In the early part of the 2013 season, Ohio State had to endure a change at quarterback. But all the while the Buckeyes kept on winning.
After preseason Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller went down in Week 2, senior Kenny Guiton filled in and the OSU offense didn't miss a beat. When Miller returned in Week 5 for the Buckeyes' first challenge of the season, they kept on rolling and took down Wisconsin, 31-24.
While Guiton's successful play in place of Miller sparked a bit of a quarterback controversy in Columbus, it shouldn't have—not just because Miller is the clear leader of the team, but because whom Ohio State has lining up under center doesn't really matter all that much.
OSU can clearly win with Guiton or Miller at the helm.
With two proven players at the point, the key to Ohio State's Big Ten and BCS title run will rest on its running game and defense.
The Buckeyes can run the ball about as well as any team in the country and have averaged 287.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks them 12th nationally.
And they have done all of this without their preseason starter at running back, Carlos Hyde.
After serving a suspension to start the year, Hyde returned for OSU's last two games and recorded 22 carries. In his short time back on the field, Hyde quickly became one of six OSU rushers to net more than 100 yards on the ground this season.
In Hyde's stead, senior Jordan Hall has led the way with 427 yards and is tied for second in the nation with eight rushing touchdowns. If Hall, Hyde and company can continue to batter their opponents on the ground, the Buckeyes may prove to be unbeatable in Big Ten play, particularly with the continued support of their defense.
OSU ranks No. 18 in the nation in total defense and 23rd in scoring D. The only visible weakness for the Buckeyes so far has been against the pass.
The struggles of star cornerback Bradley Roby have been widely publicized. Roby was thrashed by Wisconsin receiver Jared Abbrederis, who tallied 207 yards in Ohio State's 31-24 win.
However, as defensive coordinator Luke Fickell told Eric Seger of The Lantern afterward, the Buckeyes didn't provide much help to their All-American corner in that game:
We gotta do some things to give (Roby) a chance, man. We gotta do a better job of not putting him in those (one-on-one) situations all the time. Every now and then it’s one thing, but to let (Wisconsin redshirt sophomore quarterback Joel Stave) sit back there and have time to just heave the ball up on a guy that’s a really good football player, it’s probably not fair to (Roby).
Much of Abbrederis' success against Roby came because OSU sold out to stop the Wisconsin rushing attack. The Badgers entered the game averaging more than 300 yards on the ground but mustered just 104 against the Buckeyes.
Roby and the Buckeye secondary won't have too much time to dwell on their struggles against the Badgers, as they must turn around and take on another dangerous offense this week in Northwestern.
The Wildcats currently boast the No. 4 passing offense in the Big Ten and will challenge OSU with an up-tempo attack unlike most of what the Buckeyes defense will see over the rest of the league schedule.
The Buckeyes faced a similar up-tempo attack against Cal earlier in the season and won by stopping the run and running the ball well themselves. In that game, Ohio State tallied more than 300 yards on the ground, while Cal had just 132.
The OSU secondary did struggle in that tilt, as Cal's Air Raid offense amassed 371 yards passing. But despite the adversity both in that game and against Wisconsin, Roby isn't discouraged.
"Stuff like that happens at the beginning of the season," Roby told The Lantern. "It’s all about what you do towards the end of the season that matters."
If Roby gets back on track and all else remains constant for the Buckeyes, they will be running through their Big Ten schedule and into the BCS—no matter who is at quarterback.
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