Week-Ten Game Thoughts: OSU Defense

The Ohio State defense dominated Illinois Saturday in a 28-3 win to continue their undefeated season. Who stood out for the Buckeyes on the defensive side of the football?

- In my preseason forecast for this season, I described the Ohio State defense as the "Dirty Little Secret In College Football". I knew most people would be focusing on an offense that returned several key starters, and rightfully so. And I thought people were underestimating how good this defense would be. They haven't been perfect all year, but they've been pretty darn good all year. 

- Urban Meyer is an offensive genius by all accounts, but he has always had great defensive coordinators by his side when he has won big. And he has that once again in Chris Ash. Because this is the offensive era of college football nobody talks defense anymore, but for Ohio State to repeat as national champions the defense will be the key. 

- The Illinois performance was the best of the season, and there have been a lot of good ones. Ash knew he had to take away the Illini passing game, and force Illinois to beat him running the football. They did nothing of the sort. He forced Illinois to throw it 47 times for only 241 yards, a measly 5 yards per attempt. That ratio will win a lot of games. Illinois only ran for 20 yards total. They had no chance offensively to score. 

- The key to this defense is the ability to play man-to-man on the outside with Gareon Conley and Eli Apple. That allows Ash to do so much because these two do not need help. Without these two cornerbacks playing as well as they have, Ohio State would not be the defensive juggernaut they are right now. Vonn Bell is like having a third cornerback out there because he's so good in coverage as well. Playing man coverage can lead to big plays against you, but it rarely happens because of how good the secondary is. 

- The defensive line has gotten better the past few weeks, and that should be frightening to see on film to opposing offensive coordinators. Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington are givens as high NFL picks. Tyquan Lewis has stepped it up to another level, and do not underestimate the "other" defensive tackles. Tommy Schutt came up big Saturday, and his return allows Larry Johnson to rotate Joel Hale, Michael Hill, Donovan Munger, Tracy Sprinkle along with Schutt. Ohio State can stop the run without committing Tyvis Powell as long as the "other" tackles continue to play well. The pass rush has been good all year, but they have stoned the run recently. 

- I've said the linebackers are the best in the country all year, and I see nothing to make me revise that statement at all. Raekwon McMillan gets better every week, and he is going to be an unbelievable force before he leaves after next season. Josh Perry is Mr. Steady, while Darron Lee is an All-American. They cannot afford any injuries to this group, and so far they've avoided any big ones. This group can cover the pass, blitz the passer, and stop the run. They are three-down linebackers, which is rare in today's game. 

- The secret of Ash's success is the ability to take away one part of his opponent's offense, much like Bill Belicheck and Bill Parcells prefected in the NFL. This defense can play against any style and any scheme, but still have success. There's no way a one-dimensional offense, no matter how strong they might be, will hurt this defense. Another plus is the fact that defense travels, unlike offense that can be fickle due to weather or the opposition. This defense should be counted on to deliver a good-to-great performance every week. They need five more. 

- How will Ash defend Michigan State? He did below average last year against the Spartans, but that game was won by the offense. With the offense not as consistent this year, it just might be up to Ash to deliver the victory this coming Saturday. Michigan State can move the football and score points. They put up 37 on Ohio State last year. If they put up 37 this week they will walk away with a win over the Buckeyes. Chris Ash will have his work cut out for him this week, but I have a good feeling he will be up for the challenge. Should be a fun game to prepare for. 

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