Marshall-Ohio St. Preview

Ohio State is determined to ignore the national championship

hype surrounding its team. The fact that the person calling for

focus is Terrelle Pryor is evidence of just how dangerous these

matured Buckeyes could be.

In his third year as starting quarterback, Pryor and

second-ranked Ohio State open the 2010 season Thursday night at

home against Marshall.

The versatile Pryor is looking to take the Buckeyes to the next

level after they went 11-2 last season and won their fifth

consecutive Big Ten title. They defeated Oregon 26-17 in the Rose

Bowl to finish the season ranked fifth in the AP poll.

With Pryor, a Heisman Trophy candidate, returning, and a

defensive unit that was among the nation’s best last year bringing

back most of its starters, Ohio State is an early favorite to

challenge for a national title.

However, the Buckeyes are quick to brush off the talk,

especially after blowout losses in the 2006 and 2007 BCS

championship games.

“We don’t need none of the hype,” Pryor said. “There’s always

going to be the roundup of the top teams. We don’t need to read any

of that stuff. We just need to focus and to take care of the

business we need to take care of.”

The Buckeyes, who follow their opener with an intriguing home

game against No. 13 Miami next weekend, hope Pryor’s vocal

leadership and increased maturity are signs this year’s team can

live up to expectations. The quarterback, who was named Rose Bowl

MVP, passed for 2,094 yards, 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions

last season while leading the Buckeyes in rushing with 779 yards

and seven TDs. He had offseason knee surgery after suffering an

injury that decreased his mobility.

“It’s a huge difference from when he first got here to now, his

maturity and how he became a leader,” safety Tyler Moeller said.

“When he first got here, I don’t think too many people liked him,

really. He was kind of a punk. But now I have the utmost respect

for him. He’s a great player and a great leader and I’d follow him

into battle any day.”

Two of Pryor’s favorite targets return for 2010 – DeVier Posey

(60 catches for 828 yards and eight TDs in 2009) and Dane

Sanzenbacher (36 receptions for 570 yards and six TDs). Also back

are the team’s leading four rushers from 2009, including Pryor.

Not to be overlooked is the defense, which ranked fifth in

Football Bowl Subdivision in points allowed with 12.5 per game, was

fourth with 262.3 total yards per game allowed and tied for second

with 24 interceptions.

Top tacklers Ross Homan and Brian Rolle return for their senior

seasons as does defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, who had a

team-high 6 1/2 sacks and 10 tackles for loss.

The Buckeyes should also be helped by the return of Moeller,

missed all of last season after suffering a fractured skull and

brain injury in an offseason incident at a restaurant/bar. The

senior is finally back at full strength.

“We missed him sorely,” coach Jim Tressel said. “It’s going to

be huge to have him back.”

Tressel’s defensive unit will look to dominate a Marshall

offense that struggled last year, ranking in the bottom third of

the FBS with 21.8 points and 349.1 total yards per game.

The Thundering Herd have a new coach in former West Virginia

assistant John Holliday after a 6-6 regular season record led to

Mark Snyder’s resignation before a 21-17 win over Ohio in the

Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl. Holliday was also a member of Urban

Meyer’s staff on Florida’s 2006 national championship team.

Senior Brian Anderson returns at quarterback after throwing for

2,646 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. He also threw 13

interceptions.

Besides visiting Ohio State, Marshall will host No. 25 West

Virginia on Sept. 10, providing an early test for the new coach.

The Thundering Herd have lost nine straight games against ranked

opponents since winning at then-No. 6 Kansas State in 2003.

“Hope and pray I guess,” Holliday responded when asked how to

contain Pryor. “I’m not sure you can totally contain him. … He is

a great challenge for us.”

The Buckeyes, who haven’t dropped a home opener since a 19-0

loss to Penn State in 1978, will try to avoid another scare in

their first game after holding on for a 31-27 win over Navy last

year.

Ohio State most recently faced Marshall in 2004, winning

24-21.