Midseason report: Ohio State Buckeyes
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
OHIO STATE (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten)
Few teams have gone through as much drama and change as Ohio State in the first half of the season. Star running back Chris "Beanie" Wells went down in the opener, and the saga regarding America's most famous toe began. Wells went from probable to doubtful to out of the mega matchup at USC, and Ohio State once again stumbled in the national spotlight. Next came a quarterback change, as Terrelle Pryor, the nation's No. 1 recruit, became the first freshman to start under center for the Buckeyes since 1978. The Pryor-Wells backfield added a new element to the offense, but repeated struggles in the passing game have increased frustration among players. Almost forgotten is the fact Ohio State still has a shot at winning an unprecedented third consecutive outright Big Ten title.
Offensive MVP -- It hasn't been a great season for this unit, but Wells is doing his part. Ohio State hasn't lost a game with Wells, who averages 119.8 rush yards and a whopping 6.7 yards a carry in limited action. When Wells hurt his toe, most knew the Buckeyes had lost their best player, but they also lost their best on-field leader. Wells generates confidence among his teammates and has helped Pryor with his transition into the starting role.
Defensive MVP -- As one of several seniors who stiff-armed the NFL for one final run in Columbus, cornerback Malcolm Jenkins has only further boosted his pro stock. Jenkins leads the Buckeyes in pass breakups (5) and ranks second in the league in interceptions (3), including a clinching pick Oct. 4 at Wisconsin. Last week he blocked a punt that led to Ohio State's only touchdown against Purdue. Other notables include linebackers James Laurinaitis (league-high 67 tackles), Marcus Freeman and Ross Homan.
What's next -- Two huge games, a trip Saturday to No. 20 Michigan State followed by a home contest against No. 3 Penn State. Win both, and Ohio State will be in position for another Big Ten title. But the offense will have to be sharper, especially against Penn State, for the Buckeyes to keep their BCS hopes alive. Pryor hasn't lost a game as the starter, but he looks his age at times and needs to throw the ball away when the plays aren't there to be made. The run defense needs to be solid down the stretch as Ohio State faces players like Javon Ringer, Evan Royster, Daryll Clark and last year's nemesis, Juice Williams.