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The Times' preseason college football rankings: No. 19 Ohio State

After a scandal, the Buckeyes are a mystery and will have to hold on until October when four key players return from five-game suspensions.

August 12, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • Ohio State Coach Luke Fickell signals a play from the sidelines during practice Monday in Columbus.
Ohio State Coach Luke Fickell signals a play from the sidelines during practice… (Terry Gilliam / Associated…)

Ohio State was murder on preseason magazines with April deadlines.

You couldn't really blame Athlon for picking the Buckeyes to win the Big Ten "Leaders" division and ranking them ninth nationally.

Sure, the school was in mid-scandal, but Ohio State President Gordon Gee assured everyone in March that Coach Jim Tressel would survive.

"I hope he doesn't fire me!" Gee said.

Editor to back shop: "Keep Ohio State at No. 9 and roll the presses!"

Ohio State could have survived the five-game suspensions of Tressel and several top players for their roles in "Tattoogate" and the subsequent coverup.

Ohio State's first two games, after all, are train-stop stomps: Akron and Toledo.

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the Heisman Trophy candidate, would be back for Nebraska on Oct. 8.

Tressel's sweater vest would be pressed and ready to go.

But then came Memorial Day.

Too late to stop the presses, but the Bucks definitely stopped there.

Tressel announced his resignation just as dads were firing up grills. Ohio State's president and Athletic Director Gene Smith, once gung-ho supportive, turned on Tressel to get ahead of their careers and the NCAA.

It wasn't long after that Pryor bailed out on his senior year, leaving the program to interim coach Luke Fickell and the fickle finger of fate.

What Ohio State is now is anyone's guess. The quarterback could be 26-year old Joe Bauserman or incoming freshman Braxton Miller.

Fickell is probably in over his head, but he's a born and bred Columbus man who played for John Cooper and didn't have much time to be scared.

"Everything happened pretty fast," he said at Big Ten media day. "The greatest thing I guess is I had no time to sit and think."

Ohio State has gone from national title contender to … only Woody knows.

The Buckeyes still have talent and just need to hold on until October, when they'll return four key players from five-game suspensions: receiver DeVier Posey, tailback Daniel Herron, offensive tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas.

The Oct. 8 game at Nebraska could be make or break. Still unknown is how the loss of Tressel and Pryor will affect team chemistry and morale.

Ohio State vacated all of its 2010 wins, including the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas, but faces further possible sanctions from the NCAA. Buckeyes officials testified Friday before the NCAA and have done a masterful job isolating Tressel as the master evildoer. The NCAA has stated it won't pursue with the punitive "failure to monitor" charge.

If you don't think things are different, though, consider the coaching matchup for Ohio State-Michigan.

It used to be Woody vs. Bo.

Now it's (Luke) Fickell vs. (Brady) Hoke.

The countdown so far: 25. Texas; 24. Georgia; 23. Arkansas; 22. Arizona State; 21. West Virginia; 20. Auburn.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/dufresnelatimes

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