Buckeyes set to begin Big 10 play

Published 12:47 am Monday, September 26, 2011

COLUMBUS (AP) — Everyone around Ohio State knew the first four games would be a bumpy ride.

Now comes the hard part.

The Buckeyes (3-1) survived the non-conference portion of their schedule with only one slip, a 24-6 loss at Miami. Along the way, they discovered they could get by without three suspended starters on offense, including their best receiver and top rusher, while also sorting out a muddled competition at quarterback.

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Michigan State (3-1) comes to Ohio Stadium on Saturday in the Big Ten opener.

“I think we’re ready for conference play,” Ohio State defensive lineman John Simon said in the wake of a 37-17 knockout of Colorado on Saturday. “The Big Ten is always a grueling season for us. We’ve definitely got things we’ve got to shore up on film and then we’ll start breaking down Michigan State. We’ll be ready by Saturday.”

This is the first of a series of tests for the Buckeyes. After hosting the Spartans, the Buckeyes play at No. 8 Nebraska, at No. 24 Illinois, have a bye week and then entertain No. 7 Wisconsin.

“It’s definitely going to be a challenge,” tailback Jordan Hall said after rushing for 84 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown and returning a kickoff 90 yards to set up another score against the Buffaloes. “We’re going to use this game to see what we can learn from and get better.”

The road is uphill for Michigan State as well. After the visit to Columbus, the Spartans have a bye week, then host No. 19 Michigan and Wisconsin before hitting the road to play the Cornhuskers.

“The next stretch of football games, the next eight, are going to be difficult football games,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said after Saturday’s 45-7 win over Central Michigan. “That’s the way it is in this conference. You expect that.”