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Ohio State could boast the best rush defense in the Big Ten

With one of the nation’s best defensive lines, the Buckeyes will be formidable against the run.

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BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl - Ohio State v Notre Dame Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

“The Buckeyes may end up with the best defensive line in college football, which should help the speed behind them clean up any ball carriers that slip past the line of scrimmage.”

-Dan Murphy, ESPN

In a conference historically famous for power rushing, a stout run defense is a necessity to counter, and it is something that the Big Ten has been able to consistently deliver. In fact, in eight of the last nine seasons, at least one team in the conference has held opponents to under 100 yards rushing per game, and the imperfect record was almost bettered with Michigan State’s 2011 effort, in which opponents ran for 100.5 yards on average for the season.

Wisconsin remains the favorite in the area of stopping the rush. The Badgers return their entire defensive line (and all of their backups). At inside linebacker, Wisconsin also brings back T.J. Edwards and Chris Orr. However, the loss of T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel to the NFL mean that the Badgers will need to find replacements at outside linebacker.

Ohio State, meanwhile, also returns a high-caliber run defense. With Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, Nick Bosa and Jalyn Holmes all coming back at defensive end, that position group alone remains one of the most formidable rotations in the nation. Similarly, despite the loss of Raekwon McMillan to the NFL, the Buckeyes have Chris Worley and Jerome Baker at linebacker on cleanup duty behind the line.

Michigan could also be a sleeper in the area of stopping the run. While the defense incurred significant losses in this spring’s NFL Draft--a defense which allowed just 3.22 yards per carry last season--the young talent could mature into a solid unit by the time the Big Ten season rolls around. Similarly, Minnesota actually had a strong rush defense last season behind a deep linebacker unit, allowing a 200-yard rushing game just once. Iowa also could make waves in this category behind senior linebacker Josey Jewell.

“I’ve got the Buckeyes as my pick to win the conference for now, given the talent level on the roster and the steady hand of senior quarterback J.T. Barrett. But there’s no reason to take them at +100…”

-Chip Patterson, CBS Sports

The Ohio State Buckeyes are currently listed as having the best odds to win the Big Ten Championship next season. It is not terribly surprising, given the returning players on both sides of the ball, headlined by J.T. Barrett at quarterback. However, the best betting value might go to Penn State, who upset Ohio State during the regular season and who went on to win the conference championship against Wisconsin. While Ohio State is sitting at +100 odds, Penn State is at +500--third place behind Michigan (+300). This means that a $100 bet on Ohio State would earn a $100 profit if Ohio State won its conference championship, while the same bet on Penn State would earn a $500 profit if the Nittany Lions repeated their title run.

The Nittany Lions are widely considered a top-10 team in preseason rankings. Penn State returns running back Saquon Barkley, who was second in the conference in rushing yards with 1,496 on the season in 2016. The Nittany Lions also bring back quarterback Trace McSorley, who had the highest passer rating in the Big Ten last season. On the downside, wide receiver Chris Godwin, who racked up nearly 1,000 receiving yards last season, was taken in the third round of last month’s draft by the Buccaneers. But wide receiver Juwan Johnson, who spent much of last season in Godwin’s shadow, has a shot at a breakout season. The former four star recruit played in just three games last season, but he came out of the spring with overall positive reviews.

Wisconsin also has +500 odds, and is the most-favored team in the Big Ten West. Nebraska is behind Wisconsin with +2,000 odds, while Iowa, Northwestern and Michigan State are all at +2,500. Minnesota is sitting at +3,300, Indiana at +5,000 and Illinois, Maryland and Purdue all at +15,000. A bet on Rutgers, naturally, would take the biggest payout, with +25,000 odds for the Scarlet Knights to win the title.

It was already a huge weekend for the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s lacrosse team, but things managed to get even better after the Buckeyes earned their spot in the NCAA Championship. Six players were taken in the 2017 Major League Lacrosse Draft Saturday--a program record for Ohio State. The previous record was held by the 2013 draft class, which included three Buckeyes. The MLL includes nine teams, with games played throughout the summer. The league was established in 2001.

Senior midfielder Jake Withers, who is fourth in the NCAA this season in faceoff win percentage, was taken ninth overall by the Atlanta Blaze in the first round. Withers was named Big Ten Specialist of the Year after winning nearly 66 percent of his faceoffs. The senior also leads the team in ground balls, with 152 on the season, and his 7.6 ground balls per game average is good for seventh nationally. He also has had four goals and six assists on the season, despite generally coming off the field following the faceoff.

Senior attackman Eric Fannell was the next to go, taken 13th overall by the Rochester Rattlers in the second round. Fannell, a first-team All-Big Ten honoree, has had 36 goals and 30 assists on the season.

Senior midfielder Johnny Pearson, who led the Buckeyes in scoring as a junior, was taken by the Ohio Machine with the 53rd pick in the sixth round. This season, Pearson has recorded 25 goals and seven assists. Fellow midfielder Tyler Pfister was taken just 10 selections behind Pearson in the seventh round, also by the Machine. Pfister has had nine goals and five assists this year.

Goalie Tom Carey, who played over 1,000 minutes in goal this season, was selected in the eighth round with the 65th pick by the Denver Outlaws. Carey is 12th in the NCAA in save percentage, stopping more than 54 percent of shots on goal. Finally, midfielder J.T. Blubaugh was selected with the 71st pick in the eighth round by Ohio. The senior has had 16 goals and two assists on the season.