Braxton Miller will likely be a Heisman favorite in 2013, along with incumbent winner Johnny Manziel and USC wideout Marqise Lee. But when it comes to the Buckeyes, it's his backfield partner that carries just as much importance next season.
Running back Carlos Hyde had a breakout season in 2012. Despite missing two games due to injury, Hyde rushed for 970 yards and a team-high 16 touchdowns. He ran for 100 yards four times, all against Big Ten opponents, and found the end zone in each of his last seven games.
When Miller struggled to find running lanes in the latter part of the season, Hyde was there to make the big run, especially against Michigan where he gouged the Wolverine defense for 146 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown.
There were questions at the start of the season about whether Hyde, who weighs 240 pounds, would be a fit in coach Urban Meyer's spread offense. By November, there was no doubt he could succeed.
Hyde's performance in his junior season was spectacular and helped take a little bit of pressure off of Miller, who defenses were focusing on all season long.
The Buckeyes had the No. 10 rushing offense in the country in 2012, led by the one-two punch of Miller and Hyde, who combined for over 2,200 yards on the ground.
Next season, all eyes will once again be on Miller to produce at a higher level. That means Hyde will likewise have to match that production to take some pressure off of Miller.
OSU will have a much more experienced offense next season with only two starters leaving in RT Reid Fragel and WR Jake Stoneburner. The result is a veteran group that should be much better than last season's No. 20 scoring offense.
The passing game definitely must improve after finishing No. 105 a year ago. But the bread and butter of Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman's offense is the ground game.
That burden falls not just on Miller; every good leader needs an equally-reliable running mate, and Hyde is just that.
If the big back can be just as explosive and reliable as he was last year, Ohio State should have no problem being a top-20 scoring offense and top-10 running offense once again. If not, the offense may struggle, despite Miller's immense talents.
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