clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ohio State’s defense and special teams will be the key to a national championship

The question is whether or not it will be enough.

Indiana v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

“‘If Ohio State is going to win the national title,’ said a coach who scouted them extensively this season, ‘they're going to have to win it on defense and special teams.’”

- Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated

It’s no secret that the Ohio State offense has been a rollercoaster during the season. Going into just about any game after the first few, we really weren’t sure what offense was going to show up. As the season, progressed, things tapered out, and it was clear that the offense was not the strength of the team, similarly to the 2015 Buckeyes. Thamel points out that it led the Big Ten in scoring offense, total offense and rushing offense, but whenever they played a semi-decent defense, things got difficult.

Luckily for the Buckeyes, the defense is outstanding. Even when opposing offenses seem to be driving towards the end zone, the Buckeyes always seem to hunker down and get the stop that they need. Malik Hooker always keeps us zeroed in on our televisions screens when the Buckeyes are playing defense, because you just don’t know if he’s going to take an interception back for a touchdown. He’s got six picks this season, and three have gone for touchdowns. Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley, Jerome Baker, Sam Hubbard, and others have put fear into opposing offenses all season, and when you combine that with good special teams, it’s helped the Buckeyes win all but one game. They’ll need it during the playoff.

“Though he doesn't technically start, he has been a big part of the Buckeyes success in the secondary this year.”

- Ari Wasserman, Northeast Ohio Media Group

Wasserman is talking about Denzel Ward. Ward is a sophomore who has had an impact on the Ohio State defense, despite not being one of the names we’re used to hearing on Saturdays. But he knows his time is coming. "I like the situation I'm in and the situation I'm going to be in," Ward told Wasserman. "I got a lot of experience at cornerback and next year I'm ready to step into a bigger role, even hough I already do play a pretty big role on the team." Ward’s so talented that he’s gotten burn this season when typically, we might not see a rotation like we have this season. That’s typically how guys get started.

"It's exciting to see what we've done this year," Ward said. "I have just been trying to play my role and do the best I can to make plays and help Ohio State." If he keeps working, he could follow in the footsteps of guys like Eli Apple, who end up being high draft picks in the NFL. Even though he’s not a starter or one of the more highly regarded players on the Ohio State defense, he’s come up big for the Buckeyes this season, especially when Gareon Conley was injured in the Oklahoma game, which Ohio State cruised in easily. Ward undoubtedly has a bright future in Columbus.

“When [Jerome] Baker flipped his commitment to Ohio State in October of 2014, that set the stage for where he is now.”

- Bill Landis, Northeast Ohio Media Group

Baker is like Ward in the sense that he’s not talked about a whole bunch, but he makes plays during games that you just have to see again. He’s stepped up this season after an injury to Dante Booker, and has played great. For him, the moment he knew he arrived came against Oklahoma. "The Oklahoma game, and I got the interception. I was sitting on the sideline. I looked at Raekwon (McMillan) and Worley -- I looked at them as was like, 'Wait, I just caught an interception?'" Baker told Landis. "There's been a few moments when I just look at my teammates and say, 'This is cool.'"

He almost didn’t come to Columbus. Of course that’s not uncommon in college football recruiting, with players nearly going to one school and ending up at another, but it seems when Buckeyes get those particular prospects, they always turn out great. Urban Meyer and his staff have done an excellent job of not only bringing in talent, but getting the most out of it. It’s a huge reason why Ohio State has been a college football power since Meyer’s arrival.

“Here’s a look at the first 16 teams considered for our first Bracketology.”

- Chris Peters, NCAA.com

The NCAA’s first bracketology for men’s hockey has been released, and the Ohio State Buckeyes are in at No. 8. Other Big Ten teams include Penn State at No. 1 and Minnesota at No. 11.

STICK TO SPORTS