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Is Ohio State the best team in the nation?

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The Buckeyes have Alabama beat in most major statistical categories, but is it enough to earn them the top spot in a future AP Poll?

NCAA Football: Indiana at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“But if you’re one who believes as much, if not more, in stats and analytics, there’s mounting evidence that the best team in the country through six weeks is the one that handed Saban his most recent postseason loss--Ohio State.”

-Stewart Mandel, FOX Sports

The Alabama Crimson Tide have held the top spot in the AP Poll since they won 2015’s College Football Playoff. They opened the season with a 52-6 romp of USC, and have followed up with big wins over the likes of Ole Miss and Arkansas--both of which were played on the road--on their way to a 6-0 record and a tie for the top spot in the SEC West. This week, the Tide received 56 or 61 first place votes in the poll, and there seems to be little talk of anyone else deserving the top spot.

Still, the Buckeyes are a surprising contender for the No. 1 spot, having most recently defeated Indiana by 21. Their defensive rankings would certainly suggest that the Buckeyes might be better than they are getting credit for, coming in second nationally in total defense, allowing just 3.7 yards per play, and scoring defense with opponents scoring just 10.3 points per game. On the offensive side, the Buckeyes have averaged 53.2 points per game (No. 3 nationally) and 537.6 yards per game (No. 5), all while maintaining a +1.6 turnover margin (No. 4). Alabama, though impressive in all of their contests thus far, remains lower than Ohio State in each of these categories. Ohio State also trumps Alabama in the S&P+ efficiency rankings, as well as Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings.

This week, both Ohio State and Alabama are heading into their toughest games up to this point, with the Buckeyes headed to Madison to face Wisconsin and the Tide to Tennessee. With two in-conference road matchups against highly-ranked opponents, each team has the opportunity to separate itself from the competition and garner more first-place AP Poll votes prior to the first College Football Playoff Committee vote, which is scheduled to come out Nov. 1.

“Until Ohio State plays a full season and beats Michigan, let’s pump the brakes on the Buckeyes-Browns comparisons.”

-Nicholas Goss, NESN

Even before a 20-point loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots, Ohio residents already seemed to have lost all confidence in the Cleveland Browns. According to a poll conducted by Public Polling Policy in Ohio in preparation for November’s presidential election, 62 percent of Ohioans believe that the Ohio State Buckeyes would beat the Browns in a head-to-head matchup. What’s more, just 23 percent of those polled picked Cleveland to win.

The Browns currently sit at 0-5 on the season, having suffered blowout losses Philadelphia and New England, but close losses to Baltimore, Miami in overtime and (sort of) Washington. Already this season, Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Cody Kessler, Charlie Whitehurst and former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor have taken snaps at quarterback. Of this group, four (Griffin, McCown, Kessler and Whitehurst) have suffered injuries this season, with three being knocked out of the game completely (Whitehurst was able to return at the end of yesterday’s game). Pryor, of course, is an NFL receiver. While many of the issues at quarterback this year can be attributed purely to bad luck, the fact remains that an NFL team cannot win consistently without consistency at quarterback.

The Buckeyes, meanwhile, boast a 5-0 record and, this year at least, have no quarterback controversy whatsoever behind J.T. Barrett. With a slew of standout receivers and a powerful rushing attack, the offense has been unstoppable thus far this season. And the defense, even after allowing 17 points to Indiana, remains one of the best in the nation.

Even so, the fact remains that the Browns are an NFL team. Regardless of how good Ohio State is as a unit, the competition they face are also college teams (including Rutgers). While the Buckeyes can drop a significant number of points on these opponents, they would be hardpressed to complete passes with the likes of Joe Haden defending, and would have trouble on the defensive line facing nine-time Pro Bowler Joe Thomas.

“In football, you’ve gotta play, gotta get reps to get up to speed. You can’t just run out there after a year of not playing and think you’re going to make plays right away.”

-Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, via Eric Seger, Eleven Warriors

In many ways, Saturday’s game against Indiana marked a crowning moment in the young career of freshman defensive end Nick Bosa. Early in the fourth quarter, Bosa halted the Hoosiers on the four-yard line on fourth down, halting a drive that would have closed the Buckeyes’ lead to just one score. It is unsurprising that the younger Bosa is making an impact at Ohio State, but what is perhaps unexpected is how early his presence has already been felt on the defense. A five-star recruit coming out of high school, Bosa suffered a partially torn ACL during his senior season which set him back in his strength training and cost him time as he worked his way into the defensive line rotation.

But Bosa took on his rehab with vigor, earning himself a spot in the rotation as he continued to build strength in his injured knee. It all paid off quickly, as Bosa recorded a sack in the Buckeyes’ season opener against Bowling Green. Fellow defensive end Sam Hubbard commented that Bosa “gets better each week” as he gets more reps in a position beside impact players like Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan Lewis.

Bosa now has two sacks on the season--second most on the team--for 18 total yards lost, with his second sack coming against Rutgers. Still, he says that he has tried not to give into the hype too much, especially given that Joey Bosa just recorded his first NFL snaps yesterday, which included four tackles, three of which were solo, and a sack in the first half alone. The younger brother has recorded 13 tackles on the year, including eight solo tackles and four tackles for loss. Urban Meyer has acknowledged that, as Bosa continues to get healthy, he will see more playing time, and that he is already starting to fulfill his extremely high expectations.

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