After a 4-0 start to the season, many ‘analysts’ wondered from their couches if Ohio State is actually legit, or if the level of competition has just been subpar. With College Gameday in attendance, Nebraska was expected to be the first true test for the Buckeyes in the 2019 season. If that was what a test looks like, then Ohio State passed with flying colors, as the good guys went into Lincoln and dismantled the Cornhuskers 48-7 in a hostile environment.
It would be tough to look much better than OSU did on Saturday night, dominating in almost every facet of the game with the starting units on the field — which was not required past the midway point of the third quarter. Ryan Day has something special brewing in Columbus, and he has an excellent group of guys under his leadership as he continues his undefeated stretch as Ohio State’s head coach.
The team as a whole fired on all cylinders against Nebraska, but a few guys still found a way to standout as we take a look at this week’s stock market report.
Blue Chip Stocks
Justin Fields, QB: What more can be said about the first-year starter transfer quarterback? The sophomore came to Ohio State with incredibly lofty expectations, and he has exceeded them with ease week in and week out. In his first big road contest of the year, as Indiana wasn't much of a tough crowd, all Fields did was put up a ho-hum stat line completing 15-of-21 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns, with another 72 yards and a score on the ground.
Ryan Day has done an immaculate job developing quarterbacks in his time with the Buckeyes, and that has surely had an impact on Fields’ hot start. The young QB has completed nearly 70 percent of his throws, with almost 1,100 yards passing and an impressive 16 touchdown passes with zero interceptions. He has also scored seven rushing TDs while averaging nearly five yards per carry.
bahahahahahahahahahahahaha pic.twitter.com/lQ6KRk4Bst— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) September 29, 2019
Jeff Okudah, CB: Just last week, the man many experts believe will be the first defensive back taken in next year’s NFL Draft recorded his first interception of the season. Fast forward to Saturday, and the junior corner tripled his career picks total with a two-interception game against the Cornhuskers in what was an all-around fantastic performance for the star DB.
Okudah’s first takeaway came on Nebraska’s very first drive of the game. The speedy corner sat back on an out route, and with Cornhusker QB Adrian Martinez being flushed out of the pocket, baited him into throwing it right into his diving arms to set the tone of the night for Ohio State. His second pick came just a bit later, as an overthrown ball from Martinez landed right in the arms of Okudah who had fallen down on the play — the ultimate case of right place, right time.
Chase Young, DE: It wouldn’t be a list of Ohio State’s blue chip stocks if the best defensive player in all of college football didn't get a mention. It seems increasingly likely with each passing week that there is not a player in all of FBS that could block the freak edge rusher one-on-one, as Chase Young spent another week living in the opposing backfield.
Adrian Martinez was a tougher customer than the Buckeye defense had faced in terms of his mobility, as despite an offensive line that was less than stellar, Martinez was able to evade more than a few would-be sacks against a less speedy quarterback. However, Young still made his presence felt play after play, finishing with a sack — which was a sack-fumble that bounced right back to Martinez — and a tackle for loss. Even when not directly making a play, Young spent the entire night forcing Martinez to speed up his reads as he breathed down his neck.
J.K. Dobbins, RB: It’s enticing to make every player on the team a blue chip after a performance like that, but you have to leave some room for improvement. Dobbins had another spectacular game, rushing 24 times for 177 yards as Ohio State’s offensive line absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage and the junior running back did the rest.
Dobbins eclipsed the 3,000-yard mark for his career Saturday night, becoming just the 11th player in program history to achieve such a feat as he looks to become the next great Buckeye running back. The full-time role has clearly been a much more comfortable spot for Dobbins, as it has allowed him to play within himself and not have to worry about breaking the big one each time because he won't be in the next drive. It has certainly also helped adding Fields to the offense, as teams must gameplan for the mobile QB’s legs as well.
Baron Browning, LB: For a second-straight week, Baron Browning has earned himself some well deserved praise. Browning is one of the fastest linebackers on Ohio State’s defense, and so it just made all too much sense to use him as a spy against the shifty Martinez. He thrived all game long, finishing with a team-high seven tackles, with one tackle for loss and half a sack.
Browning has very rapidly earned himself additional playing time early in the season. The former five-star recruit is finally living up to his billing in his junior year after not being able to make it past the special teams unit his first couple seasons in Columbus. Browning could prove to be a huge asset for the Buckeyes as this linebacker unit that was atrocious a year ago has been incredibly impressive under new management and with schemes that actually fit the personnel.
Losing to the Big Ten West: The biggest reason the Buckeyes and their fans had this game circled on the calendar for so long wasn’t really because Nebraska posed a huge threat on paper. It was the recent history of Ohio State struggling on the road against teams from the other end of the concert, notably with blowout losses at the hands of Iowa and Purdue. If the Buckeyes want a shot at the College Football Playoff, they have to find a way to avoid those massive let downs.
This Saturday was a step in the right direction, absolutely dominating the Cornhuskers in a game they certainly would have struggled in a season ago. Ryan Day is commanding his team to take the season week by week, not looking ahead to the end goal and instead focusing on the game at hand. OSU must continue to stay locked in every single week as they will continue to see each opponents best effort as they look to knock off the surging Buckeyes.
Ohio State isn’t entirely out of the woods when it comes to Big Ten West road matchups this season, as a trip to Evanston on a Friday night awaits when the Buckeyes take on Northwestern in a few weeks.
(Buy) Al Washington/Greg Mattison: There is no clearer example of how much coaching matters than by taking a look at Ohio State’s defense. Last year, the Buckeyes couldn’t stop a nosebleed, as almost every single opponent put up big yards against the Scarlet and Gray each week — especially in the run game. This season, with a defense comprised of almost all of the exact same players, the Silver Bullets are thriving, stuffing the run game and taking the ball away repeatedly.
A big reason for this turnaround is undoubtedly the changes made by Ryan Day to replace almost the entire defensive coaching staff, especially Al Washington (linebackers) and Greg Mattison (co-defensive coordinator). Washington was able to make an LB unit that looked lost for a whole season into a dominant driving force in stopping the run, all by changing the scheme and putting players in position to succeed. Mattison has brought a mix of man and zone concepts, continually keeping opposing offenses guessing and keeping teams off the scoreboard.
(Buy) Garrett Wilson in 2019: Almost every time someone brings up Garrett Wilson, they talk about what a force he is going to be next season. However, with Ohio State now having played five games, it is time to start talking about Garrett Wilson being a force this season. The five-star freshman has already hauled in eight catches for 77 yards and three touchdowns in limited time. However, his role seems to be increasing with each passing week as he continues to put up highlight plays like this:
Fields gets popped on the option, then throws a beautiful fade to Garret Wilson who gets three feet down to put the Buckeyes up 48-0. pic.twitter.com/3POdkUh6bN— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) September 29, 2019
(Sell) The Polls: With the college football world transitioning into conference play, we are starting to get a real feel for which teams are truly playing at the highest level. While the AP Poll factors in how teams finished last year to start its preseason rankings, the rest of the nation is starting to key in that those may not be entirely accurate, and that there should be some shuffling at the top of the board.
Clemson has not looked like the No. 1 team in the country to start the season, with a bad showing in a narrow 21-20 victory against UNC on Saturday. On the contrary, Alabama and Ohio State have certainly looked like two of the most dominant teams in the nation, regardless of the competition (who HAS played really good competition thus far?). It would be shocking to see the AP Poll dethrone the National Champs without a loss, but if the ranking is supposed to show who the top teams in the country are, Ohio State and Alabama should be the frontrunners.