OVERVIEW: I think the world of Chris Ash and think he's one of the top defensive minds in America. When he left Ohio State for Rutgers, I was wondering how Urban Meyer would fill those shoes. And then there came Greg Schiano, and I wrote at the time of his hiring that Meyer had hit a home run. Last night, Buckeye fans saw Schiano circling the bases after knocking one out of the park.
HOW OSU STOPPED THE SOONERS: It was basically Schiano loading up to stop the run, having no respect for Mayfield and the receivers to beat him. Ohio State played man coverage, blitzed selectively, and dominated up front. I wrote before the game that the team with the most passing attempts would surely lose. Mayfield threw it 32 times, while Barrett threw it only 20 times. This was a bigger, badder defense shutting down a nice Big-12 offense, but an offense that absolutely does not see good defense throughout the year. Oklahoma could not match Ohio State's physicality, their O-line got whipped and that was game over.
THE DEFENSIVE ENDS: I thought they were the best in the country before the season, and they had a blip against an absolutely terrible Bowling Green team, but since then they've been incredible. Everyone knows Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis are great, but Jalyn Holmes is turning into a monster. The fourth DE? How about Nick Bosa? That doesn't even include Jonathon Cooper, who has a chance to be a star. This group pressured Mayfield off the edge and kept him from breaking contain for the most part. They didn't want him outside the ends making plays, and he didn't for the most part.
THE DEFENSIVE TACKLES: They were really good, for the most part, and they picked a good time to have their best game as a group. Michael Hill is the constant, and then they mix and match Dre'Mont Jones, DaVon Hamilton and Robert Landers according to down and distance. They don't shut down the run, but they hang in there and don't get gashed to death. Mixon and Perine had 26 carries for 138 yards, and Schiano will take that from this group. The question here will be can they hold up in a slugfest for three hours? That could happen at either or both Wisconsin and Penn State, but those are a few weeks away.
THE LINEBACKERS: Another group that has been really good all year, but these guys were great against Oklahoma. Raekwon McMillan is an All-American to me, and I think people realize how good he is. Chris Worley was solid again, and is getting better each week. I guess losing Dante Booker hurts and I'm glad the Joe Berger experiment is over, because Jerome Baker belongs out on that field. I don't know who sits when everyone is healthy, but I'm not playing Berger and I think Booker might be the odd man out. Baker has too much speed, too much athleticism, and too much Darron Lee in him to not be a full time player. The more he plays, the better he will get for later in the year against Michigan State and Michigan.
THE CORNERBACKS: Losing Gareon Conley was a tough blow, and I'm not sure the severity of that injury today. It did get Damon Arnette out there for some valuable minutes, and while he got burned a little, he will be better for the experience. Lattimore and Ward were pretty special in dominating the Sooner wideouts. I knew Ward could cover, but I never saw this physical hitting out of him before. Ward is the next three-and-out DB. Lattimore struggled last year against Indiana. Conley struggled two years ago at Michigan State. Apple had some rough moments early. I don't think Ward has had a bad play yet. With this group playing press man coverage, it allows Schiano to do anything he wants defensively. When you have to cover for your corners, you're very limited defensively.
THE SAFETIES: It sounds ridiculous, but Malik Hooker might be an All-American. No highlight reel picks this week. No monster hits. Just really, really good safety play. He covers so much ground it's amazing to watch. And he's always in the right spot. As good a safety as I've seen for Ohio State in the Meyer era, and probably going back deep into the Tressel era as well. Damon Webb is probably who we think he is at this point. He needs to play better, and safety is a new spot for him.
SUMMARY: Oklahoma ran up against a team that was their equal offensively. Ohio State can play Big-12 offense with anyone in that league. But defensively, Oklahoma doesn't ever see what they saw Saturday night, which was why I predicted Ohio State to win 38-27 in the game preview. Defense, and specifically Greg Schiano, won this game for Ohio State.