After an impressive performance against Cincinnati a week ago, Ohio State traveled to Bloomington to take on the Hoosiers, the first road game and first Big Ten matchup for the Buckeyes this season. The past few contests between the two schools have actually been pretty competitive, at least in the first half, before OSU would eventually pull away to win. This time around, Ryan Day wanted to leave no doubt.
Ohio State went on the road and absolutely dismantled a conference opponent, knocking off Indiana 51-10. The Hoosiers looked overmatched from start to finish, as the Buckeyes were clicking on all cylinders on both offense and defense. Day’s squad has been very impressive in the early goings of the season, exceeding even the lofty expectations for the first-year head coach. He has had the pleasure of trotting out some really talented players, with more than a few standouts in the team’s 3-0 start.
Stocks are up, and business is booming.
Blue Chip Stocks
Chase Young, DE: No surprises here, as the best defensive player in the country was an unstoppable force yet again. Indiana’s offensive line had trouble keeping pressure off quarterback Peyton Ramsey all afternoon, mostly resorting to quick passes without the ability to sit back and throw. Young was at the forefront of the pressure every time he was on the field, finishing with three tackles, two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Young’s ability to completely take over on defense has been almost unbelievable. Despite playing only 10 quarters of football, the junior has already registered five sacks. Even when Young isn't directly taking down opposing quarterbacks, he is completely altering the offense’s game plan. Ohio State has done a good job of dropping him back into coverage in certain situations, allowing him to use his size and speed to stop screen passes and adding extra confusion to blockers assigned to stop the Predator.
J. K. Dobbins, RB: When Mike Weber missed the season opener against Indiana in 2017, a freshman by the name of J.K. Dobbins made his Ohio State debut on the road against the Hoosiers. All he did was rush for 181 yards, shattering school records for a freshman running back. Returning back to the scene of the crime two years later, Dobbins once again had a day against Indiana. The junior somehow performed even better than his last trip to Bloomington, rushing for 193 yards and a touchdown, with another score through the air.
Dobbins has looked back to his freshman self, chasing a third-straight 1000-yard rushing season. He has already ran for 425 yards in just three games, on pace for what would be his best season yet. The offensive line has been excellent thus far, and with Dobbins finally getting the chance to be the every-down back, there could very well be a few more records broken in 2019, and maybe even a trip to New York.
Chris Olave, WR: A bunch of people (myself included) saw Chris Olave as a potential breakout candidate this season. So far, not only has Olave broken out as an incredibly reliable offensive threat, but he has very much looked like Ohio State’s No. 1 receiver — and the favorite target of Justin Fields. Today was more of the same for the sophomore, catching three passes for a team-high 70 yards, with a touchdown and a blocked punt to add to the ledger.
Olave clearly earned his way onto the field with his special teams play, blocking another punt after also doing so in a big spot in last year’s big win over Michigan. Given the opportunity, the wideout has really shined on offense. With some of the sturdiest hands on the team and crisp route-running, Olave has made plays all over the field. He has done a really great job of extending routes when Fields rolls out, finding his way back to the ball to give his quarterback and open target downfield.
Justin Fields , QB: It was incredibly tempting to label Fields as a blue chip stock after yet another great outing to start the year. The first-year starter completed 14-of-24 passes against the Hoosiers, throwing for 199 yards and three touchdowns, with 11 yards and a TD on the ground. While he certainly wasn’t perfect, Fields continued to look cool, calm and collected at all times while orchestrating his offense down the field with ease. The young QB still has some room for growth, but he has been great for the Buckeyes through his first three games.
As Fields himself was quick to admit postgame, the performance was not quite up to his standards. There were more than a handful of throws to wide open receivers that missed their mark against Indiana, with most of them being just a bit overthrown. Fields, however, has already shown immense growth so early in the season, displaying excellent decision making, especially when being forced out of the pocket. Fields has helped his own cause out a ton, continuing to keep his eyes down the field and only tucking and running when absolutely necessary, saving himself from too many big hits.
The Offensive Line: After an up-and-down performance in the season opener against FAU, Ohio State’s rebuilt offensive line has been spectacular. While Fields’ mobility has helped on the few occasions there has been a breakdown, the pass blocking has been quite good, especially on play action throws. The run blocking speaks for itself, as Dobbins steady incline in yards through the first three games is in no doubt aided by improved blocking.
They have also been very disciplined, keeping the laundry off the field and avoiding too many costly penalties that plagued the offense all too often in 2018. The starting o-linemen were responsible for just one penalty against Indiana — an illegal block in the first quarter with Fields scrambling around in the backfield. Other than that small infraction, the offensive line held up very well throughout the game, and looks to be hitting their stride with three games now under their belt.
The Doubters: There were definitely some reasons to be skeptical about Ohio State heading into 2019. Besides the obvious of Ryan Day taking over for Urban Meyer has the full-time head coach, the Buckeyes were tasked with replacing the majority of their offense from a year ago after losing Dwayne Haskins, Mike Weber and their top-three receivers. On top of that, the defense was returning a bunch of players who underperformed in a big way.
Through three games, it seems as though a lot of the nay-sayers are being proven wrong. Ryan Day has improved to 6-0 as Ohio State’s head man, just the third head coach in school history to win their first six games — joining Earl Bruce and Urban Meyer. Justin Fields has been more than capable in taking over the reins for Haskins at quarterback, passing for 657 yards and rushing for 114 with 13 total touchdowns through three games in which he hasn’t sniffed the fourth quarter.
The defense has been completely turned around under the tutelage of the revamped coaching staff, most importantly Jeff Hafley’s work in fixing the Silver Bullets. Greg Mattison and Al Washington have also played a huge role in working with Ohio State’s linebackers, who after a dreadful 2018 have looked awesome to start the season. While the competition hasn’t been the stiffest, the Buckeyes defense has done just about everything right so far, and will hopefully continue to ball as the schedule gets increasingly tough.
Buy: Cris Carter’s Advice. With the option to declare for the NFL Draft at the conclusion of last season, Damon Arnette decided to return to Ohio State for his senior year. A big part of Arnette’s decision was some advice from former Buckeye wide receiver and NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter, who told the cornerback it would be in his best interest to play another year of college ball.
So far, that has looked like an excellent decision, as the fifth-year defensive back has had a great start to his final season of eligibility. He had his first big highlight play of the year against the Hoosiers, when he returned a redzone interception 97 yards for a touchdown. Arnette, who has played both slot and outside corner, struggled in coverage a season ago. However, with the help from position coach Jeff Hafley, Arnette will look to put together a productive season in 2019 with aspirations of upping his draft stock.
Buy: The Future. This game was over way before the final whistle on Saturday, and as a result, Ohio State got a chance to see what they have in terms of reserves. The Buckeyes learned that they have some stars waiting in the wings, as a few underclassmen had impressive showings in garbage time, one on each side of the ball. On offense, it was running back Master Teague III, and on defensive it was defensive end Zach Harrison.
With Dobbins close to 200 yards, his day was done early in the third quarter. Teague took over most of the snaps at RB the rest of the way, and he looked quite impressive in doing so. The redshirt sophomore put up 106 yards on 10 carries, including a 40-yard TD run. Harrison came in the game late in the third quarter, filling Chase Young’s spot. The highest-rated player in Ohio State’s 2019 class flashed his skills, sacking Hoosier QB Payton Ramsey after making a nice move coming off the edge.
While Harrison and Teague will have a tough time seeing the field with Dobbins and Young blocking their path, the Buckeyes seem well-prepared for their two star players’ eventual departure.
Sell: Ohio State’s Ranking. Ohio State has done pretty much everything in their power to start the year in terms of changing their national ranking. Unfortunately, their weak opening schedule and a big win by LSU over Texas has actually dropped them down a spot from their initial No. 5 ranking to No. 6 in the AP Poll. The Buckeyes, however, have certainly looked like one of the best teams in the country, and Saturday’s announcers believe so as well.
Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt, the Fox announcers for OSU’s matchup against Indiana, had a ton of praise for this Ohio State team, with this being the second time they have called a Buckeyes game already this season. They both agreed, having seen a bunch of the top teams in the country so far, that Ohio State is undoubtedly one of the four best teams of the country. In their eyes, the top four, in no particular order, should be Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State.
It is tough to jump the teams in front of you without some losses, but fortunately the Buckeyes are in good shape. Three of the teams ahead of them — Alabama, Georgia and LSU — all play in the SEC, and will have to play head-to-head and fight for their spot in the College Football Playoff. However, the Buckeyes should not have to worry about the teams in front of them, because as long as they continue to handle business and rack up wins, there is no doubt a run at another National Championship awaits them.