Ohio State Buckeyes 2008 College Football Team Preview

By: Dwayne Bryant

Ohio State's last two seasons ended in heartbreak with losses in the national title game. Two years ago, Florida routed the Buckeyes, 41-14. Last season, it was another SEC foe, LSU, who stomped Ohio State, 38-24. With almost all starters returning, I expect Ohio State to make another run at the national championship.

Junior running back Chris "Beanie" Wells is coming off a season in which he ran for over 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns. Included in that yardage total is a 222-yard performance against rival Michigan. It stands as the best rushing performance ever for a Buckeye against Michigan. Wells also tallied 146 yards in the BCS National Championship Game against LSU.

Quarterback Todd Boeckman returns for his senior season. With Wells in the backfield and a veteran offensive line protecting him, Boeckman should have little trouble getting the ball to his favorite targets, wide receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline. Robiskie led the team last season with 55 catches for 935 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hartline wasn't too far behind Robiskie with 52 receptions of his own. Robiskie and Hartline must stay healthy because Ohio State has no clear third receiving threat at this time.

Defensively, the Buckeyes were nearly invincible last season. Ohio State ranked first nationally in points allowed per game (12.8), passing yards allowed per game (150.2) and total yards per game (233). They were also third nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (82.9).

Ohio State plays a 4-3 defense that gets regular pressure on passing downs and reroutes running plays to the middle where linebacker James Laurinaitis resides. Laurinaitis, a Butkus Award winner, has size, speed and all the intangibles. Outside linebacker Marcus Freeman has been second on the team in tackles (behind Laurinaitis) each of the last two seasons and I can easily see that happening again this season.

Ohio State is deep along the defensive line, which will allow them to keep fresh bodies on the field at all times. The secondary is also very talented with all four starters returning, including Thorpe Award candidate Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins, a senior cornerback, will be joined in the secondary by fellow cornerback Donald Washington and safeties Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell.

Ohio State should see improvement in their kick return coverage this season with the return of Aaron Pettrey, who was injured for a majority of last season. Punter A.J. Trapasso also returns. Trapasso is very skilled at placing kicks inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Ryan Pretorius, an accurate kicker, is also back for his senior season.

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see this team back in the national title game for the third straight year. They have nine starters returning on both sides of the ball, including some All-American candidates. They also have head coach Jim Tressel, who has already won a Division I-A national title.

The defense should be fierce once again, even without Vernon Gholston. If the offense can sustain drives and limit turnovers (Boeckman threw 14 interceptions last season and Wells has a history of fumbling), then I can see Ohio State right back in the national title game in January 2009.

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