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Big Ten Football: Penn State and Ohio State in Year Two

ohiostate-wrThe two most intriguing stories in the Big Ten this year, and perhaps all of college football, is what happens with the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Penn State Nittany Lions in “year two”.

Penn State begins year two of the post Joe Paterno era after doing much better than anyone could have expected in the first season in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child rape scandals. The Nittany Lions were nailed with some of the most sever penalties the NCAA has ever handed down. Four years of no bowls, multi-million dollars payouts in fines and settlements, reduction of scholarships and the taking away of 112 wins will continue to be tough to overcome. But last season has to give Lions fans some hope that one day they will be back competing for championships.

Coach Tom O’Brien watched as starters transferred to other schools and endured two tough losses to start the season. But his team played fought hard through more adversity perhaps than any team in college football history in winning eight of their last ten games and going 6-2 in the Big Ten.  So how will the Nittany Lions do in year two under coach O’Brien?

First, they must replace Matt McGloin at quarterback. They may go with a true freshman in Christian Hackenburg, who was a highly recruited quarterback out of Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia. Rivals had him rated #2 among quarterbacks in the nation. That’s not a bad place to start. Even with no hope of a conference or national championship or a bowl game for three more y4ears, O’Brien has hauled in a 2013 class that is among the better classes in the Big Ten, and is well on their way to an even better haul in 2014. O’Brien seems to be the perfect coach for Penn State.

So how will that translate in wins and losses in 2013? They have some fairly tough non-conference opponents in the Syracuse Orange , UCF Knights and Kent State Golden Flashes in their first four games. All three of them are coming off bowl appearances in 2012. The Michigan Wolverines, Ohio State Buckeyes, Nebraska Cornhuskers and Wisconsin Badgers are among their eight Big Ten opponents as well. Another 8-4 record in 2013 would have to be considered a very good year.

The Buckeyes will be eligible for post season play this year. They will also not be replacing their starting quarterback from their 12-0 team a year ago. Braxton Miller will be a Heisman Trophy candidate next season leading the spread offense of second year coach Urban Meyer.

The Buckeyes will have to deal with a new opponent in 2013. Pressure. They will have championships riding on the outcomes of games in 2013. That is something they did not have to deal with in 2012. They won several close games in 2012, so would those games have gone differently with a potential national championship berth at stake? We will soon find that answer.

The Buckeyes 2013 schedule looks like this:

Their first four games are relatively easy with the Buffalo Bulls, San Diego State Aztecs, California Golden Bears and Florida A&M Rattlers. Cal on the road could give them a bit of a test, but the other three should be easy.

Their Big Ten schedule has the Wisconsin Badgers, Northwestern Wildcats, Penn State and the Michigan Wolverines on the slate. It is certainly not a brutal schedule, but one with the potential of a loss or two. Northwestern and Michigan are both on the road. Don’t be surprised if the Ohio State- Michigan game has an awful lot at stake.

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