At the halfway point of the regular season, Ohio State is 6-0.
How did the third-ranked Buckeyes get to this point? What can we expect for the second half?
Here are some ideas:
Most Valuable Player: Dwayne Haskins
Let’s start with an easy one. Football may be the ultimate team game, but the quarterback always gets the most attention. In the case of Haskins, that is well-deserved.
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With a nation-leading 25 touchdown passes and a completion percentage of 71.7, the sophomore has been simply outstanding. He has a great supporting cast, but Haskins is the straw that stirs the drink. He has also displayed impressive maturity and humbleness so far, and he has been praised for his growth as a leader.
Defensive MVP: Nick Bosa
Some people confuse this for best player, but I prefer to be literal. The most valuable player on Ohio State’s defense has been the defensive end who missed more than half of the first half of the season.
Not only was the junior from Florida off to an amazing start (four sacks, six tackles for loss, a touchdown scored off a fumble recovery and a touchdown created by a forced fumble in less than three games), the defense hasn’t had the same edge without him, especially when it comes to rushing the passer.
Most eye-popping stat: 37.7 passes per game
That would be a school record if it continues — six more than last season and 10 more than the average in the first six years under Urban Meyer. (The 1998 team holds the record with 34.9 passes per game.)
We knew Ohio State would throw the ball a lot with Haskins at the control, but the swing has been a little more than expected.
Most surprising trend: The offense isn’t all that explosive.
Despite having a quarterback who throws one of the prettiest deep balls on record, Ohio State is more reliant on consistent gains than creating big plays.
That is in large part a result of how teams are defending the Buckeye offense, of course.
It’s also a result of a lack of big plays from the running game so far.
Least surprising trend: The running backs are doing most of the running.
Ohio State quarterbacks have only accounted for 12 percent of the running game so far, down fro 30 percent last year and 33 percent in the first six years under Meyer.
That said, what can we expect to see in the second half of the season?
Let’s start with the bad news…
Trend likely to continue: Opposing offenses making big plays.
The biggest problem of the season so far might not ever truly be solved. Ohio State’s defensive style invites teams to try to go over the top, and many an out-matched opponent probably realizes that is their best bet for success anyway because they aren’t going to consistently win on a play-to-play basis against a team with Ohio State’s talent.
At this point, Buckeye fans may have to live with giving up the occasional explosive gain while relying on the idea opponents still won’t be able to come up with enough to win.
Trend unlikely to continue: The running game being “blah.”
Ohio State has two backs with 1,000-yard seasons on their resume (J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber) plus a massive offensive line and a passing game teams have to respect. The coaching staff has already shown a willingness to get more creative scheme-wise, too, with the absence of the quarterback run threat.
As the weather gets colder (finally), expect the Buckeyes to lean more heavily on the running game and for it to improve with more reps for the offensive line.
Most likely trap game: Is there one?
Purdue was a candidate, but the Saturday night lights might help the Buckeyes get hyped for that game next week.
Michigan State is probably the best bet with the possibility of being a 4-loss team by Nov. 10 and given that the Spartans have been a thorn in Ohio State’s side throughout the Meyer tenure.
This is certainly going out on a limb because when or even if Bosa returns remains uncertain, but Ohio State is going to need to get him back to reach its full potential.
His parents told multiple media outlets he wants to return this season and will be reevaluated in November.
There is no need to rush back: A four-game finishing set of the Michigan game (Nov. 24), the Big Ten championship and potentially two playoff games would present plenty of time for Bosa to write an amazing comeback story.