Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Midseason report: Ohio State
By Adam Rittenberg
Record: 7-0 (3-0 Big Ten)
Ohio State can't tackle. It has endured multiple special teams breakdowns. It recently moved starting fullback Zach Boren to linebacker to a depth-starved position (he proceeded to lead the team in tackles against Indiana). It has endured multiple key injuries, particularly on the defensive side. Dropped passes have been an issue, too.
So what's the Buckeyes' record a little past the halfway point of Urban Meyer's first season? It's perfect. Few would argue that Ohio State has been the Big Ten's best team so far this fall.
If this is what Meyer can do with a flawed team in his first season, think about what he'll accomplish in the coming seasons at Ohio State.
The biggest reason for Ohio State's unblemished record is sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller. No Big Ten player -- and perhaps no player nationally -- has meant more to his team's success than Miller has to the Buckeyes. Although many pegged Miller to thrive in Meyer's spread offense, his first-year progress has exceeded all expectations. Through seven games, he has 1,271 pass yards, 912 rush yards and 20 touchdowns (11 pass, 9 rush), putting himself very much on the Heisman Trophy radar. The offense has had other bright spots -- running back Carlos Hyde, big-play receiver Devin Smith, a surging line -- and is well ahead of schedule as a unit, putting up 115 points the past two weeks.
Ohio State might have the offensive firepower to run the table in a weak Big Ten, but fixing the defense is the top priority for Meyer and his staff. Despite boasting several playmakers -- cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Travis Howard, linebacker Ryan Shazier, linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins -- the Buckeyes need to get back to their roots on that side of the ball.
Offensive MVP: QB Braxton Miller. The most obvious choice we'll make in any of the midseason team capsules. Ohio State wouldn't be undefeated without Miller and likely would have multiple losses on its résumé. He has been unstoppable as a runner and better-than-expected as a passer, completing 60.4 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has five 100-yard rushing performances and five games with at least 300 yards of total offense. He needs 88 yards to become the first Ohio State quarterback to record 1,000 rush yards in a season.
Defensive MVP: CB Bradley Roby. The Silver Bullets aren't performing at their usual standard, but Roby has been one of the Big Ten's most dynamic defenders in the first seven games. He's tied for the national lead in passes defended with 14, five more than any other Big Ten player, and recorded two interceptions in an Oct. 6 win against Nebraska, including a pick-six in the first quarter. Roby also had a punt block against Michigan State, a recovery of a punt block for a touchdown against Indiana and 33 tackles (2 for loss). Shazier and Simon also merit mentions.