Against hated Michigan at the Big House on Saturday, Ohio State found itself in an unfamiliar position: face bloodied, back against the ropes, a lesser team pounding away at it. The Buckeyes desperately needed a savior, someone to step up and put the team on his back.
Enter Carlos Hyde.
The 6'0'', 235-pound running back defined the word workhorse in Week 14, taking a season-high 27 carries for 226 yards and one touchdown, which proved to be the game-winning score with 2:20 remaining.
In the process, Hyde not only saved Ohio State's season—moving it within one game of the BCS National Championship Game—he also helped kick start a sleeper, albeit unlikely, campaign for the Heisman Trophy.
It's hard to find a back who's been better than him this year.
Saturday wasn't the first time Ohio State has needed Hyde to come up huge, and it certainly wasn't the first time he's answered the bell. With College GameDay in attendance this October, the Buckeyes were struggling to put away Northwestern on the road, but Hyde came up huge with 168 yards and three touchdowns.
His big game against Michigan was the second time he's gone for 225-plus yards this season, which, according to ESPN Stats & Info, is a first in Ohio State history:
Carlos Hyde is the 1st Ohio State player with 2 games of at least 225 rush yards in a season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 30, 2013
The only other Buckeye with multiple games like that in his career is college football legend Archie Griffin, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Hyde also broke the record for most yards an Ohio State player has rushed for against Michigan, passing the previous mark of 222, set by Beanie Wells in 2007.
It was truly a historic day.
Still, if not for Brady Hoke's decision to go for two after a late touchdown, this game might have gone to overtime. Despite Hyde's heroics, the Buckeyes still might have come up short.
But the running back believes there's a reason Hoke didn't kick the extra point: He knew Ohio State—that is, Ohio State's running back—would not be stopped in the extra frame.
"[Michigan] went for two because they didn't want to go to overtime," Hyde said, according to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com. "They knew what was going to happen. We would have scored; I have no doubt. We were having success all day."
It's hard to argue with that logic. Hyde looked like a man who would not be denied, despite going up against a rush defense that entered the game ranked 14th nationally in yards per game and yards per carry. There's no way Hoke could have trusted his guys to slow Hyde down.
All of which begs an interesting question: Can Hyde be rightfully considered as a Heisman candidate?
He was suspended for the first three games of the season after an offseason assault investigation—even though the charges were dropped—and he only got five carries in the fourth game against Florida A&M. That is a sizable portion of the season to miss, and its effect on his rushing totals is significant.
Still, Hyde has been, perhaps, the best running back in college football since entering the lineup on a full-time basis. He ranks third nationally with 156.1 rushing yards per game against BCS conference opponents, despite receiving far less carries per game than the two players (Andre Williams and Ka'Deem Carey) above him.
Only one player in the top 20, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, averages anything in the stratosphere of his 7.81 yards per carry. Against all competition, if you crudely extrapolate his numbers to include the first four games, he would currently have 1,874 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns.
No doubt, those would be Heisman-caliber numbers.
More important than just Hyde's stats, though, is the fact that he's doing this for the No. 2 team in America. As good as Ohio State's depth is at the running back position, there is little doubt that this team would have lost at least once without its bell-cow.
He's been that good.
By that token, how many players have had a bigger impact on the 2013 season than Hyde has? The Heisman is supposed to be a combination of the Most Outstanding Player and the Most Valuable Player in America; Hyde has been a combination of both.
Pac-12 Writer Bryan Fischer ignored any regional bias during Saturday's game, wondering why Hyde—despite the three-game suspension—doesn't get more love as a Heisman candidate:
Why not Carlos Hyde in the conversation for the Heisman? He’s been great.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) November 30, 2013
He's got a point, but at the end of day, it likely won't matter. Fair or not, the Heisman Trophy has historically required a certain benchmark of statistical totals. Hyde and quarterback Braxton Miller have both been fantastic this year, but neither has played enough games or tallied enough numbers to warrant serious consideration for the award.
However, with another huge game against Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship, Hyde will demand to at least be included on some ballots, maybe even earning an invite to the Heisman ceremony in New York.
The Spartans are the best rush defense in America, so if Hyde can find some success against them, it would be impossible for voters to ignore what he's been doing.
Immovable object? Meet unstoppable force.