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Ohio State's Focus on Winning Games, not Heisman Trophy

Third-ranked Buckeyes have three contenders after eight dominant wins

Other coaches might do it, and some Ohio State fans might even like it, but Ohio State's Ryan Day won't be tempted to trick up a Heisman Trophy stunt for junior defensive end Chase Young/.

“It sounds fun,” Day said. "But we’re not going to take any risks with Chase. No...not going to do that."

Whether Young will step onto the actual Heisman Trophy stage in December remains unknown, but he certainly burst into the spotlight nationally Saturday with an OSU-record tying four quarterback sacks, two of which caused fumbles, in a 38-7 win over Wisconsin.

Fox-TV broadcasters Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt gave their full-throated endorsement to Young as, "the best player in college football, period" after his dominant performance against the Badgers.

How one defines "best player" is as open to interpretation as the inscription on the Heisman, "Presented to the most outstanding college football player in America."

To some of the 870 media voters and 59 former winners who vote, the award is purely based on football ability. To others, there's a character element to it. To some, the player's team must be a national championship contender. To others, the team's record has no bearing.

Only one defensive player has won the award, Michigan's Charles Woodson in 1997, and he likely would not have claimed it had he not also been a significant contributor for the Wolverines as a punt-returner and wide receiver.

Woodson returned a punt for a touchdown, intercepted a pass in the end zone and caught Michigan's longest pass of the day in its 1997 win over Ohio State to earn enough votes to edge Tennessee's Peyton Manning for the award.

Young's case is problematic because he's a defensive player teams can double- and triple-team to take away -- although Wisconsin foolishly did not -- and because he's battling two teammates for the headlines in virtually every game.

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Tailback J.K. Dobbins' 1,110 rushing yards rank second nationally to Oklahoma State's Chuba Howard (1,380) and quarterback Justin Fields is fourth in the country with 24 touchdown passes.

Fields has thrown only one interception and has also rushed for nine scores.

Ohio State has traditionally avoided engaging in the ardent promotion of any one of its players for the Heisman.

Last year, when quarterback Dwayne Haskins finished third behind Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa, OSU sent a poster touting Haskins' achievements to selected voters the Monday after the Big Ten Championship game.

Haskins threw for 499 yard and five scores in that game, but the reality of the Heisman vote is that many voters had already cast their ballots before the Big Ten title game and before OSU's promotional material arrived.

I'm not really worried about that right now," Fields said of his own candidacy. "I'm just worried about winning. If you lose one game, that' goes all out the window. I'm not really focused on individual accolades. I'm just focused on the team winning games and getting through each and every week."

If you doubt that Fields is in lock-step with Day, compare the coach's answer  to the OSU quarterback's response.

"Well, if you lose a game, that all goes out the window,” Day said. “Nobody is talking about anybody, so it’s all about if we win or not. You hate to sound like that, but it’s just the facts. If we want to continually get this type of momentum and keep the momentum going, we have to continue doing what we’re doing.

“That’s just the reality of it, so the guys need to embrace that and understand it and have the maturity to put that aside and ignore that stuff and stay focused on the task at hand. … It’s a great honor and all that stuff, but that’s so far down the road right now that we’re not talking about that kind of thing.”

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