Michigan Football Preview: Meet The Buckeyes

Jake Sage

Last Result: Ohio State 28 Penn State 17

The Buckeyes passed their first test against a Top 10 team in the country last weekend, when they defeated Penn State in The Horseshoe. Ohio State’s 11-point victory was their smallest margin of victory this season. Their consistent dominant has put Ohio State’s margin of victory at 38.9, the best in college football.

The Buckeyes' No. 1 scoring offense in points per game at 49.4, gashed the Penn State run defense, ranked second in college football in yards allowed per carry at 2.6, on the opening series. On that first drive, Ohio State ran the ball 12 times for 91 yards and capped it off with a J.K. Dobbins touchdown run. 

If it weren’t for QB Justin Fields' third lost fumble of the season, as he was about to cross the goal line, the Buckeyes would have been up 14-0 after their first two possessions of the game.

Ohio State dominated the first half on both sides of the ball, accounting for 255 total yards compared to Penn State’s 64 and controlled the time of possession battle, having the ball for 19:37 in the first half. The Buckeyes were also winning up front in the first half, running for 147 yards compared to the Nittany Lions' 11. 

Penn State was lucky to go into the break only down 14-0.

After Ohio State marched the opening drive of the second half right down the field for a touchdown, it seemed like the Buckeyes would run away with it, like they had in their first 10 games. However, after Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford went down with an injury, freshman quarterback Will Levis began to ignite a comeback. With the new quarterback, PSU ran more read options and found some success against Ohio State’s run defense, which ranks second in the country allowing just 2.6 yards per carry.

The Nittany Lions scored 17 unanswered points in the third quarter, helped by two Ohio State fumbles. Dobbins fumbled for just the fourth time in his career, in which he has had 643 carries for 3,902 yards with 6.1 yards per carry. 

The Dobbins' fumble led to a Penn State touchdown. Then the next possession, Fields fumbled for the second time in the game. The Nittany Lions only managed a field goal after that fumble, though, cutting the lead to 21-17.

Facing adversity for one of the first times this season, the Buckeyes responded and didn’t allow Penn State to score the rest of the game, while having a key drive of their own that ended in a 28-yard touchdown pass to Chris Olave, for his 10th touchdown of the season.

The Buckeyes defense, which ranks third best in the country at points allowed per game at 10.5, ranks the best in the country at yards allowed per game giving up just 217.7, and has not given up more than 21 points in any game this season. 

The Buckeyes put pressure on the quarterback all day, ending the game with five sacks, three of which came from defensive end Chase Young. The Buckeyes are the best in the nation in sack percentage per dropback at 14.2%.

The Ohio State pass defense, which is the best in the country in passing yards allowed per game at 126.2, was also able to shut down one of the best athletes in the Big Ten in PSU wide receiver K.J Hamler. The wideout ended the game with just three catches for 45 yards, and Penn State struggled getting anything going through the air, having just 128 passing yards in the game.

Ohio State’s offense was led by Dobbins, who had a career high 36 carries for 157 yards with 4.4 yards per carry and two touchdowns. The Buckeyes finished with 229 rushing yards in the game; however, that is lower than their usual rushing total per game at 282.7 yards, which ranks third in college football.

The Buckeyes were helped by wideouts Olave, Binjimen Victor and K.J. Hill, who combined for 122 yards and two receiving touchdowns. The Buckeyes' top three receivers each have over 450 yards receiving and at least six touchdowns, the only trio of wideouts on the same team in the Big Ten that have accomplished that feat this season. 

Fields, the Buckeyes quarterback, also played solid, going 16-for-22 for 188 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 68 yards on the day.

The Buckeyes Record in the last six years:

2019: 11-0 (8-0 in Big Ten) Ranked 1st in CFP Rankings

2018: 13-1 (8-1 in Big Ten) Finished 3rd in AP poll

2017: 12-2 (8-1 in Big Ten) Finished 5th in AP poll

2016: 11-2 (8-1 in Big Ten) Lost in CFP semifinals

2015: 12-1 (7-1 in Big Ten) Finished 4th in AP poll

How has Ohio State Faired vs Ranked Opponents in Recent Years?

In the past six seasons, the Buckeyes are 23-3 against ranked opponents and 16-1 against ranked Big Ten teams. In those 23 wins, Ohio State has won 16 of those games by more than 10 points.

During Urban Meyer's career from 2012-18, the Buckeyes did not lose a game against a ranked opponent on the road, going 8-0 in those contests. However, they have been dominated in losses on the road in games against unranked teams, such as Purdue in 2018 and Iowa in 2017, that ultimately prevented the Buckeyes from reaching the College Football Playoff.

Ohio State won the National Championship and finished the season going 4-0 against ranked opponents in 2014.

Ohio State is 12-0 in its last 12 games against ranked foes, including 3-0 this season. The Buckeyes beat No. 25 Michigan State 34-10, No. 13 Wisconsin 38-7 and No. 9 Penn State 28-17 all at home this season.

The Buckeyes have defeated the Wolverines in 14 of the last 15 matchups and Michigan has not beaten an Ohio State team that finished the season with a winning record since 2003.

The Scarlet and Gray have won the last seven matchups against the Wolverines and in the last four years Ohio State has beaten a Michigan team ranked in the top 12 three times. The closest the Wolverines have been to defeating Ohio State in the past five years was in Columbus in 2016 when Michigan lost 30-27 in double overtime.

It is also worth noting that even if Michigan does beat the Buckeyes for the first time since 2011, Ohio State’s playoff hopes won’t be gone, as they could still win the Big Ten and slide into the College Football Playoff.

Two Players to Watch (Offense):

Justin Fields, Sophomore, Quarterback

The Georgia transfer, Fields has gone a ridiculous 175-for-252 (69.4 percent) with 2,352 yards passing and leads the Big Ten with 33 passing touchdowns. Fields has also done a really good job avoiding interceptions, only throwing one.

He has also has been extremely effective for the Buckeyes as a runner. Fields has 445 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. The scrambling ability of the Buckeye quarterback is one of the reasons that Ohio State ranks the best in college football on third-down percentage, picking up a first down on 58% of their third-down plays.

The one knock on Fields is that he has taken too many sacks, as he is one of the reasons the Buckeyes sack percentage on pass plays is 7.69%, which ranks among the bottom 35 teams in college football.

Stiil, the 6-3, 223-pound quarterback’s play has given him the second best QBR in the country at 93.2 and puts him in the Heisman conversation. Fields has accounted for at least three touchdowns in every game but one this season.

J.K. Dobbins, Junior, Running Back

The 5-10, 217-pound junior running back is 60 yards away from passing Ezekiel Elliott as the Buckeyes second-leading rusher in school history. Dobbins has had over 1,000 yards rushing in each of his first three seasons as a Buckeye, and when he runs for at least 90 yards in a game Ohio State is 20-0.

Dobbins is currently having his best season in Columbus, ranking fourth in college football in rushing yards at 1,446 yards, 21st in yards per carry at 6.6, and seventh in rushing touchdowns at 15, on just 219 carries. In addition, the Ohio State back has 15 receptions for 151 yards and two receiving touchdowns.

What’s miraculous about Dobbins numbers is that he has barely played in the second half of games because Ohio State has blown most teams out. Dobbins had only 42 carries in the second half in OSU's first 10 games.

Two Players to Watch (Defense):

Chase Young, Junior, Defensive End

The 6-5, 265-pound defensive end broke the Ohio State single-season sack record last weekend vs Penn State. Young has accounted for 16.5 sacks in 9 games. The junior defensive end was suspended two games for taking a loan from a family friend, which violated NCAA rules. However, Young came back with a vengeance, accounting for three sacks and two forced fumbles against the Nittany Lions in his first game back.

Young not only leads the country in sacks, but he also leads college football in forced fumbles with seven. The Ohio State defensive end also has 19.5 tackles for loss, which ranks atop the Big Ten and third in the country. 

Young has accounted for at least half a sack in every game he has played in and has six multi-sack games. The play of Young has made many declare him the best player in college football and a possible Heisman winner.

Jeff Okudah, Junior, Cornerback

Okudah is the Buckeyes' lockdown corner, who is projected to be the first cornerback taken in the 2020 NFL draft. His play has certainly been one of the reasons the Ohio State pass defense has improved so much this season. The 6-1, 200-pound cornerback has three interceptions, two forced fumbles and four passes defensed. 

Okudah's play has landed him on the list of finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the best cornerback in college football. 

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