Ho-hum, another 40-plus point win for the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Northwestern Wildcats came into Friday night with one of the top defenses in the country, allowing more than 30 points just once this season. So what did Ryan Day and the gang do? They hung a casual 52 on the scoreboard, all while the defense kept an anemic Wildcat offense out of the endzone for the entire contest.
Let’s take a look at some of the keys to another big victory, as the OSU stock market continues to trend almost exclusively upwards.
Blue Chip Stocks
J.K. Dobbins, RB: It was a bit of a slow start for the Buckeyes offensively, particularly in the ground game. Dobbin’s first nine rushing attempts netted just 22 total yards. Then, in the blink of an eye, everything changed. On his very next carry, Dobbins nearly took it to the house on a 68-yard explosion, shaking the Northwestern safety out of his path and rumbling down the sideline before being taken down at the five-yard line. He would walk it into the end zone one play later.
Dobbins finished the afternoon with 121 yards on 18 carries with both a rushing and a receiving touchdown. Jonathan Taylor may get all the love in terms of Big Ten running backs, but Dobbins has been just as good and in some ways better. The junior now totals 947 yards on the ground while averaging 7.1 yards-per-carry with nine total touchdowns. He is on pace to smash his career high in yards (1,403 his freshman year), all while not yet playing a fourth quarter.
Chase Young, DE: Continuing his stretch as the only player to achieve blue chip status every single week, what more can really be said about the freak of nature that is Chase Young. The junior edge rusher has had his fingerprints all over each game the Buckeyes have played this season, and while it doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet — like last night, for example — he has been a huge part of what Ohio State has been able to do on defense.
Against Northwestern, Young was credited with just two tackles, with one sack and one tackle for loss as well as a QB hurry. However, as always, he had a huge impact all over the field. Young’s lone sack came early in the game, when the Wildcats thought it was a good idea to go with an empty backfield — a look they did not use the rest of the night. One of his most impressive plays of the game was on a screen pass attempt, when Young got in the face of Aiden Smith, leaping no less than 20 feet in the air to force an incomplete pass.
Justin Fields, QB: After throwing his first interception of the season against Michigan State two weeks ago, Justin Fields looked like a man on a mission against Northwestern. He would wind up barely having to throw the ball after halftime, but still finished with 194 yards passing and four touchdowns. Running the ball a bit less than usual, it was the first game this season where Fields did not score a rushing touchdown.
While the yardage may not seem like Fields’ most impressive stat line of the season, the sophomore QB put in a crazy performance behind an offensive line that was a bit shaky at times. The Wildcats were able to get pressure on the Buckeye signal caller all night, but Fields was able to avoid sack after sack as he shaked and baked around in the pocket while extending plays and finding the open man downfield.
Chris Olave, WR: It is hard for any Ohio State wide receiver to standout much this season, as the unit is full of talent and depth with no true No. 1 option for Fields. If there was one guy with a little separation from the rest of the pack, it would be sophomore wideout Chris Olave. The 6-foot-1 receiver had one of his best games of the year so far against Northwestern, catching a season-high five passes for 60 yards and two touchdowns.
Olave leads an incredibly strong receiving core for the Buckeyes with six touchdowns on the year. After catching just 12 passes his freshman year, the sophomore has already recorded 20 receptions for 309 yards. Each week has seemingly had a new favorite target for Fields among his receivers, but Olave has been the most consistent throughout the early season.
Master Teague, RB: Oh, you thought Ohio State had only one star running back? Well, that would be a mistake, as this redshirt freshman is slowly making a name for himself behind Dobbins. Teague, who started the year mostly operating in mop up duty, has gotten more and more snaps early in games the past few weeks. The results have spoken for themselves, as the 5-foot-11 bowling ball has put up some impressive numbers.
Against Northwestern, Teague ran the ball seven times for 96 yards and a touchdown — mostly all coming via a 73-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter. Teague has showcased phenomenal speed this season, with the ability for huge chunk runs seemingly coming out of nowhere. Averaging seven yards per carry, just like Dobbins, the redshirt freshman has totaled 512 yards and four touchdowns on the year as he gives a glimpse into the future of Ohio State’s running back position.
Run D without Browning: Junior linebacker Baron Browning has been a huge asset for the Silver Bullets this season, especially against the run. Ohio State was nothing short of dreadful defending against the ground game last year, and it was largely due to a linebacker unit that could not get it done. While a big part of last season’s struggles can be blamed on a poor defensive scheme, some of it was personnel.
The insertion of Browning into the middle of the defense has made the Buckeyes a much better team. However, with the junior missing Friday’s contest with an injury, it was really clear just how big a role he plays. In his absence, OSU looked much more vulnerable against the run, letting up some chunk plays on the ground that we had not seen yet this year. It is tough to single out specific players on defense when it comes to stopping the run, but lets just say the tape clearly shows that No. 32 did not have his best outing.
(Sell) First Quarters: Ohio State just hasn't quite been interested in playing the first quarter of games lately. The Buckeyes have led by seven or less at the conclusion of the first on five different occasions this season, including just a 7-3 lead on Friday night. The average margin of victory in those games: 45.4. Thanks largely in part to massive second quarters, OSU is able to get into a groove quickly and make the adjustments necessary to pull away from their opponents in a big way.
Overall, Ohio State is outscoring opponents 231-31 in the first half this season. If you’re wondering: that is good.
(Buy) Justin Fields’ Elusiveness: The Buckeye offensive line had a less than stellar afternoon when it came to pass blocking, but luckily for them their quarterback had apparently doused himself in butter before the game as Fields refused to be sacked. Northwestern got consistent pressure for most of the afternoon, but the sophomore QB was able to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge his way around the pocket.
In most instances, he didn’t even have to elect to run the football to escape pressure, as Fields’ ability to keep his eyes downfield and find an open man was incredibly impressive. I mean, c’mon:
(Buy) Damon Arnette’s Toughness: Just wanted to give a quick shoutout to the senior cornerback, who elected to return to Ohio State rather than test his luck in the NFL Draft. Arnette, who was inconsistent his first few seasons in Columbus, has been spectacular this season, but is playing through injury while doing it. Arnette has played with a cast on his wrist throughout the year, with that cast getting even bigger this week after getting a procedure done during the off week.
Arnette came out of the game early in the third quarter, clearly in pain on that casted hand. He would not return, but said postgame he was just a little more sore than usual and that he would be fine. The senior corner is a big part of the Buckeye secondary, and the team will need him on the field next weekend against Wisconsin.