For those of us who can't wait until football season actually starts, BuckeyeSports.com is providing the next best thing: a computer simulation. Each morning during the week will simulate one week of the season culminating in an OSU bowl game or, possibly, a national championship.
(Note: everything in this article is based off simulating events on NCAA Football 2007. The game does not assign players, so I came up with names myself.)
COLUMBUS, Ohio – It might not have been the beginning Buckeye fans expected for their season, but the final outcome was much more in line.
After falling behind upstart Northern Illinois (0-1) by a 17-0 first-quarter margin, the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0) used a methodical, balanced attack to churn out 38 unanswered second-half points and cruise to a 41-17 victory on Alumni Band Day at Ohio Stadium.
As predicted before the game by ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, the unquestioned star of the game was junior tailback Antonio Pittman.
"(Northern Illinois) has spent all off-season trying to figure out how to stop him, but I still don't think they will," Herbstreit told viewers. "He's going to have a big day."
Pittman finished with 19 carries for 95 yards and four touchdowns – all rushes of seven yards or less. Not far behind was the collective play of the Ohio State defense, which perhaps showed its age after allowing the first-quarter scoring barrage.
With just two returning starters on the field for the first snap, Northern Illinois' quarterback Phil Horvath directed the Huskies to three first-quarter scoring drives. Both touchdowns were by senior tailback Garrett Wolfe, who led all rushers with 105 yards on 23 carries.
The rest of the NIU ballcarriers combined for eight carries for negative 20 yards thanks to a stifling OSU defense led by senior defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock, who finished with 12 tackles – eight for loss – and three sacks.
The Buckeyes managed just a field goal – a 24 yard boot by sophomore Ryan Pretorius – before the half ended. It wasn't until the third quarter that OSU managed to get its much-hyped offense rolling.
After trading possessions, Pittman capitalized a drive that took more than five minutes with the first OSU touchdown of the season – a one-yard scamper that pulled the Buckeyes to within a touchdown with 5:15 remaining in the quarter.
The OSU defense again held the Huskies – who were forced to utilize three quarterbacks during the game due to injuries – off the scoreboard, and the offense wasted little time knotting the game at 17. Pre-season Heisman Trophy candidate Troy Smith capped a drive that lasted all of 2:14 with a two-yard keeper, tying the game with 1:51 remaining in the third quarter.
Then the floodgates opened.
Three more Pittman touchdown rushes – of seven, three and two yards, respectively – and a 39-yard field goal by Pretorious finished the game for the Buckeyes, who entered the season as the preseason favorites to win a national championship.
NIU clogged Smith's passing lanes, limiting the OSU signal-caller to just 11 completions and 74 yards on 21 attempts. His top target was junior wideout Anthony Gonzalez, who nabbed five catches for 24 yards. Junior Ted Ginn, Jr. was held to just one catch for no gain. Still, Smith managed to gain 80 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries.
Freshman tailback Chris Wells, who ascended to second on the depth chart following an impressive spring, saw limited action in his first game as a Buckeye. The native of Akron, Ohio was pulled down in the backfield for a two-yard loss in his regular-season debut.
Ohio State outgained NIU in total yardage, 260-244, but the biggest difference was in the yardage on the ground. The Buckeyes racked up 186 yards as a team compared to 85 for their opponent. The OSU defensive line also recorded five sacks compared to the Huskies' one.
After week one, Ohio State remained firmly entrenched at the top of the coaches poll. The top 10 schools are as follows(first-place votes are in parentheses):
1. Ohio State (39)
2. Texas (21)
3. Notre Dame (1)
9. West Virginia
Penn State is ranked 12th, while Michigan is right behind them at No. 13.
In the Big Ten, Northwestern dropped its opener to Miami of Ohio, 38-31, while Indiana lost to Western Michigan, 42-10. Purdue was idle.
1. (tie) Michigan 1-0
Penn State 1-0
Ohio State 1-0
Michigan State 1-0
9. Northwestern 0-1
10. Purdue 0-0
11. Indiana 0-1
News & Notes
-Troy Smith is one of the top five candidates for the Heisman Trophy awarded annually to the nation's top collegiate players. The other four candidates are Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, Oklahoma tailback Adrian Peterson, Florida quarterback Chris Leak and USC wideout Steve Smith.
-The Big Ten announced its players of the week: Illinois tailback E.B. Halsey and Iowa cornerback Charles Godfrey.
-Ohio State wideout Devon Lyons, back on offense after beginning his OSU career as a wideout but then was switched to defensive back, was injured in OSU's season-opening victory over Northern Illinois. He is expected to mix three weeks and will be replaced on the depth chart by sophomore Albert Dukes. Lyons had one catch for 26 yards against the Huskies.
-Also on the injury front: Michigan wideout Steve Breaston is expected to miss two weeks, while Penn State cornerback Justin King and linebacker Tim Shaw will each miss eight weeks.
Despite not being all that impressed with the Buckeyes' season-opening victory, Slade Bobo, the nation's top strong safety prospect still lists OSU at the top of his list of schools, ahead of Michigan and Tennessee.
The OSU coaches are going to have to work a lot harder to impress guard Joel Keyes, who liked his unofficial visit the week before but still lists the Buckeyes as eighth on his list with Notre Dame as the school to beat.
The same goes for Cameron Houston and tackle Reggie Tidwell, both of whom were in Columbus for unofficial visits. Neither were very impressed and both list the Buckeyes towards the bottom of their lists: Tidwell has OSU fifth with the Nittany Lions as the team to beat, while Houston has the Buckeyes last with Penn State in first.
Five-star wideout prospect Mark McMillan said his unofficial visit went "decent," and the top WR prospect in the country has OSU second behind Notre Dame and ahead of Penn State and Michigan.
Top-ranked Ohio State will take to the road to face No. 2 Texas in a prime-time showdown under the lights. Texas rolled to a 38-10 victory over North Texas in its season-opener.
The Longhorns are led by the passing attack of Matthew McCoy, who completed 25 of 36 passes for 314 yards and four touchdowns against North Texas. Four of those catches and 90 of the yards went to Jordan Shipley, while Selvin Young carried the ball 16 times for 110 yards. Freshman linebacker Sergio Kindle leads the Longhorns with seven tackles.