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Ohio State dominates Big Ten defensive awards

Including Coach of the Year for Ryan Day, and multiple defensive selections

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Is this shocking? It shouldn’t be to anyone who has been watching Ohio State football this year. The Buckeyes aren’t just good, they are incredible. It is a well deserved honor, and a lot of times deserving coaches can fall through the cracks. After all, despite winning a couple of National Championships in this time frame, an OSU head coach has not won the Dave McClain Coach of the Year since Earle Bruce in 1979.

Not Jim Tressel, not Urban Meyer. It is Ryan Day whose the first OSU coach to break that 40-year streak. Can anyone argue? While this roster was loaded with talent when Day got here, there were so many question marks to start the season. Can Day keep up his offensive wizardry from the head coach spot instead of offensive coordinator? Who’s going to play quarterback for this team? Can the defense turn around a dismal performance from a year ago?

The answers to those questions were resoundingly answered in the positive. This offense is unstoppable through the air and on the ground. Fields is a Heisman candidate, and the defense is the best in the nation. This is a historic Buckeye team, and it all starts with the head coach. Throw in an incredible recruiting class in his first year on the job, and this award would be a sham if Day didn’t get it.

But Day wasn’t the only one to snag some accolades today. Chase Young brought home the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year, along with the Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year. Young is the ninth Ohio State player to win it in the last 18 years. Talk about domination.

Four Buckeyes landed on the coaches All-B1G Defensive first team: Chase Young, Malik Harrison, Jordan Fuller and Jeff Okudah — with Damon Arnette, Davon Hamilton and Shaun Wade landing on the second and third teams. The only difference in the media poll was Harrison getting moved to the second team.

And that was just defense. I’d expect an even better result on the offensive side tomorrow, so be sure to tune in here and the Big Ten Network to see OSU sweep some more awards.

The Ohio State HeisMEN. That’s a good sounding sentence. Buckeyes currently make up four of the top five spots in the Heisman race, including one OSU grad. While it may be kind of cheesy to claim Joe Burrows as one of our own, it doesn’t diminish that even without him OSU has three of five. This is a historic team, on both sides of the ball, and every single statistic will tell you that.

Just look at that graphic. J.K. Dobbins has been a beast on the ground, and he doesn’t just do it against the scrubs. In fact, he plays less snaps against the lesser teams than the best of the best in the Big Ten. In his games against ranked teams he has 172 yards and one TD (Michigan State, No. 25 at the time), 163 yards and two TDs (Wisconsin, No. 13 at the time), 157 yards and two TDs (Penn State, No. 8 at the time) and finally his magnum opus, a 211-yard, four-TD day against Michigan, who were ranked No. 13 at the time. That’s just absurd.

Dobbins is currently fourth in the nation with 1,657 yards. He also has 29 less carries than Wisconins’ Jonathan Taylor, 59 less than Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard and 68 less than Boston College’s AJ Dillon — the three players above him. Oh and by the way, he’s fifth in rushing touchdowns. He’s got the raw numbers, and the ridiculous efficiency. What more could you want?

And then there’s the quarterback, Justin Fields. He’s third in passing touchdowns, No. 12 in completion percentage and No. 51 in passing yards. That doesn’t sound all that impressive. However, he’s thrown only one interception. Need I say more about the passing ability? And If you add in the threat he poses on the ground, he ties Burrow in total touchdowns with 47.

Finally, we come to Young. Despite being held to no sacks for the first time in 11 games against the Wolverines, his presence was still felt. He does this while being held and doubled, tripled and even quadruple teamed (there was at least one play Saturday where four Michigan blockers put hands on Young) every game. He also missed two games due to a silly suspension. Despite this, he still leads nation in sacks with 16.5, leading the next guy by two and a half. Looking at the sacks per game is even more ridiculous. He’s got 1.65, the next closest is at 1.17. They don’t even compare.

The Heisman ceremony will be filled with Scarlet and Gray. The only question is what order they come in.

“Making quality adjustments on the fly is one of the big reasons Ohio State has made an amazing one-year turnaround defensively. In 2018, the Buckeyes finished No. 72 in the country in total defense. This season, they are No. 1 in the land in the same category.”

- Dave Biddle, Bucknuts

Even with about the same roster, this Ohio State defense has been totally different from the one last year. Much has been said about the new simplified scheme as the reason for the Buckeyes’ success, and there is no doubt that’s all true. But what has been just as critical has been Jeff Hafley’s ability to adjust in-game.

The Michigan game was the shining example of that. Giving respect where it’s due, Shea Patterson came out throwing the ball extremely well to start the game. Critical fumble aside, Patterson was picking the Buckeyes apart to the tune of 250 passing yards and a touchdown in the first half. That’s more yards then OSU had been giving up in entire games. Patterson (and the offensive line) weren’t allowing pressure, and were finding open guys everywhere for big chunk yardage plays.

Then came halftime and the adjustments. After that, it was all over for Michigan’s offense. Patterson went 4-for-24 passing the rest of the way, and while some of those were drops, most of them weren’t. The Buckeyes did something they didn’t do much of all year, and blitzed Patterson early and often as they mixed up the coverage and schemes.

The willingness and ability to change whenever they need to is why this defense is No. 1 in the country, and it’s why Jeff Hafley is a favorite for the Broyles Award. He doesn’t just wait until halftime either. He made it clear that they are making tweaks and responding every single play, every single drive. It’s incredibly scary for other teams to behold. It’s not just Hafley either, but as he said himself “credit to the players for being able to so quickly change things. It’s really a credit to them”.

Hafley will unfortunately be one of the hottest head coaching candidates in college football next year, so let’s enjoy him while we have him, and hopefully win a championship.

Quick Hits:

  • Speaking of awards, J.K. Dobbins also won the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose National Player of the Week, awarded to the best college player from Texas. Garrett Wilson also received honorable mention for his 118-yard and one touchdown performance.

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