Regardless of who the opponents have been, it is tough to argue that Ohio State has not been incredibly impressive en route to their 4-0 start, dominating on both sides of the ball from start to finish in each of the first four games. It certainly looked like they had all the first picks at recess going up against Miami (OH), stumbling out of the gate but collecting themselves quickly to put together a 76-5 rout.
The Buckeyes looked locked in, determined to avoid a letdown ahead of their big under-the-lights road contest at Nebraska next weekend. Outside of the first few minutes of play, it would be hard to nitpick and find anything Ryan Day’s unit did wrong. There was a lot to like, and a lot shown to instill confidence in the team and fanbase moving forward. The game had almost too many bright spots to count, but a few players really put up highlight reel performances.
What stood out after week four, and where should you put your hard-earned money?
Blue Chip Stocks
Chase Young, DE: I’m not sure there is anything that could be done to stop a healthy Chase Young from headlining the OSU stock market each and every week. Last week I called him the best defensive player in the country, and he did nothing against Miami that would sway me from believing anything to the contrary. He was his usual disruptive self on Saturday, recording three total tackles with two sack-fumbles and two tackles for loss.
It’ll be scary to see what kind of numbers Young will be able to put up when he finally plays a full four quarters, as he came out at half along with the rest of the starters against the Redhawks. The junior edge rusher already has 7.5 sacks on the year, and is distinctly a huge problem for opposing blockers every single time he is on the field. Ohio State has had some immensely talented defensive ends in the past few years, but Young is threatening to be one of the best.
Justin Fields, QB: After flirting with blue chip status throughout the first three weeks, Fields solidified himself as a special talent in week four. It seemed almost impossible for the sophomore quarterback to be able to live up to the extremely lofty expectations for him coming into the program, but he has even surpassed what his own head coach believed he could do at this point in the season.
The stats are impressive on their own, finishing with 223 yards passing and four touchdowns while adding another 36 yards and two scores on the ground. However, what has been really impressive is how much he has grown so early in the year. Fields’ ability to extend plays moving around in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield has been nothing short of immaculate. He has shown a great intelligence in his decision making, only running when absolutely necessary and saving himself from most big hits.
Chris Olave, WR: If Ohio State’s offense or special teams unit is out on the field, you always have to be on the lookout for Chris Olave. The sophomore wide receiver has been such a dynamic playmaker for the Buckeyes almost out of nowhere since the end of last season, and he continued to do so against Miami. Despite only getting three targets on the game, the 6-foot-1 wideout made them count.
After just one catch for seven yards in the first quarter, Olave hauled in his first touchdown catch of the day late in the second quarter, getting open in the back corner of the end zone with Fields rolling out on 2nd-and-12 from the 13-yard line. Olave found paydirt again right before the end of the half on a goal line fade from Fields from 10 yards out on the opposite corner. The second-year WR finished with only the three receptions, but again proved to be a reliable playmaker.
Baron Browning, LB: A five-star linebacker recruit and the No. 1 player at his position in the 2017 class, Baron Browning had just not been able to find a way onto the field much in his first two seasons. Outside of special teams, Ohio State had not seemed to trust the 6-foot-3, 248-pound LB when it mattered.
That looked like it changed today.
Browning actually appeared to get the bulk of the playing time at middle linebacker, coming into the game listed as the co-starter with Tuf Borland. The junior had a big day, racking up three tackles (with two for a loss) and a sack. Browning looked really fast on his feet, making the right reads and completing tackles in the open field consistently. It will be interesting to see how the playing time at linebacker is distributed moving forward into Big Ten play, but as of right now Browning is certainly trending in the right direction.
Jeff Okudah, CB: Despite claims by LSU, Florida and now I guess even Texas, Ohio State is the actual DBU — producing more than a handful of legit NFL stars in recent years. The next budding star is Jeff Okudah, who has been pegged by many analysts as the top defensive back prospect in the nation. While his coverage has been spot on to start the season, he was still chasing that elusive first interception heading into the Miami game.
Right after the Buckeyes took a 14-5 lead, the Redhawks still had some life left in them. That was immediately stripped away when Okudah finally got his hands on one, picking off Brett Gabbert on the first play of the drive at the 41-yard line. Okudah has been flying all over the field in the early season, providing lockdown coverage while making some impressive tackles in space. It was the first pick of the junior corner’s career, but certainly not the last.
The Slow Start: Ohio State got a legit scare early on, as Miami came out with all intentions of punching the Buckeyes in the mouth and showing them that they weren’t just going to lay down and die without a fight. It seemed as though the Redhawks put together a solid game plan on their first drive, stringing together some quick RPO passes to the outside to wide open receivers with decent success. Ultimately, they would be forced to punt, but would pin OSU inside the one and force a safety on a strip-sack of Fields in the end zone.
They managed to go all the way down the field on their next drive, but came up short of a touchdown and settled for a field goal to go up 5-0. That is when their luck ran out, as Ohio State flipped the switch and dominated every play from thereon out.
Miami’s quick start was probably a good thing for OSU, as it showed them they can’t get complacent against any opponent — no matter how big the talent disparity. It was also good practice against the kind of RPO game that Nebraska will feature next weekend. Another thing it showed is that Ryan Day is able to make quick adjustments on the fly, as his defensive game plan on the first two drives clearly wasn’t working but after a few changes got his guys back on track.
Buy/Sell (spoiler alert not much to sell this week)
(Buy) Protecting the Homeland: Ohio State improved their record against in-state opponents to 185-48-15 with the win against Miami (OH). It was the second opponent from their home state the Buckeyes have knocked off in Columbus this season, defeating the Cincinnati Bearcats a few weeks ago.
You’d have to go back a long way to find the last time Ohio State lost to an in-state opponent — almost 100 years back, in fact — as it hasn’t happened since 1921, when OSU lost 7-6 Oberlin.
(Buy) The 2019 Recruiting Class: With the game well in hand by halftime, there was ample time for the backups and even the backups of the backups to see some time in this one. It was a big day for the 2019 class specifically, as four different true freshman scored touchdowns against the Redhawks.
Garrett Wilson hauled in a miraculous circus catch for a score, Jameson Williams hit a long 61-yard catch-and-run score and Marcus Crowley caught a seven-yard pass from Chris Chugunov for a TD. On the ground, Steele Chambers powered his way down the field on Ohio State’s final drive, capping it off with a two-yard TD run.
(Buy) The Entire Defense: The opposition hasn’t exactly been stiff to start the year, but it would be tough to take away from anything this new and improved Ohio State defense has been able to accomplish thus far. Every unit has been hitting on all cylinders this season, starting with Chase Young and the D-line to a rotating cast of good linebackers and a lockdown secondary.
Everyone is sticking to their assignments, making good reads, and most importantly making tackles and limiting penalties. Today’s performance was just more of the same, as after Miami totaled 113 yards in the first quarter, the Silver Bullets held them to only 17 (SEVENTEEN!) yards the entire rest of the game.