The Boys of Columbus face two key early-season tests that could derail their road back to New Orleans for next year’s BCS National Championship Game. OSU struggled in every road game except Minnesota in 2010. After two cupcake home games against Akron and Toledo, the Buckeyes play at Miami (Fla.) in week three. The Hurricanes played zombie football the last half of 2010 — anyone who watched Notre Dame dismantle them in the Sun Bowl could see that. The new eye of the Hurricanes, Al Golden, is a strict disciplinarian. He’ll have slackers running stadium stairs or shown the door. Come week five, the Spartans will visit Columbus. If the NCAA reduces the suspensions of Pryor, Herron, Posey, Adams and Thomas to four games, this could be their first game of the season. But if the NCAA upholds the suspensions, it’s likely Joe Bauserman, Jordan Hall, Corey Brown, Chris Fields, Andrew Norwell and Adam Bellamy will play major roles in beating Sparty, who loses veteran players on defense but returns with a strong offense. If OSU goes without the suspended five against Sparty, it might be a home underdog, which is rare for the Buckeyes. The last time this happened was against USC in 2009. The Sugar Bowl triumph feels good, but OSU might have mortgaged away another national title run in the process. “Through all adversity lies a blessing.” Solomon Thomas said that after Ohio State’s Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas on Jan. 4. In a game full of turbulence, it was fitting that five of the Shameful Six played fabulous roles in the win. But now it’s time to look to next season. By letting those players work their magic in the bowl, OSU might have cursed its 2011 national title hopes. Thomas, Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey and Mike Adams say they’ll return next season, putting OSU ahead of the Big Ten class: Michigan State will lose key players, including All-American linebacker Greg Jones; Wisconsin will lose powerhouse Scott Tolzein, winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given to the top senior quarterback; Iowa has to start over; and Michigan is nowhere to be found. Big Ten newcomers, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, will compete for the 2011 conference crown with quarterback Taylor Martinez. However, it’s a catch-22 for OSU: The Shameful Six were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl, but all except Jordan Whiting can’t play the first five games of next season for their part in Tattoo-gate. OSU appealed to reduce the suspensions. The Sugar Bowl win salvaged 2010 for the Buckeyes, who snapped their nine-bowl-game losing streak against the SEC, dating to 1978. By letting the suspended athletes play in the bowl, OSU might have pulled the plug on a 2011 National Championship run.
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