When Carlos Hyde came off the field late in the first half and trainers wrapped his knee in ice, it was certainly cause for concern; Hyde had been the leading rusher among Ohio State tailbacks at that point, though with the early exit his numbers looked modest by the rest of the game (seven rushes, 27 yards), he was still an effective power presence in the backfield.
Now, when guys get their knees iced, go off into the locker room, then come back out in sweats, it's safe to assume bad things have happened with that knee. To that end, the news from Urban Meyer about the extent of Hyde's injury is about as good as Ohio State could ask for.
Here's the report from Urban Meyer's postgame comments, via a reporter from Eleven Warriors:
Carlos Hyde has an MCL sprain. Meyer said he could "be out a week or two"— Alex 11W (@alex11w) September 8, 2012
That said, that may just be an initial estimation. Carlos Hyde got on Twitter shortly thereafter and indicated that more news might be coming:
Thanks for the love #buckeyenationbut I'll find out more about my knee tomorrow.— Carlos Hyde (@king_hyde34) September 8, 2012
So, even if this turns out to be an MCL tear (which, to be fair, is also a sprain) and Hyde is out for more than that week or two, that'd obviously be bad for Ohio State's depth. But, it wouldn't make a whole lot of difference when it comes to the offensive timbre of the Buckeyes.
For one, Hyde is a big guy at 6'1" and 235 pounds. Behind him is true freshman Bri'onte Dunn at 6'1" and 214 (and he's used to playing bigger), and past that, it's Rod Smith at 6'3" and 230. Ohio State also uses fullback Zach Boren in the rushing game, and he's bigger than all of them. He is a fullback, after all.
Now, these guys are not all the same back. But their running styles—north and south, with brutality—are sufficiently similar that Meyer can (and did) plug Dunn in, and things aren't going to be much different. There's just less of a safety net depth-wise.
Moreover, Braxton Miller proved himself as the real workhorse of the Ohio State offense on Saturday. Even before Hyde went out, Miller was leading the team in rushes, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and he did not relinquish any of those leads over the course of the second half.
Last, Ohio State's backfield is going to get a badly needed upgrade when Jordan Hall rejoins the Buckeyes. Hall has been recovering from a foot tendon injury, and Ohio State coaches have been targeting Week 3 as his return date (via ESPN) since the injury. There's been no indication from Ohio State's camp that Hall's behind schedule in his recovery, so let's pencil him in.
With Hall in the mix, Ohio State's offense will have an added measure of flexibility; he's much smaller than Ohio State's stable of big backs and has an added explosive ability that lets Ohio State move him in and out of the backfield.
That being said, Ohio State will miss Hyde for as long as he's out. Hyde had emerged as the best of its big backs, and he's got as good a grasp of the offense as anyone else in the backfield. That's not the kind of guy you can lose without a negative effect on quality.
But, Ohio State's well-equipped to deal with Hyde's absence for however long it might be, at the very least, and that's a major relief.