Ohio State Football: Players Key to an Undefeated Season for the Buckeyes
On paper, this season means nothing for the Ohio State Buckeyes football team. Don't tell any of the players that.
In a season that started with mixed expectations due to the combination of a postseason ban and the addition of Urban Meyer, OSU has cruised to a 9-0 record in a fairly dominant fashion.
While three more wins won't change the Buckeyes' postseason fate—or lack thereof—don't underestimate what an undefeated season can do for a program, from momentum into next season to a boost in recruiting, if Meyer even needs it.
That being said, let's take a look at players who will be important in securing the final three wins against Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Braxton Miller, QB
There was so much worry about Ohio State's quarterback situation coming into the season, but Miller has essentially done what Denard Robinson was supposed to do for Michigan.
Is there anyone more important to this team than Miller?
The dynamic sophomore signal-caller is fifth in the Big Ten in passing yards, third in yards per attempt, third in touchdowns and third in QB rating.
And that's the weak part of his game.
Miller has been downright dominant in the run game, tallying 1,093 yards (121.4 per game). That's more than Le'Veon Bell, more than former Heisman finalist Montee Ball, more than any other running back in this run-heavy league.
Throw in 12 rushing scores on the ground, and Miller's worth to this team is obvious. The Buckeyes go as he goes.
John Simon, DE
The Buckeyes are giving up 277.9 yards per game through the air, which is the most in the Big 12. They've been able to weather that storm, however, by racking up 12 interceptions, which is also most in the conference.
A big reason for that? The pass rush.
Simon leads an attack that is tied for 31st in the country with 20 quarterback takedowns. The dangerous senior is tied for fifth in the Big Ten in sacks with four, and he continues to add to his impressive career total of 15.5, which has him 22nd all time in Big Ten history.
Add in the 9.5 tackles for loss (37 for his career) and it's clear how good Simon is at disrupting the backfield. Making life difficult for the scrambling quarterbacks left on the schedule will be an important task for Simon, Ryan Shazier (83 tackles, four sacks) and company.
Carlos Hyde, RB
If—and that's a big if—Braxton Miller gets shut, or even slowed, down, the running game, which is led by Carlos Hyde, is going to have to step up in a big way.
During Miller's two least-productive games (Purdue, when he got hurt, and UAB), the running backs came to the rescue.
Against the Boilermakers, Hyde carried the ball 19 times for 91 yards and two scores. Against the Blazers, it was Jordan Hall racking up an impressive 105 yards on 17 carries.
Hyde has recovered from his injury and has been back in the starter's role for the past month, so it will be up to him to keep up the much-needed balanced offensive attack.
If his 600 yards and 10 touchdowns on 126 carries are any indication, he'll be just fine doing exactly that.
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