Week-Nine Game Thoughts: OSU Defense

Ohio State defeated Minnesota 28-14 Saturday night at home. The defense played well and had several players turn in outstanding performances.

- Although the point of this article is to take a look at Ohio State's defensive performance against Minnesota, I was pretty much blown away by the fact that the win pushed Urban Meyer's record to 47-3 as the Buckeye head coach. That probably needs to be mentioned first, because 50 games is a milestone. I thought Meyer would have a tough time matching Jim Tressel's mark at Ohio State. He isn't. Obviously. 

- One of the main points of emphasis in being a head coach is solving problems, and while most of the issues have come on the other side of the football this year, it also must be pointed out how Meyer solved his defensive woes of a few years ago. The hiring of Chris Ash was brilliant, and there's no way Ohio State would be where they've been the past few years without him. With 25 college head coaching jobs opening up this year, it's tough to see Ash not landing one of them. 

- You could see what Ash thought he needed to do to stop Minnesota's offense Saturday, and it's not what he usually looks to take away from an opponent. Ash was hired because the Buckeyes were so inept at pass defense, and that was something Meyer could not live with in this passing era. For the most part, Ohio State has been excellent on pass defense under Ash, but has had trouble stopping the run on occasion. Against Minnesota, Ash dared the Gophers to beat him with Mitch Leidner throwing the football, because he was not going to let them run the ball at all. And they didn't. 

- Have to give props to the "other" defensive tackle, and both Joel Hale and Michael Hill played really well in the win. This was not a rerun of Penn State, where freshman back Saquon Barkley trampled the Buckeyes. Or Indiana or Maryland, when a running quarterback gashed the defense. This was Joey Bosa, Tyquan Lewis, Adolphus Washington and the "other" tackle dominating their opponents. Midway through the third quarter they put Bosa's stats on the television screen and I was stunned that he didn't have 15 tackles and 8 sacks, because he was never blocked by the Gophers. This might have been the best showing of the year by the front-four, and they're always pretty good or really good. 

- I still say the linebackers are the best group in the country collectively. Raekwon McMillan owned the middle of the field, and you can see his confidence growing week by week. He still has a ways to go before hitting his ceiling. Josh Perry is at a place today where McMillan is heading. Perry is the epitome of someone who has gotten better and better each YEAR, not just each week. He is a heck of a player, and makes more plays than he used to. He was always consistent, but Perry is now making more big plays. Darron Lee is just an All-American, and is the Joey Bosa of this group. I think he's better than Ryan Shazier, and I never thought he could be this good. 

- The defensive backs continue to play well, and they're almost a given every week. They tackle well. They cover in man to man. They do not get beat deep. Ohio State gives up an average of 165-yards per game through the air. That's almost unheard of in the passing era we live in today. Consider that Ohio State is undefeated and has the lead in every game, so they're usually playing backups or a prevent defense late in games, and this number is more remarkable. They were left unprotected against Minnesota without much help, because the emphasis defensively was on stopping the run. It was up to the defensive backs to hold up and not let Leidner beat them through the air. He threw it 44 times, but never came close to beating this defense. He hit a few throws in the fourth quarter, but allowing 14 points for a game will win every week in college football. 

- It's good to see Ohio State be able to take away an opponent's strength. Against Michigan State, the Buckeyes will need to take away Connor Cook's passing game. The following week they will need to take away Michigan's running game. I think they're equipped to do both. They have the talent. They have the coaching. When the offense struggles, the Ohio State defense can win games. It wasn't this way a few years ago. This group is good enough to put Ohio State in a position to beat any team they go up against this season. 

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