Ohio State Football: 5 Storylines to Watch for the Second Half of the Season
Ohio State has reached the midway point of the season undefeated, and following the first of two bye weeks, the Buckeyes will resume "The Chase" this Saturday against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The first six games didn't pan out as many had expected, but the unblemished Buckeyes are still in the thick of the national title hunt.
How far can Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes extend the nation's longest win streak? What storylines will emerge for Ohio State during the second half of the season?
Here are five things to watch as the Buckeyes continue their quest for perfection.
Will Braxton Miller Bounce Back?
The last time Braxton Miller was on the field, a turnover-plagued performance against Northwestern almost forced the coaching staff to bench their star quarterback in favor of red-hot backup Kenny Guiton.
Miller doesn't need to bounce back from just one bad performance. He also must rebound from a knee injury that sidelined him for most of three weeks. Miller looked sharp in his return against Wisconsin, but he turned the ball over three times and accounted for zero touchdowns against Northwestern in Week 6.
Three of Ohio State's final six opponents boast top-20 defenses (Iowa, Penn State and Michigan), so Miller will need to step up his play.
Can the Secondary Improve?
Ohio State's secondary was supposed to be the strength of the defense, but through six games, the defensive backfield has been the team's biggest weakness.
The Buckeyes are giving up an average of 240 yards per game through the air, which ranks No. 77 in the country.
Bradley Roby, who entered the season as one of college football's most talented cornerbacks, has struggled in Ohio State's zone coverage. Will the Buckeyes allow Roby to play more press, something he thrives at? And how will Ohio State replace three-year starting safety Christian Bryant, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury against Wisconsin.
Will Contributing Freshmen Hit a Slump?
Two freshmen in particular—Joey Bosa and Dontre Wilson—have contributed in a big way for the Buckeyes.
Bosa has been the best first-year player on Ohio State's roster, totaling 16 tackles and four tackles for loss from his defensive end position. The 6'6", 275-pound freshman played his best game against Northwestern, totaling five tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown.
Wilson is averaging 9.5 yards every time he touches the ball, but he has only seen limited action through six games.
The speedster out of Texas has done a majority of his damage on the ground, rushing for 142 yards on 15 carries. He also has 11 receptions for 105 yards, but Meyer is looking for Wilson to be more consistent.
Will the Buckeyes continue to get contributions from their first-year players, or is a freshmen slump on the horizon?
Can Carlos Hyde Continue to Surge?
After serving a three-game suspension for an offseason incident, Hyde returned in a limited role during Ohio State's 76-0 rout over Florida A&M.
The 6'0", 235-pound senior took over as the main running back a week later, rushing for a game-high 85 yards against Wisconsin. Then, against Northwestern, he lifted the Buckeyes with 206 total yards, scoring all three of Ohio State's offensive touchdowns in a 40-30 victory.
If Hyde can maintain that level of play, he could put Ohio State over the top.
Can Ohio State Remain Unbeaten and Get Help to Reach the BCS Title Game?
Ohio State started the year ranked No. 2 in the country behind Alabama, but because of the Buckeyes' weak strength of schedule (and impressive victories from other BCS bowl contenders), they've slipped to No. 4.
In the BCS era, only one undefeated team from an automatic-qualifying conference failed to make the title game (Auburn, 2004), which suggests that an unbeaten Ohio State team would likely get to play for it all.
If more than two unbeaten teams emerge from the group of Alabama, Oregon, Clemson, Ohio State, Florida State and even Miami, the Buckeyes could be on the outside looking in.
While the Buckeyes will need some help to finish as one of the top two teams, their biggest focus should be on winning every game they can. That's the only thing Coach Meyer and Ohio State can control.
All stats via NCAA.com.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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