There have been a few constants with Ohio State this season that have honestly made the games a little bit easier to predict than usual. The first, and most impactful over the course of the season, has been that Ohio State’s coaching staff was generally unprepared, and expected to survive on talent. The second is that the talent usually came through, as we can see in the 12-1 final record. The third is that more often than not, the talent overcoming poor coaching was led by star quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
All three of those staples of this team held true on Saturday night in a 45-24 win over Northwestern that was much closer than the final score indicated. Ohio State looked unprepared for the zone defense, running to the outside far too much, being afraid to take the top off of the defense until the final minutes, and looking conservative at best. Despite that, the Buckeyes were able to pull out the win thanks to some big plays from Damon Arnette, Chase Young, the receivers, and of course, Dwayne Haskins. With that in mind, let’s talk stocks.
Dwayne Haskins, QB: Let’s talk about Dwayne Haskins, and more specifically, Dwayne Haskins in the past three games against Maryland, Michigan, and now Northwestern. In those games, Haskins was 82/110 (75 percent) for 14 passing touchdowns and exactly 1,300 yards (433 per game). On top of that, he ran for three scores in the Maryland game, and picked up a few crucial first downs against Michigan.
That’s all to say this: Dwayne Haskins is excellent. He’s been excellent all year, yes, but he truly turned it to a completely different level at the end of the season. He’s not going to win the Heisman, but he certainly deserves to be in New York for the ceremony. Dwayne had an incredible year, and he’s going to be making a lot of money in the NFL sooner rather than later.
Johnnie Dixon, WR: Ohio State continued the trend of having a different receiver step up in each game, as after a big showing from Parris Campbell last week, Johnnie Dixon was the leader of the group this week. Dixon had 129 yards and a score on seven receptions, and spent seemingly the whole game creating separation in the defensive backfield.
Without getting too sentimental, I’ll just say this. Johnnie Dixon has fought through several knee injuries, on the field struggles, and a dreadful receivers coach during his time at Ohio State. To see him put it all together this year under Brian Hartline has been easily the best story on this team. Johnnie deserves this success more than anyone.
Terry McLaurin, WR: Speaking of great stories, Terry McLaurin comes from a similar place of early career struggles. He, like Dixon, has been awesome in 2018, and was awesome again on Saturday, reeling in three receptions for 78 yards and two scores. McLaurin, Campbell and Dixon are the heart of this offense, and they showed it again last night.
Parris Campbell, WR: The final receiver I’ll mention here, Campbell had a bit of a down game in terms of big plays, but he still had seven receptions for 89 yards, which is exactly what Ohio State needs from the speedy receiver. He ran some great routes, caught everything thrown his way, and was a huge help in breaking Northwestern’s zone, especially early in the game.
Chase Young, DE: It’s been a strange season for Chase Young. He’s struggled with consistency, being great at times, but completely disappearing for entire games at other times. When he’s on, he’s one of the best ends in the country, but when he’s off, you can forget he’s even on the field.
Against Northwestern, Young was on. He had three sacks, and whenever it felt like momentum was shifting, he delivered with another big play. He was basically unguardable, and made Clayton Thorson pay for holding the ball too long. That’s what Ohio State needs from the former five-star.
The gameplan: I joked last week that Ohio State spent all year preparing for the Michigan game, but this performance almost made that seem like that’s what actually happened this season. For what feels like the 12th time this season, Ohio State was outcoached, and came into the game with a plan that simply didn’t fit the opponent.
It took all game for Ohio State to start attacking the zone down field consistently. The Buckeyes regularly ran on first down against a defense that was great against standard down runs all year. The defense struggled against the run, which is pretty much all that Northwestern can do, and continued to put the linebackers up on the line of scrimmage for no reason. Ohio State won this game on talent, not coaching. Just like they did all year.
The rushing attack: The rushing game still isn’t “fixed.” Ohio State is still running into loaded boxes, still missing blocks, and still not giving J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber enough room to work. On a staff filled with bad coaches, Greg Studrawa may legitimately be the worst of them all, and he showed that all year long with the run blocking from this line. He should be thanking Dwayne Haskins for saving him, again.
Buy: Chris OIave is a future star. I’m ready to say it. Chris Olave is the next Devin Smith. Hell, he may be the next Terry Glenn. The smoothness of his routes, his speed, and his hands are all just so good. He’s a natural. I don’t think he’s going to have a very good quarterback throwing to him next year, unfortunately, but this kid is ready for the starting lineup.
Sell: Ohio State in the playoff. Ohio State isn’t a playoff team. I’m not sure if Oklahoma is either, but Ohio State proved once again on Saturday why the committee should leave them out later today. The Buckeyes aren’t a complete team, and they aren’t good enough at any one thing to justify putting them in over Oklahoma. If it was up to me, I’d give UCF that fourth spot, but it’ll go to Oklahoma, and that’s fine. Ohio State doesn’t deserve it.
Buy: The Rose Bowl: I talked about this a few weeks ago, but it’s worth repeating. The Rose Bowl is great! It’s fun, and pretty, and as historic a venue and bowl as any in college football. It isn’t a playoff berth which will obviously make it irrelevant to some fans, but I’m all in on Ohio State in the Rose Bowl against Washington. That’s a fun matchup, and should be a great game.