Location: Columbus, Ohio
2018 record: 13-1
Head coach: Ryan Day (second year, *7-0)
*3-0 in 2018 as interim head coach
2019 record so far: 4-0
What’s happened so far in 2019:
The Buckeyes dominated Florida Atlantic at home to open Ryan Day’s debut as full-time head coach, trouncing the Owls 45-21. Hosting in-state rival Cincinnati in Week 2, the defense came into form, shutting out the Bearcats in a 42-0 rout. Traveling to Indiana in Week 3, the Buckeyes decimated the Hoosiers 51-10 to begin Big Ten conference play. Returning home, Ohio State gave up an early safety, which led to a Miami (Ohio) field goal before the Buckeyes responded with 76 unanswered points to defeat the Redhawks.
Key offensive player:
Sophomore quarterback Justin Fields, a transfer from Georgia, takes the reins of an explosive offensive unit for the Buckeyes. A former five-star recruit, Fields has embraced his new role as field general with 19 total touchdowns, 880 passing yards and 150 rushing yards in the first four games. More importantly, his improved decision-making and ability to escape pressure have allowed him to find open receivers on the run. With help in the backfield from junior running back J.K. Dobbins and deep threat wide receivers sophomore Chris Olave and senior Binjimen Victor, Fields must lead Ohio State through the Big Ten gantlet. If the Buckeyes emerge unscathed, the sophomore from Kennesaw, Georgia, will likely remain in the Heisman Trophy conversation.
Key defensive player:
Leading the charge against opposing quarterbacks is team captain and junior defensive end Chase Young. Young is off to an excellent start for Ohio State, currently tied for the most sacks in the NCAA with seven in four games. Young had two strip sacks in the second quarter alone against Miami, both of which led to Ohio State touchdowns. Young has even gotten his hands dirty on special teams, blocking a field goal against Cincinnati. Young’s aggressiveness has allowed the secondary to ball-hawk, making the opposing quarterback pass before being set and influencing errant throws and missed reads. Projected as an early first-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft, Young is an early front-runner for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
The Buckeye defense has been stout against the run but given up great yardage through the air. Ohio State is No. 19 in the NCAA against the pass, and the secondary will need to tighten up against short throws and quick receivers in order to survive a grueling Big Ten schedule, which includes four ranked opponents. Though all of Ohio State’s games have been blowouts, Fields is throwing for just 220 yards per game, ranking No. 8 in the Big Ten. That figure is well below the 345 yards former quarterback Dwayne Haskins averaged in 2018, and it will be interesting to see if Fields can consistently move the ball in must-pass situations against Big Ten defenses.