This past Saturday, the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes proved that they belong near the top of the national polls when it knocked off the No. 16 Northwestern Wildcats on the road in front of a national audience.
The Buckeyes (6-0, 2-0) dropped in the polls after starting the season ranked No. 2 when they gave up big points to both Buffalo and California earlier this season. The Buckeyes also lost their starting quarterback, Braxton Miller, for nearly three full games, leaving speculation as to how their high-powered offense would fair without him.
But it was not necessarily Miller who vaulted the Buckeyes back into the national championship conversation after defeating Northwestern (4-1, 0-1). In an offensive exhibition this past Saturday, senior running back Carlos Hyde ran the ball 26 times for 168 yards and three touchdowns.
With the emergence of Hyde, who was suspended the first three games of the season for “conduct not representative of the football program or the university,” as described by head coach Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes are now much more balanced in their offensive attack that was previously dominated by the arm and legs of Miller.
Everything is now clicking for the Buckeye’s offense. As the trend seems to go this year across the national college football landscape, Ohio State should not worry about giving up points, as much as other teams should have to worry about scoring more than Ohio State.
When Ohio State’s starting quarterback Braxton Miller hurt his leg in week two verses San Diego State, the entire state of Ohio held it’s breath. Miller is considered by many to be the perfect quarterback to run Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense, and without him, nobody was sure how productive the offense would be. Enter Kenny Guiton, and the Buckeyes have yet to miss a beat.
Almost three full games since Miller went down, the Buckeyes have continued to put up big numbers. Scoring 42, 52, and 76 in the games in which Guiton has taken over, and one may speculate that there may be a quarterback controversy in Columbus. But according to Meyer, no such controversy exists. In a press conference this past weekend after the Buckeyes dismantled FLorida A&M, when the question was asked if Miller was still number one, Meyer simply replied “Yes.”
Since Kenny Guiton has taken over for the injured Miller, he has completed 65 of 95 passes for 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. “Xbox numbers” as the kids may say.
Though Ohio State has yet to enter the “meat” of their schedule, knocking off four out-of-conference teams which could be considered far from intriguing, big tests are on the horizon when Wisconsin comes into Columbus this weekend, and the Buckeyes travel to Northwestern the following week. And while the status of Braxton Miller is still uncertain, Ohio State fans can breathe easy, for the time being, with Kenny Guiton taking the snaps.
Anybody who watched the four-letter network all summer long may have been brainwashed into believing that Ohio State had a clear path to the Big Ten title, and a likely trip to Pasadena to face Alabama in the BCS Championship game. But after the dismantling of a highly ranked Notre Dame team this past Saturday night, Michigan has solidified themselves as a legitimate threat to challenge Ohio State for the Big Ten crown.
Without the duel threat of Denard Robinson returning to keep opposing defenses on their toes, the identity of this new Michigan team has been in question. Not anymore. Junior quarterback Devin Gardner has thus far proven worthy of filling the (untied) shoes that Robinson left behind in Ann Arbor. In the first two games of this 2013 season, Gardner has gone 31-48 with 456 yards, 5 TDs and 3 INTs. In addition, Gardner has shown glimpses of Denard Robinson-like movement while rushing the ball 18 times for 144 yards in his first two games as a starter.
Michigan, now ranked eleventh in the AP Poll, will have plenty of tests before facing off with Big Ten favorite, and fourth ranked Ohio State. With no immediate threats until November, the Wolverines should be hitting their stride before entering the gauntlet of the Big Ten’s best. A trip to Michigan State on November 2nd will only be a warmup before facing (what should be) back-to-back ranked teams with Nebraska at home and then traveling to face Northwestern the following week. All this is only a prelude to what is shaping up to be another epic showdown when the Michigan fans (do not) welcome Ohio State into Ann Arbor.
So while only a few short weeks ago, many had penciled in Ohio State as a shoe-in for the Big Ten Title, the team that Buckeye fans least want to keep them from their crown has indeed emerged as its biggest threat. The rivalry game set for November 30th at Michigan between the Wolverines and the Buckeyes will be extra sweet or extra sour for fans of either team in 2013. And college football as a whole can consider themselves winners because of it.
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