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Ohio State center Pat Elflein’s decision to return for senior season pays off

With Saturday’s memorable win over Michigan, the Buckeye center now has five pairs of gold pants.

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

“I’ll never forget that, Senior Day. That was the craziest this place has been ever since I’ve been here. That was the ultimate ... it was an electric atmosphere.”

Ohio State center Pat Elflein via Jacob Myers, The Lantern

After watching many of his teammates leave for the NFL following the 2015 season, Pat Elflein had to make a decision. The offensive lineman had the chance to follow his fellow Buckeyes to the pros, but Elflein opted to return to Columbus for his senior season. With Ohio State’s regular season having wrapped up, it is looking like Elflein made the right choice. The Buckeyes are not only likely to be included in the College Football Playoff, but Elflein’s final game inside Ohio Stadium is one of the most memorable in Ohio State history.

Saturday’s victory over the Wolverines saw Elflein earn his fifth pair of gold pants. After redshirting in 2012, Elflein made his first appearance in The Game in 2013, replacing Marcus Hall after Hall was ejected. Not only is Elflein undefeated, but he has bragging rights over fellow Pickerington native Jake Butt, who is one of his best friends from high school. Before the season Elflein was not only moved from guard to center, but was also named a captain. Now that Elflein is perfect against Michigan, as well as likely to be a high draft pick, all that is left is to try and bring a second national title in three years back to Columbus.

“The line, the receivers, everybody understood what was at stake. Everybody trusts me with the ball in my hands. They know I can make a play. I had two pullers coming around, great guys, great blockers, and they filled up. They made it easy for me. All I had to do was turn up the field and get into the end zone.”

Ohio State h-back Curtis Samuel via Matthew Florjancic, WKYC

There might have been plenty of memorable moments in the thriller on Saturday between Ohio State and Michigan, but two plays that stick out the most were made by Curtis Samuel. Just a couple plays before his game-winning touchdown, Samuel looked to be stopped in the backfield by the Wolverines, but reversed field and gained eight yards on 3rd & 9. The next play saw J.T. Barrett barely get a first down, and after a review, Samuel scored on the next play to secure Ohio State’s fifth straight victory over Michigan.

Samuel didn’t have huge stats like he has put up in some games during the season, but he did exactly what Ohio State needed when the Buckeyes needed it most. The Ohio State offense were going up against the toughest defense they’ve seen all year and early on it looked like the Buckeyes might not be able to put up enough points to beat Michigan after the Wolverines opened up a 10-point lead. Samuel and his teammates didn’t give up though, believing in each other as they erased the deficit and sent the game to overtime. Now the question that has to be answered is if Samuel will return for his senior season to earn his fourth pair of gold pants.

“The man who ended the two-OT classic victory over Michigan with a 15-yard touchdown scamper is a multi-tool, multi-position player who has earned Percy Harvin comparisons from the scouting world.”

Eric Edholm, Shutdown Corner

With the college football season winding down, this is the time of year when many underclassmen announce whether or not they’ll be entering the NFL Draft. Ohio State doesn’t have quite as many players to worry about jumping to the professional ranks as they did last season, but there are still a number of key players from this year’s squad who will have a tough decision to make. The most notable of those players is Curtis Samuel, who has been Ohio State’s biggest offensive threat this year. The junior is drawing comparisons to Percy Harvin because of his athleticism and versatility. Samuel has been able to make a name for himself despite seeing just 290 touches during his three years in Columbus. Having not taking a lot of punishment during his college career, it might be time for Samuel to strike while the iron is hot and jump to the next level.

Even though safety Malik Hooker stated earlier this week that he is returning to Ohio State next year, there is still a strong possibility Hooker could be playing in the NFL next year. There are some mock drafts that have Hooker being taking in the middle of the first round, it’d be hard to blame Hooker for declaring for the NFL Draft this year. Hooker would be well served by spending another season with the Buckeyes to improve his game, but the redshirt sophomore has shown the ability to learn on the fly.

“I think all of my (turnovers), maybe except one, were unforced. I was throwing the ball all over the place. You cut those turnovers against a great defensive team, and that’s a nice day for us.”

Ohio State guard JaQuan Lyle via Bill Landis,

After building a big lead in the first half on the road against Virginia on Wednesday night, Ohio State faltered in the second half and narrowly missed out on their upset bid. While there are a number of reasons why Ohio State wasn’t able to close out the Cavaliers, what really hurt the Buckeyes were the late turnovers from guard JaQuan Lyle. The sophomore had eight turnovers in the game, with four of them coming in the last three minutes of the first half. The biggest turnover by Lyle came with two minutes to go, when the guard coughed up the basketball, allowing Virginia to take the lead for good.

Even though the turnovers from Lyle hurt, the sophomore is still one of Ohio State’s most important players. In the first half Lyle was able to get to the rim and score, helping Ohio State jump out to an early lead. Lyle ended up playing 37 minutes in the game in the loss. While not an excuse for some of his turnovers, it could help to explain some of the lapses down the stretch. Wednesday night’s performance could be a learning experience for Lyle. If Lyle can cut down on the turnovers in pressure situations, Ohio State could make some more noise this year in the Big Ten than many might have thought heading into the season.