference rematch from last season. And it was even closer. Minnesota needed triple overtime to defeat the Rebels, 30-27. Close games like this are what make the B1G look bad. B1G teams aren’t supposed to have close games with teams like UNLV. I hope the Golden Gophers win this game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is another close game.

Friday, August 30

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MotSaG TV Guide

College Football is back just in time for a long holiday weekend! You can celebrate the end of your 234-day sports prison sentence by watching games for five straight days (if you agree to lower your standards a little).



North Carolina at South Carolina. You would think this game would happen more often than it does, but there is no historical animosity to fuel a good old-fashioned border-war college football rivalry. The colony of Carolina split so amicably in 1712 that it makes Bruce and Demi look like Alec and Kim (I had to Google that entire sentence). UNC is probably good enough to keep things interesting at least until you finish your wings. (ESPN)

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Indiana Preview

March has arrived. Two huge tournaments loom for the Buckeyes as the Madness draws near. Indiana poses a major challenge for the Buckeyes today, and will be a preview of what to expect come Tourney time. Ohio State needs to step up to the challenge in order to gain ground in the conference standings, but also to boost confidence heading into the last game of the regular season.

Tonight’s 9 p.m. matchup is the second-last regular season contest for each of the two contenders before the Big Ten Tournament begins on March 14. Both teams could use some momentum heading into the postseason, especially the Buckeyes. #2 Indiana (25-4, 13-3 Big Ten) needs a win to assert its dominance and prove that the Hoosiers are the top dog of the league. Following an upset loss on the road to Illinois on February 26, Indiana looked a bit vulnerable. Though the Hoosiers easily handled Iowa a few days later, Indiana would love to have some positive energy heading into the team’s season finale with Michigan and then the Big Ten Tourney. Still, #14 Ohio State needs the “W” even more.

The Buckeyes (21-7, 11-5 Big Ten) have won their last three matches, snagging victories over tough opponents Minnesota, Michigan State and Northwestern. But the Bucks lack a significant, defining road win this season. Against ranked opponents on the road, OSU owns an unappealing 0-5 record. The most recent road game against a ranked opponent resulted in an embarrassing 71-49 loss to Wisconsin on February 17. For OSU, picking up its first big victory away from the Schottenstein Center will not be a simple task. Assembly Hall is not an easy venue to play in as the road team. As OSU’s Deshaun Thomas told The Lantern, “It’s one of the loudest places I’ve been at, besides Kansas.” Head coach Thad Matta agreed: “It’s proven over time it’s one of the toughest places to play in.” Indiana boasts a 17-1 record on its home court this season, with the lone loss coming against Wisconsin in mid-January.

But if Ohio State wants to claw its way to the top of the pack past Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin, all tied with OSU for the second spot, the Bucks need to find a way to win tonight. The key to doing so is defending Indiana’s top scorers better than last time and coming up with secondary scoring. The last time the squads paired off on February 10, the Hoosiers trounced Ohio State, 81-68. Indiana playmakers Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo ran rampant. OSU’s defense could not stop the dangerous pair, as Zeller finished with 24 points and eight rebounds, while Oladipo collected a career-high 26 points and eight boards.

Ohio State has improved since it suffered a beating to Indiana. The Buckeyes have drawn more fouls and seen more scoring from Lenzelle Smith Jr. The junior guard led the team in scoring in OSU’s last game on February 28, putting up 24 in a 63-53 triumph over Northwestern. The defense has also looked stellar as of late, limiting opponents to 60 or fewer points in four of the past five games. Indiana head coach Tom Crean agrees that this is a much-improved OSU team. “They’re better from when we played them the last time, because they are getting fouled a lot more,” Crean said. “In the last five games, they’ve made more free throws than their opponents have taken. Deshaun Thomas is way up in his free throw shooting; Lenzelle Smith is shooting the ball at a high rate. They are rebounding the ball well, they’re getting fouled, they’re winning games and they’re really good. There’s no doubt in our mind that it’s going to be an incredible battle.”

For it to be an “incredible battle,” Ohio State has to keep the score low. The Buckeyes excel in low-scoring affairs but often falter when games require the winner to score more than 70 points. Four of the team’s five conference losses occurred when opponents posted over 70 points. The Bucks have simply lacked the secondary scoring needed to keep up with high-flying offenses. Aaron Craft and DeShaun Thomas can only carry the team so far. Though Smith, Sam Thompson and Evan Ravenal often provide some support, it is not enough to consistently score 70 points a night in the Big Ten. Thus OSU has to rely on its defense to help carry the team.

Against Indiana, that starts with defending a National Player of the Year candidate in Oladipo and an ever-dangerous playmaker in Zeller. But stopping Christian Watford must also be a focus for Ohio State. The senior forward hurt the Bucks for 20 points in the last meeting, connecting on four of five shots from behind the arc. You can’t forget Jordan Hulls either, as the senior averages 10.7 points per game and likes to shoot from deep. Overall, Indiana averages a whopping 81.9 points per night. Facing the Hoosiers offense compares to Luke Fickell’s defense taking on AJ McCarron, Eddie Lacy and the Alabama offense of last year. Thad Matta’s defense will have a tough time tonight. His team is known for playing stout D, but Indiana’s offense is a whole different beast. The Buckeyes need to turn up the knob another notch if this game is going to be close.

On offense, Thomas obviously needs to have a big night. The junior forward (19.9 ppg) is the heart of the offense, and without him to lead it, the unit sputters. Craft also plays a critical role, as he is the quarterback of the offense and the soul of the team. The junior point guard must show his well-known tenacity and aggressiveness if the rest of the team is to follow suit. Smith, Ravenal, Thompson and others must also put up significant figures. Coming off the bench, look closely at LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott and Amir Williams. If one or more of these three men can step up and give the team quality minutes, as well as some points off the bench, the Bucks will be in much better position.

As a whole, the OSU offense needs more explosiveness than it has shown in the past five games, when the team has shot just 41.9 percent. The Buckeyes need to shoot the ball better than that tonight. Defense will only take you so far against the Hoosiers. Defense may keep the game close, but to put away the troublesome Hoosiers, you need to have the hot hand down the stretch.

Indiana is no easy foe to face on the road, especially on an emotional Senior Night for three Hoosiers. There is a reason Ohio State has not taken down a ranked Indiana team in Assembly Hall since 2000. But the Bucks do have a chance to topple the giants of the Big Ten. Though the odds are stacked against OSU, with a combination of stellar defense and secondary scoring, the Buckeyes can capture a crucial road victory heading into Tournament season.

Week #11: Northwestern University – Open Thread

The stretch run is upon us. Three more games, three chances to finally get it right. Will it happen this week? Will everything click, come together and finally give us all something to smile about? We can all hope so.

For the game particulars, including copious amounts of data, Buckeye Planet delivers. Most other OSU blogs get their previews up on Fridays, after this post has been set to go live, so make sure you check in at Eleven Warriors and Buckeye Commentary. For an alternate look at how Ohio State and Northwestern stack up, statistically speaking, Lake the Posts delivers. Hail to the Purple looks at the match-up as well.

Some other tidbits. Beanie Wells “practiced more last week than he had during any of the previous three weeks leading into games.”… Previously injured (and thought to be done for the season) J. B. Shugarts will be available to play tomorrow. Northwestern may play two QBs… Hartline will take over punt return duty for the suspended Small… Will the weather be a factor?

Ohio State needs to look good these last few games. All three look like they should be gimme games. Northwestern will probably offer the most resistance, as Illinois is going to suffer a gigantic “revenge” spanking and Michigan is TRBL.

Northwestern is hurting and Ohio State looks to be healthy and hungry coming off the bye week. Look for a big game from Beanie, especially if the weather is disagreeable to a passing game. The defense is a given at this point, with the defensive line finally playing cohesively and getting better as the season goes on. This may look close early on, but Ohio State should pull away with an easy win.

I’m interested to see what effect the Ray Small incident has on this team. I don’t have any inside information, so I don’t know what relationships are like between players, but an incident like this can have a ripple effect through the team. Was he a chronic slacker, constantly getting into trouble? Or was it just a kid being a kid. Either way, I hope this tightens up the discipline and brings the team closer together.

No contests or prizes this week, but we won’t let that stop us from having fun guessing the final outcome. Prediction time!

el Kaiser predicts:
OSU: 27
Northwestern: 9

Predictions, thoughts and criticism are welcome in the comments.

sportsMonkey predicts:
OSU: 27
Northwestern: 3