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Chris Dufresne's preseason top 25: No. 8 Ohio State

The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25, one day (and team) at a time.

August 27, 2009|Chris Dufresne

The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25, one day (and team) at a time:

No. 8 Ohio State

This is a big year for the Big Ten Conference and poster program Ohio State, still making equity withdrawals from the miracle of the 2002 season that ended with a stunning double-overtime win over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.

That's the game, you'll recall, in which Miami players ran onto the field to the bursts of fireworks thinking they had won the national championship in overtime only to get stage-hooked back to the sideline by a penalty call that resulted in Ohio State's running onto the field to celebrate.

A replay of that Ohio State-Miami game still runs on a continuous loop on big-screen television in the Columbus airport. Bystanders gather around it like it was the moon landing.

That scrappy Buckeyes team had no business beating mighty Miami, which took a 34-game winning streak into the game -- but it did.

That 14-0 Buckeyes team, directed by Craig Krenzel, a quarterback who led the team in rushing that championship night, slipped nooses all season. It won five games by a total of 24 points.

And that team, Jim Tressel's second at Ohio State, was so seven years ago.

Tressel arrived at Ohio State the same year Pete Carroll pitched tent at USC. Tressel's record in eight seasons is 83-19 compared to Carroll's 88-15, so this isn't about job security.

For the Buckeyes, it's about recalibrating pride in program and conference.

The Big Ten went 1-6 in bowl games last season and Ohio State, since 2005, has gotten laughed out of two national title games and last year let a Fiesta Bowl slip away to Texas.

Ohio State enters the season with one of the nation's premier gems in 6-foot-6 sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor, a LeBron James-type talent who may need to carry a team that lost marquee players.

The talent drain includes tailback Beanie Wells, both receivers named Brian (Robiskie and Hartline) and, on defense, all-conference linebacker James Laurinaitis and defensive back Malcolm Jenkins.

Ohio State still draws on more talent than any Big Ten team, but people are starting to wonder just what that means.

After a testy home opener against Navy, which operates a triple-option that could give the Buckeyes fits, Ohio State hosts USC on Sept. 12 in Ohio Stadium.

People in Columbus are amped up. The spring game drew more than 94,000.

Ohio State has to beat USC to reclaim some touting territory, and it will be interesting to see whether Pryor is up to the task.

The Buckeyes have been picked to win the Big Ten despite losing at home last year to Penn State, 13-6.

The Nittany Lions stuffed Ohio State's running game and held Pryor to six rushing yards.

Pryor did complete 16 of 25 passes, but seemed to lack the arm strength to pull out the win in the end.

USC probably has a copy of that game tape.

The Trojans also crushed Ohio State, 35-3, last year in the Coliseum.

To be fair, Beanie Wells was injured and didn't play in the game.

Wells isn't playing this year, either.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/DufresneLATimes

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