When Games Get Tougher Ohio State Will Lean on Carlos Hyde, Not Braxton Miller

Adam KramerNational College Football Lead WriterNovember 16, 2013

USA Today

For the first time in 2013, Carlos Hyde ran for negative yards on a carry.

It happened during the first half against Illinois, and I suppose this remarkable streak was bound to come to an end at some point. From that moment on, however, the Big Ten’s best back delivered yet another monstrous performance, his finest of the season. 

As much as we talk about Braxton Miller—and for good reason—Hyde will provide the biggest impact for the Buckeyes going forward, with key games taking shape on the horizon.

CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 16: Carlos Hyde #34 of the Ohio State Buckeyes drags tacklers Houston Bates #55 and Teko Powell #93 of the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Champaign, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Against Illinois, it was the quarterback doing the heavy lifting early on. Miller broke a 70-yard touchdown run less than one minute into the game to set the tone. The Buckeyes offense got off to a blazing start, although the unit seemed to stall some as the game progressed. Illinois picked up its offense in the second half, and the game had a strange feel deep into the fourth quarter.

Hyde’s late surge, however, put any discussions of an upset to rest, and the Buckeyes cruised past the Illini, 60-35. 

Unexpectedly, Hyde didn’t start in this game. ESPN's College GameDay was the first to report that Hyde had issues with a class this previous week, prompting a late decision from Urban Meyer. Following the game, Meyer cleared up the issue, which doesn't seem like it should be an issue at all:

Urban Meyer on if Carlos Hyde missed the start as a punishment: "Academically we have certain standards, but he's fine."

— Lori Schmidt (@LoriSchmidt) November 16, 2013

After a brief punishment served—he basically missed two plays—Hyde entered the game and exploded.

When it was all said and done, Hyde carried the ball 24 times for 246 yards. He also finished with two catches for 26 yards and five (yes, five) scores.

The back doesn’t get nearly the same national buzz as Ohio State's heralded signal-caller, but his influence on this program is comparable. In fact, you could make the argument that he’s been more valuable to the team, something that was on display earlier this year on prime time.

When the Buckeyes were struggling at Northwestern, it was Hyde’s second-half explosion—and colossal overall workload—that completely changed the complexion of the game. 

Hyde finished 206 yards from scrimmage and three total touchdowns, often extending drives and getting the key yards that the Buckeyes needed. This wasn’t just a Northwestern showcase, either. Hyde has been the glue that has kept this offense going. 

After serving a three-game suspension to start the season following an offseason incident in a Columbus bar, Hyde was worked back into the offense. He fell short of the 100-yard mark in his first two games, but hasn't finished below that mark since.

Slowly but surely—and really, it hasn’t been all that slow with this kind of production—Hyde is inching closer to making history with Urban Meyer:

Hyde picked up 10.2 per carry today and with 947 yards, he's pretty much a lock to be Urban Meyer's first 1,000-yard back.

— Eleven Warriors (@11W) November 16, 2013

Hyde’s enormous performance in Week 12 should come as no surprise. He has looked dominant through much of 2013, and it’s hard to process how a 240-pound back can consistently move with such power and deceptive speed.

These traits are rarely found in backs his size, and they will surely come in handy down the stretch. Despite a string of blowout victories and whisperings of a weak schedule, the Buckeyes will likely need Hyde with competition suddenly coming into focus.

CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 16: Carlos Hyde #34 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs against (L-R) Austin Teitsma #44, Zane Petty #21 and Mason Monheim #43 of the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

No, this does not include Indiana—at least it shouldn't. The Hoosiers will head to Columbus next week, and Ohio State will then wrap up the regular season with a road trip to Michigan. Perhaps the level of this final obstacle will be better understood in a few weeks. 

If all goes according to plan, Ohio State will then take on a team to be determined in the Big Ten Championship. And if all really goes according to plan—and help arrives in others' losses—Ohio State could find itself in the BCS National Championship Game.

Regardless of whether this dream scenario plays out, the Buckeyes will be tested soon. The games, significance and matchups are still to be determined, but competition is coming.

Braxton Miller will continue to do ridiculous things with the football in his hands—as he did at times against Illinois—but Hyde will be expected to handle an immense workload and pick up key yards in key situations. And from what we’ve seen over the past six weeks, there’s nothing that tells us he won’t deliver.