Undefeated on the year. Ranked No. 1 in the country in the inaugural College Football Playoff rankings. Everything clicking on both offense and defense. It seemed as though it would take a lot to throw a wrench into Ohio State’s season.
Then the Chase Young news hit.
The star edge rusher is currently facing a suspension for a potential violation of NCAA rules, allegedly accepting a loan from a family friend to fly his girlfriend out to the Rose Bowl which had been paid back in full in April. Given all the facts that have been reported, it is likely Young will be able to return at some point this season once everything is sorted out. However, the Buckeyes were without the best player in the country for Saturday’s game against Maryland.
There was some speculation as to whether there would be any sort of drop-off from the Silver Bullets without the 6-foot-5, 265 pound defensive end — especially when the starter on the opposite side Jonathon Cooper was also missing the game with an injury. Any worries were dispelled almost immediately, as the first quarter of play saw a 192-1 advantage in yardage for Ohio State, and things did not get much better from there for the Terrapins.
Let’s take a look at who shined in Saturday’s beatdown against a Maryland team clearly overmatched on both sides of the ball.
Justin Fields, QB: With a clear talent mismatch all over the field, Ryan Day could have easily opted to just run the ball and pick up chunk yardage on the ground with his running backs. Instead, he chose to get some reps for his young quarterback, and Fields responded with a big day. Playing just the first half, the sophomore threw for 200 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed for 28 yards and another score on the ground as he led the offense down the field with ease over and over again with his arm and his legs.
Through nine games now, Fields has passed for 1,859 yards with 37 total touchdowns and just the one interception. There was obviously a lot of hype surrounding the highly-touted QB, but the sophomore’s ability to play mistake-free football while having complete control of one of the most efficient offenses in the country has been a real treat to watch.
J.K. Dobbins, RB: It was a real light workload for Ohio State’s lead running back against the Terrapins, only needing 12 carries on the day to make a big impact as he rode the pine along with the rest of the starters in the second half. Despite a lack of snaps, Dobbins was still able to rumble for 90 yards and two touchdowns as he continues to be one of the most underrated backs in the country.
Dobbins is on pace to smash his career-high in rushing yards — 1,403 his freshman year — having already piled up 1,200 yards and 13 total touchdowns through nine games this season. As the clear No. 1 guy in the Buckeye backfield, Dobbins has flourished. Every time the explosive junior touches the ball, he is a threat to take it to the end zone. His combination of speed and toughness makes him a huge piece in this Ohio State offense.
Malik Harrison, LB: While the defensive line and secondary have gotten almost all the love on this year's dominant OSU defense, the linebackers deserve some love too — especially their senior leader Malik Harrison. The 6-foot-3, 240 pound LB had a big day against Maryland, tying for a team-high five total tackles with a sack and two pass breakups, including a very athletic leaping swat to knock a ball out of mid-air on a perfectly timed jump.
Harrison is quietly putting together a very nice season for the Buckeyes. Second on the team with 27 total tackles, the senior has 10.5 tackles for loss (behind only Young), 3.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries. Harrison is incredibly quick for his size, and should have an NFL career in his future if he continues to put up big numbers in his final season at Ohio State.
Garrett Wilson, WR: While the freshman wide receiver has certainly been getting some significant playing time with the ones, the huge lead at the half gave Wilson a full two quarters to show what he can provide as an every-down wideout. Having now also earned the full-time punt return duties, Wilson caught four passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. He would’ve had another 46-yard TD reception, but it was called back on a holding penalty.
Wilson has really impressed this season despite not officially functioning in a starting role. The first-year man now has 18 catches for 216 yards and four touchdowns on the season, and his collegiate career is surely just getting started. A freak athlete with impeccable hands, Wilson is on the fast-track to becoming the next great OSU wide receiver.
Davon Hamilton, DT: Ohio State’s defensive line has been nothing short of brilliant this season, but it has been mostly the guys off the edge that are getting the recognition. The run-stuffers up the middle go largely unnoticed, but redshirt senior Davon Hamilton made sure to get his name on the stat sheet Saturday, picking up two sacks for a d-line missing its star power.
Hamilton is quietly having a breakout year for the Buckeyes. A big force in stopping the run this season, the fifth-year DT already has career-highs in tackles for loss (5.0) and sacks (3.0), tying a career-high with 16 total tackles and having also recovered a fumble. After a year in which Ohio State was dreadful in run defense in 2018, Hamilton has played a huge part in turning things around in 2019.
Penalties: Ohio State was one of the worst penalized teams a year ago, ranking 124th in FBS with 8.3 penalties per game. Every other play, it seemed as though the Buckeyes were being flagged for pass interference or holding, with a plethora of false starts. This season has been a different story, as OSU has ranked in the top 20 in least penalized teams thus far. However, the issue reared its ugly head against Maryland.
Probably the only poor area of the Bucks’ performance on Saturday, the Scarlet and Gray racked up a whopping 13 penalties for 141 yards. Now, to be fair, almost all of these came with the second and third-teams on the field. With that being said, it is still certainly an area Day will want his team to clean up, and something they can easily work on with a less-than-daunting matchup with Rutgers on the horizon.
(Sell) Any drop-off without Young: Ohio State’s defense did not skip a beat without their star player on Saturday. With the starters allowing only 66 total yards of offense in the first half, the Buckeyes still managed seven sacks against the Terrapins, with Hamilton and Tyreke Smith leading the pack with two apiece. The adversity was no match for an Ohio State unit with their eyes laser-focused on the prize.
(Buy) Future wide receiver talent: While the second half showed that even the Buckeyes’ second-string is better than some teams starters, it really gave a glimpse into the future at wide receiver. We’ve already talked about Wilson, but Jameson Williams showed off his skillset on Saturday as well, catching four balls for 38 yards and looking a lot like a young Parris Campbell with his speed. Those two guys, as well as the impending No. 1 receiving recruit in the country in Julian Fleming — as well as multiple other three and four-star talents at the position — have Ohio State set up to be absolutely loaded on offense in the coming years.
(Buy) A casket for Rutgers: If today was any indication of Ohio State’s intent on avoiding any sort of let down against a lesser opponent, the team on the schedule next week should be awfully worried. At 2-7, the Scarlet Knights have lost seven of their last eight games, having scored a combined seven points against the three ranked teams on their schedule in Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota. Even worse for Rutgers? The team that the Buckeyes just defeated 73-14 beat them 48-7 in Piscataway. We may be staring down the barrel of a historically high spread between two Power Five schools.