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2006 Longhorns Season Preview: Ohio State

As promised, we'll continue our Super Duper Early Yes-We-Know-It's-February-So-Save-Your-Breath Preview of the 2006 football season with a look at the showdown with Ohio State in Austin. Our SBN site for Ohio State, Around the Oval, took offense to yesterday's post about how many talented players the Buckeyes were losing to the NFL.

The Bucks defense will suffer next season, but the offense is going to be tremendous. Troy Smith is going to be a Heisman candidate, Ted Ginn will be Ted Ginn, and Antonio Pittman is fast becoming an absolute stud.

Aside from probably irking Brian with the "stud" reference, the conclusion that the offense will be "tremendous" seems dubious to me. Ohio State played two teams with stellar defenses last year: Texas and Penn State. In neither game was the offense anywhere near tremendous.

Ohio State's offense last year was, I would argue, bad at the beginning of the year and above average at the end of the year. I would argue that it was never tremendous and that the loss of Santonio Holmes is going to keep that offense from taking a step forward next year. Ohio State's lone offensive play of excellence against Texas, it's worth mentioning, was a Santonio Holmes touchdown reception.

Around the Oval actually spells out perfectly one of the big problems for Ohio State on offense: Ted Ginn will be Ted Ginn. As in, the one who runs crappy routes and has a reputation that far exceeds anything he's done on the field. And Pittman, while a solid back, isn't running through stiff defenses. The fact is that, for a change, the Big 10 defenses last year were pretty crummy. It was the offenses that were better than usual.

And that leads us to the real problem for Ohio State. The Texas defense is going to be elite again next year. The defensive line is going to be ferocious; I am convinced next year's line will be better than this year's was, and that's saying something. The linebacking crew loses Aaron Harris but adds Sergio Kindle and (to my delight) a full time Robert Killebrew. The secondary, clearly the biggest question mark as we sit here projecting in February, returns more experience than one might imagine with the departure of Huff and Griffin.

The short of it is that Ohio State's not going to score much, on the road, against this unit. We have the speed to handle Ginn (as we handled Reggie Bush), the size to go to war in the trenches on the line, and, lest we forget one of the biggest heroes of the 2005 championship team, Gene Chizik. The man doesn't lose.

We haven't answered the other lingering question posed by Around the Oval. What's gonna happen in LAV (Life After Vince). Well, the hangover's gone, we've moved to acceptance and wished him well, and life does indeed go on. We don't yet know who the Texas quarterback will be, or if he'll be any good. It's no gimme that one of the two, between Colt McCoy and Jevan Snead, will be able to step in right away and play well.

Fortunately, they won't have to. For Texas is going to run the ball like no other next year. With the four-headed monster of Jamaal Charles, Ramonce Taylor, Selvin Young, and Henry Melton returning to the field, headlined by Charles, the Texas running game is poised to pound-pound-pound its opponents in to submission. Record numbers in rushing attempts seems likely, in my opinion. And Jamaal Charles is going to be a Heisman candidate in 2007 after everyone gets to see a full year of him at the helm.

The matchup with Ohio State would be problematic (terrifying, even), were it not for the facts we pointed to in yesterday's post. They're losing so much elite talent to the NFL that the defense that was so good this year is poised to take a step or two back. I'm certain that Sweatervest will have a strong defensive team by the end of the year, but it's going to take a little time. It's time Ohio State won't have. The game in Austin is the second week of the season.

Add it all up and I can't imagine Ohio State leaving Austin with a victory. I don't think that the Smith-Ginn-Pittman triumvirate is enough to score much on Texas, and I don't think the fresh faces on defense will be able to control the Texas running game. The Buckeyes will be a strong team next year, but in the second week of the season, they won't be strong enough to beat Texas. Of course, it's February, so don't get too worked up about it one way or the other. We'll rehash it all plenty in the coming months. Still, the early prediction is in: Horns win in Austin, 27-13.