Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Midseason report: Ohio State
By Adam Rittenberg
Ohio State Buckeyes
Record: 3-3 (0-2 Big Ten)
The Big Ten's flagship program for the past decade has been brought to its knees in the first half of the season. While it's not a total surprise after a tumultuous spring and summer that brought the departures of head coach Jim Tressel and starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the Buckeyes and their fans aren't used to this. First-year coach Luke Fickell has been dealt a difficult hand from the start, particularly on offense, as Pryor's departure and the suspensions of three other multiyear starters have taken a toll. Ohio State had two of its worst offensive performances in recent memory in losses to Miami and Michigan State, the latter nearly marking Ohio State's first scoreless effort at home since 1982. QBs Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller struggled through the first five games, but Miller emerged Saturday night against Nebraska, displaying his athleticism as Ohio State surged to a 27-6 third-quarter lead. On the brink of a breakthrough win, things fell apart as Miller left the game with an ankle injury and Ohio State melted down in a 34-27 loss. It capped a lousy weekend where Ohio State learned top receiver DeVier Posey would be suspended five more games. Meanwhile, Ohio State awaits a bigger decision from the NCAA's infractions committee. The second half doesn't get much easier for Fickell and the Buckeyes.
Offensive MVP: Running back Carlos Hyde. The offense struggled mightily in the first half, but Hyde emerged as a bright spot in the backfield. Filling in for two suspended projected starters -- Jordan Hall and Dan "Boom" Herron -- Hyde has recorded 400 rush yards and five touchdowns, averaging 5.3 yards per attempt. He has eclipsed 75 rush yards in three games and racked up 104 yards and two touchdowns, including a 63-yarder, on Saturday night at Nebraska.
Defensive MVP: Linebacker Andrew Sweat. Sweat is the team's only returning starter at linebacker, and he has looked like it in the first half. He leads Ohio State in both total tackles (43) and tackles for loss (5), and he has added three passes defended, an interception and a forced fumble. Linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins and safety C.J. Barnett also have stood out.