With just one conference game to play, Penn State now finds itself at the summit of the standings. Ohio State provides the opposition on Sunday, and you’d have to fancy the Nittany Lions to take all three points, but I think the Buckeyes will have their say.
Northwestern and Indiana must be kicking themselves after slipping up over the weekend. The Wildcats were so consistent at home, so to concede a sloppy goal in OT will surely frustrate Tim Lenahan. Northwestern dominated for large parts of the match, and losing a game is not the end of the world. If the Cats win out they will be crowned Big Ten Champions, and sometimes a loss will give a Coach much-needed ammunition for the battles ahead. It’s not all doom and gloom by the lake just yet.
Indiana’s 2-1 loss to Michigan was particularly surprising. The Wolverines have some top-class players, and Chaka Daley must have been the happiest man in Big Ten country to leave Bloomington with all three points. Not only was it Coach Daley’s first road win, or Michigan’s second ever win against the Hoosiers, but Daley’s team battled hard and played for the jersey, coming from a goal down. Last season, Michigan upset Akron, and for me, this win against Indiana is even more impressive.
Indiana slipped up last season against Wisconsin and it cost them dearly, so I’m sure Todd Yeagley was only delighted and relieved to see that the Cats had also fell over the weekend. For the Hoosiers, they now face a really tricky and decisive trip to East Lansing on Sunday to play Michigan State, a team fresh off a comfortable win over Wisconsin. Confidence will be high within Damon Rensing’s squad, and I’m sure they’re gearing themselves toward a push at the Big Ten Tournament. I’d be confident that Indiana will come through, but again, there’s no easy game in the Big Ten.
Speaking of easy games, Ohio State hosts Akron Tuesday. Oh, wait, Akron is No. 3 in the NSCAA National Poll and arguably the best possession team in College Soccer! So how do the Buckeyes get the ‘W’? Well, let’s start with absolutely everything going to plan on the night.
Ohio State will not have much of the ball, that’s for sure, so the Buckeyes need to remain extremely disciplined for 90-plus minutes. Chris Hegngi will most likely play as a lone striker, with a five-man midfield, so when John Bluem’s men do recover possession, they need to support Hegngi on every occasion.
Akron will play a patient game and pick Ohio State off when it sees gaps. It’s important that the Buckeyes press their rivals from the kickoff and let them know they’re in a battle and not on the training ground. The Zips may have the more talented players, but at the end of the day, it’s 11 on 11, and if the Buckeyes approach this contest with the right mentality, there may be an upset on the cards.
If Akron scores early, it’s good luck and good night in Columbus. However, if the men in red break the deadlock early, we may see David topple Goliath once more. Either way, expect 90 minutes of wave after wave attacks. It’s a game that will test the character of this Ohio State team, and I expect them to produce when it counts.
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