By Cory McCartney, SI.com
The day began with the much-anticipated debut of Terrelle Pryor. There hadn't been this much excitement in Columbus since a sweater vest sale at Macy's.
But the wind would be effectively knocked out of the 102,000-plus inside Ohio Stadium, as All-America running back Chris "Beanie" Wells was knocked out of the game.
Wells took a handoff on an inside run, planted his feet and the ball hit the turf. He fell backward and was writhing in pain on the ground before being helped off the field by trainers with an apparent right ankle injury.
Wells returned to the sideline a short time later with a walking boot, but no crutches. He was able to put pressure on the ankle, which is very refreshing for Bucks fans. But it poses a couple of major questions for the Buckeyes:
1) How bad is the injury?
2) Will he be ready to play against USC on Sept. 13?
The simple fact that he was back on the sideline is a good sign for Ohio State. Wells played much of last season with an injured left ankle and a bum wrist and still rushed for 1,609 yards. Also, he can rest next week against Ohio before taking on the Trojans.
But what if? What if Wells can't go against the Trojans or even longer? The backups -- senior Maurice Wells, sophomore Brandon Saine and redshirt freshman Daniel Herron -- are capable, but they're combined career yardage is less than Wells ran for just last season and none of them can match the mix of speed and strength that Beanie possesses.
Without Wells, Ohio State's best bet running the football may be that all-world freshman that set off a frenzy in his collegiate debut: Mr. Pryor. But despite a strong first impression (4-of-6 passing, nine runs for 52 yards and a touchdown) Jim Tressel likely won't put that much pressure on Pryor at this point in his career. Yes, he's a ridiculous talent but let's not forget, the only action he's seen at this point is against Youngstown State.
For the time being, Ohio State fans have exchanged their nail-biting for a sigh of relief after seeing Beanie on the sideline. But if for some reason he isn't on the field against the Trojans (and beyond), Ohio State's national title hopes obviously take an enormous hit. Without Wells, this team just isn't anywhere near as dangerous. Even with Pryor energizing the crowd.