Ohio State Football: Midseason Stock Report for the Buckeyes
Six up, six down.
No. 4 Ohio State has reached the midway point of the season unblemished, and head coach Urban Meyer will take his 6-0 record into the bye week looking to rest, then gear up for the homestretch.
Although Ohio State has navigated the first half of its schedule unscathed, the season isn't unfolding the way many had envisioned.
What's trending upward for the Buckeyes? What's plummeting?
Here's Ohio State's midseason stock report.
Stock Up: Kenny Guiton
Kenny Guiton was forced into the spotlight when Braxton Miller sprained his MCL on the opening drive of Ohio State's Week 2 matchup against San Diego State.
Despite entering the season with zero career starts, Guiton thrived while guiding Ohio State to three blowout victories. The Buckeyes hammered the Aztecs 42-7, outlasted Cal 52-34 and annihilated outmatched Florida A&M 76-0.
During that three-game stretch, Guiton completed 64 of 94 passes (68 percent) for 643 yards and 12 touchdowns against just two interceptions. While he doesn't have the running ability of Miller, Guiton still rushed for 186 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries (7.4 yards per rush).
In his two official starts, Guiton broke two school records. The fifth-year senior hit Devin Smith for a 90-yard touchdown pass against the Golden Bears, the longest in school history. Against the Rattlers, he threw six touchdown passes, shattering Ohio State's old record before the halftime whistle blew.
Not bad for a backup quarterback.
Stock Down: Braxton Miller
Coming into the season, many people considered Braxton Miller the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.
After six weeks of action, he's not even mentioned in the conversation.
Much of that isn't Miller's fault, as a knee injury sidelined Ohio State's star quarterback for most of three weeks. But even when he has been on the field, he hasn't been producing Heisman-like numbers.
In fact, Miller isn't even putting up Guiton-like numbers.
Both have played a majority of three games, but Miller has 55 fewer passing yards (609) and seven fewer passing touchdowns (six). While he has rushed for more yardage, his yards-per-carry average (4.1) falls more than three yards shy of Guiton's.
Granted, Miller faced Ohio State's toughest defensive opponent in Week 5 against Wisconsin, but a disappointing performance against a suspect Northwestern team (no touchdowns, three turnovers) set Miller back.
Stock Up: The Defensive Front 7
One of the biggest challenges facing Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes coming into the season was replacing the six lost starters in their front seven.
Thanks to a number of talented underclassmen and a few veterans, Ohio State boasts one of the strongest defensive fronts in the country.
The Buckeyes rank No. 7 in the nation against the run, holding teams to an average of 86 yards per game.
Ohio State isn't just shutting down inept offenses. The Buckeyes held a Wisconsin team that was averaging more than 350 rushing yards per game to just 104 in their Week 5 matchup. A week later, Ohio State held Northwestern 171 yards under its season average.
Sophomores Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington have played very good football off the edge, and Michael Bennett has been dominant on the interior. The Buckeyes have gotten improved linebacker play from Joshua Perry and Curtis Grant, and of course, Ryan Shazier is playing at an All-Big Ten level.
Stock Down: The Secondary
With three starters returning in the secondary, including one of the top cornerbacks in the country in Bradley Roby, Ohio State's strength defensively was supposed to be against the pass.
Through six weeks, it's the team's biggest weakness.
The Buckeyes currently rank No. 76 in the country defending the pass, giving up an average of 240 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks.
"We're very good against the run," Meyer said. "But the pass defense is very alarming right now."
Ohio State is coming off two poor performances. Wisconsin's Joel Stave threw for 295 yards against the Buckeyes (105 yards above his season average), while Northwestern's combo of Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter threw for a combined 343 yards.
Roby has been getting beat consistently by the teams who challenge him, and losing a three-year starter in Christian Bryant for the season doesn't help matters.
Stock Up: Impact Freshmen
A pair of freshman have contributed in a big way for the Buckeyes early.
Defensively, Joey Bosa has been playing way beyond his years. The 6'6", 275-pound defensive end stepped into a starting role when Adolphus Washington suffered a groin injury, and despite his youth, he's been dominant.
Through six games, Bosa has notched 16 total tackles and ranks third on the team with four tackles for loss. He played his best game as a Buckeye against Northwestern, registering five tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovered in the end zone for a defensive touchdown.
Offensively, speedy playmaker Dontre Wilson has made an impact.
Wilson has run for 142 yards on 15 carries and has caught 11 passes for 105 yards. He's averaging 9.5 yards per touch and scored his first (and only) collegiate touchdown in Week 2 against San Diego State.
Other first-year players such as Ezekiel Elliott, Trey Johnson and Vonn Bell have seen a good amount of playing time early.
Stock Down: The Buckeyes' Strength of Schedule
Ohio State didn't enter the season with the strongest schedule, but six weeks of action hasn't done it any favors.
Ohio State's "big" nonconference opponent, Cal, has stumbled to a 1-4 record under new head coach Sonny Dykes.
The Buckeyes played two of the strongest Big Ten teams in back-to-back weeks (No. 23 Wisconsin and No. 16 Northwestern), but their next five opponents (Iowa, Penn State, Purdue, Illinois and Indiana) have a combined record of 14-12.
Ohio State's toughest test, on paper, will be its season finale on the road against rival Michigan. The No. 18 Wolverines are the only ranked team remaining on the Buckeyes' schedule, which is a huge knock on Ohio State's resume.
Stock Up: Ohio State's Big Ten Title Chances
After defeating two of the top teams in the conference to start its league slate, Ohio State is in great position to make its first ever appearance in the Big Ten title game.
Beating Wisconsin in Week 5 was key. The Badgers, who have won three straight Big Ten titles coming into 2013, were the biggest challengers to to the Buckeyes in the Leaders Division.
Ohio State essentially has a two-game lead on Wisconsin because of the tiebreaker, and the only other divisional foe who is unbeaten in league play is Indiana, which visits the 'Shoe on November 23.
The Buckeyes will be heavily favored in their next five games, and if they take care of business during that span, they will have already clinched their spot in the Big Ten title game before traveling to Ann Arbor.
Stock Down: Ohio State's National Title Chances
Ohio State entered the season ranked No. 2 behind the near-consensus top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
Since then, the Buckeyes have lost ground in the AP poll almost every week, even after beating ranked opponents on back-to-back Saturdays.
Now ranked No. 4, Ohio State needs other teams ahead of it that have much stronger strengths of schedule to lose in order to move up the rankings.
If more than two undefeated teams rise from the group of Alabama, Oregon, Clemson, Stanford and Florida State, a (hypothetically) unbeaten Buckeyes team would have a hard time getting into the title game with its inferior resume.
It's hard to believe that a team riding an 18-game winning streak doesn't have the respect of the national media and poll voters, but unfortunately for the Buckeyes, that's where they stand.
All stats via NCAA.com.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
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