Coming into the season, Ohio State's weakness was supposed to be in the defensive trenches after Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes replaced six starters in the front seven.
After five games, that unit has become one of Ohio State's biggest strengths.
The Buckeyes defense ranks No. 18 in the country, allowing just 304 yards per game, but the front seven is leading the charge. Ohio State has been stout against the run, holding teams to fewer than 85 rushing yards per game, which ranks eighth in the country.
The biggest moment for the unit came last Saturday when Wisconsin brought its third ranked rushing offense, which was averaging 350 yards per game, to Columbus for a prime-time matchup.
The Buckeyes stifled the Badgers, allowing just 104 rushing yards while limiting Wisconsin to fewer than four yards per carry. Badgers running back Melvin Gordon, who led the country with 624 rushing yards and an unbelievable 11.8 yards per carry coming in, gained just 74 yards and failed to reach paydirt.
The Badgers had success throwing the ball against Ohio State, but that was because of how overwhelming the Buckeyes were in the trenches.
"I feel like we forced them into that," C.J. Barnett said, according to Doug Lesmerises of The Plain Dealer. "Our front seven did a great job stopping the run, so that's what they were forced to do, throw the ball."
The Buckeyes have followed that script pretty successfully all season.
Only Cal has rushed for more yards against the Buckeyes than its average against the other teams on its schedule.
Ohio State has been so good up front because a number of young players are producing like upperclassmen.
A trio of young defensive ends—sophomores Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington and freshman Joey Bosa—have paced the Buckeyes off the edge. The interior of the line has been fueled by the solid play of Michael Bennett, Joel Hale, Chris Carter and Michael Hill.
Curtis Grant, who needed to step up in a big way for the Buckeyes, has been solid starting at middle linebacker. Grant ranks second on the team (behind fellow linebacker Ryan Shazier) with 25 total tackles.
Urban Meyer identified the key to a successful season all the way back in the spring.
“If we put together a good D-line and linebackers, I think we’ll have a good team. If not, we won’t. It’s pretty simple," Meyer said, according to Eleven Warriors.
Through five games, that's exactly what Meyer has done.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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