Not to worry. These are high times on High Street, as the Buckeyes return nine starters on both sides of the ball. Coach Jim Tressel not only reeled in the nation's top recruit at any position, quarterback Terrelle Pryor, but he also landed Michigan's only returning All-Big Ten offensive player, guard Justin Boren, who made the unprecedented move of transferring from "Go Blue!" to OSU.
Beyond Columbus' confines, the supposed contenders to Buckeye hegemony all have a similar conundrum: inexperience in the backfield. Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin will have first-time starters at quarterback. Indiana may or may not have to replace junior Kellen Lewis (28 TD passes in '07), who was suspended for all of spring ball for the dreaded "violation of team rules".
At running back, Illinois loses Big Ten Player of the Year Rashard Mendenhall, while Iowa's running backs enter 2008 with a combined total of zero carries for the Hawkeyes. Kirk Ferentz currently has Paki O'Meara, a former walk-on who spent parts of his childhood in Melbourne, Australia, and Western Samoa, atop the depth chart.
Elsewhere, Michigan State is rising, as is Minnesota, which has nowhere to go but up following a 1-11 season. Purdue, as always, is overdue, but senior quarterback Curtis Painter should provide a masterstroke here or there. And at Northwestern, which is breaking in both a new offensive and defensive coordinator, they did not keep score during the spring game. If only …
CONFERENCE GAME OF THE YEAR
Oct. 18: Ohio State at Michigan State
Call us crazy.
True, Wisconsin is undefeated (14-0) in Madison in coach Bret "I'm a" Bielema's first two seasons, and so the Buckeyes' Oct. 4 visit to Camp Randall Stadium might seem fraught with peril. The Badgers, however, have a first-year starter in quarterback in Allan Evridge and remain loyal to an Ambien-like offense.
The trip to East Lansing, however, represents a classic letdown game (a week before Penn State visits). For years, decades even, Michigan State was a repository of NFL talent with pre-school maturity. Second-year coach Mark D'Antonio is erasing that stigma. The Spartans may have lost six games in his first season, but none was by more than seven points.
Look out, Columbus. The other "school from up north" is the one to be wary of this season.
NON-CONFERENCE GAME OF THE YEAR
Sept. 13: Ohio State at USC
Those of us who proselytize that "the season is the playoff" are here to tell you that this is, at worst, a Final Four contest. These two last played in the Coliseum in 1989, with the Trojans humbling the Buckeyes 42-3. USC, in fact, has taken five straight from Ohio State dating back to New Year's Day of '75.
The Trojans are absolutely devastating on defense. Defensive end Everson Griffen, linebackers Ray Maualuga and Brian Cushing and safeties Kevin Ellison and Taylor Mays are potential first- or second-team All-Americans. Then again, the only unit to finish with a higher "total defense" ranking than the Trojans last season was Ohio State, who return nine starters themselves on defense.
The past three teams to win the national championship (Texas, Florida and LSU) all beat Ohio State. Will Pete Carroll's crew extend that streak to four? The good news is that the loser of this game still has a shot at the national title should it win out. And if that happens to be Ohio State, it will be that much easier for them to vent their frustrations the following week considering the name of their opponent: Troy.
OTHER KEY NON-CONFERENCE GAMES
Aug. 30: Illinois vs. Missouri at St. Louis
The Tigers are a preseason top-10 squad. Last season's 40-34 Mizzou win was a wild one.
Aug. 30: Utah at Michigan
Rich Rodriguez makes his debut as everyone in the Big House has the words "Appalachian State" on the tips of their tongues.
Aug. 30: Michigan State at California
Great opportunity — and test — for the Spartans.
Sept. 13: Oregon at Purdue
Ducks humiliated Michigan in Ann Arbor last September.
Sept. 13: Michigan at Notre Dame
In April, Charlie Weis talked trash about how the Wolverines, who have outscored the Irish 85-21 the past two seasons, would be making excuses for losing in South Bend this year.
Sept. 13: Wisconsin at Fresno State
Bulldogs coach Pat Hill lives for games such as this.
DPS: Alabama head coach Nick Saban was recently trash-talked by colleagues, and he tells Dan Patrick he wishes he was spoken to in private prior to the insults.
Video: Football from NBC Sports
Saban hurt by colleagues' comments?
DPS: Alabama head coach Nick Saban was recently trash-talked by colleagues, and he tells Dan Patrick what he think of these comments.
BCS title game
Pregame color, key plays and other moments from 'Bama's blowout win.
Check out the action from the postseason.
Check out which players were best of the best at each position.
Check out some of the college football cheerleaders from across the country.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.