Three wins, one loss, and we’re officially through the first third of Ohio State’s 2017 regular season. We’ve seen the Buckeyes defensive line largely fulfill gaudy preseason expectations, while the secondary hasn’t been able to seamlessly replace three departed first-round starters.
The Buckeyes have demonstrated plenty of talent on all three levels of the defense, but all that talent is once again being overshadowed by the presence of one game-breaker on the defensive line wearing No. 97. That’s right: For the third time in four seasons, a Bosa has emerged as the most-deadly silver bullet in Columbus.
Nick Bosa was expected to play behind incumbent starters Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis this season, but he’s managed to play more snaps than both defensive ends in three of four games. Bosa’s ability to slide down to defensive tackle helps get him on the field as much as possible. This is good considering no other defender in the country has matched his excellence through four weeks according to Pro Football Focus.
Introducing the PFF All-American Watch, through four weeks of football.— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) September 28, 2017
Overall, Bosa has racked up the second-most pressures among all Big-Ten edge defenders, and leads the Buckeyes in both sacks (3.0) and tackles for a loss (7.0). This shouldn’t be too shocking: Bosa’s five sacks last season were the second most behind Lewis. Still, watching a fully-healthy Bosa, now two years removed from suffering a torn ACL as a senior in high school, has been downright terrifying at times.
Similar to his brother Joey, Nick doesn’t necessarily jump off the screen with his first step or burst. It’s Bosa’s advanced technical understanding of rushing the passer that really helps him thrive, and his brute strength that can overpower even the country’s best offensive linemen certainly helps as well:
Blocking Bosa with just one lineman is not an appealing option for any team, but the embarrassment of riches along the rest of the defensive line should continue to help spring him into opponent’s backfields on a regular basis. Of course, Bosa is capable of still making plays when he’s blocked on the line of scrimmage, as evidence by his tipped pass leading to a Damon Arnette interception against UNLV.
That’s what makes this Buckeye defensive line so intimidating: Everyone is capable of making a play at any given time. By getting consistent push in the interior with Dre’Mont Jones and Tracy Sprinkle, quarterbacks don’t have any room to step up into the pocket after Bosa and company get done with over-whelmed tackles. As evidenced by opponent’s putrid average of 3.5 yards per carry, this front seven isn’t easy to run against either:
And then there’s Rutgers. With four Big Ten wins since 2014 — and just one since 2015 — the Scarlet Knights haven’t ever been competitive in their new conference. Ohio State has won 56-17, 49-7, and 58-0 over the past three seasons. Starting quarterback Kyle Bolin is completing less than 60 percent of his passes while averaging a putrid 5.5 yards per attempt, and the running game hasn’t been particularly effective either.
Saturday’s game doesn’t start until 7:30 p.m., so sit back, relax, throw the coolest ball you can find around the backyard, and see if the Buckeyes defensive line can make life miserable for the Scarlet Knights all night. With Ohio State as 29.5 favorites and a 53-point over/under, Vegas is implying a final score of about 41-12. Keep an eye out for No. 97, but if Saturday is anything like the first four weeks of the season, you shouldn’t have to look too hard.