OVERVIEW: Regardless of where Ohio State stands nationally as a team, one thing is certain to me: THIS IS A CHAMPIONSHIP DEFENSE. This team is so much better defensively than I thought they would be prior to the start of the season, and I don't think that is going to change right through the bowl game. Defense is constant. Defense travels on the road. Greg Schiano has been exactly what Urban Meyer needed following the loss of defensive guru Chris Ash. Another point to ponder is this is still a very inexperienced defense with lots of youngsters, so they should get better as each game is played.
HOW OSU STOPPED THE HOOSIERS: In an era of explosive offense, Ohio State saw their defensive tackles man up Saturday and play strong at the point of attack to stop the running game. Raekwon McMillan was strong in the middle as well. Indiana kept pounding it, but they needed 40 carries to eke out 99 yards. Had those 40 runs went for 165 yards, it might have changed the game. When they couldn't run it, they had limited success throwing the football. Credit Schiano with a solid game plan.
THE DEFENSIVE LINE: They didn't throw a shutout, but this wasn't Bowling Green or Rutgers either they were going against. These tackles stopped the run, and the defensive ends pressured the QB just enough to throw the Hoosiers off their game. Lagow completed 50% of his passes for less than 200 yards. In this era, that's a smothering effort. I really liked Dre'Mont Jones and thought he really responded to being called out by Meyer. Robert Landers was good again, and it might be time to give him more snaps. Tyquan Lewis was pretty special, and look out for Nick Bosa to grab more playing time. Playing the four defensive ends in obvious passing situations is also something we might see more of going forward.
THE LINEBACKERS: Raekwon McMillan was really good, as he usually is. He ran to the ball and didn't miss when he got there. Jerome Baker simply needs to be on the field all the time. He's a better player than Dante Booker and he is more dynamic than Chris Worley. Baker is going to be Darron Lee in another year, so somebody needs to take a seat for him. He gets out of position at times, but the speed and explosiveness is something the other two don't have. This group has been much better than I thought they would be, and it's mostly because of Baker. I didn't think he could be this good at this point.
THE DEFENSIVE BACKS: This was probably the weakest game from this group, but I would still give them an A. They only allowed 14 completions, and allowed 6 yards per attempt. There were a couple breakdowns. Denzel Ward got beat over the top, and that's going to happen every once in a while. It does not happen often. Marshon Lattimore gets to make a lot of plays because people are just not throwing in Gareon Conley's area at all. Malik Hooker is so good that people only notice him on highlight plays, but he also covers a ton of ground and makes all the plays he needs to make. Hard to believe someone has a better secondary than these guys. For those of you asking about Erick Smith, you saw a huge mistake yesterday, so it's probably better to stay with Damon Webb. I thought Webb was pretty good yesterday. These guys get asked to be perfect on every play because they play so much press-man coverage, and there is no help. In the Tressel era, it was soft zone with two deep safetys, so this is high-risk, high-reward.
SUMMARY: As I've said for a few weeks now, this is a defensive team. This is the strength of this team. This is the backbone of this team. I believe the offense can be stopped from time to time by a strong opponent. I wish the best offense in America, whomever that is, all the luck in the world to put up a lot of points on this defense. The pass defense and pass rush are top shelf. If the defensive tackles can hold up against the run consistently, these guys are not going to give up many points at all. This is a championship unit in my opinion.