No. 1- Mid-season offensive MVP: Terrelle Pryor. I’ve been tough on Pryor. Actually, I’ve been tough on those who wanted to anoint him the Heisman favorite at the beginning of the season. To be fair, I was also tough on national writers who use faulty logic to tear him down. The truth is that Pryor has made significant progress this season. He has completed 67% of his passes, and isn’t making big mistakes with the ball. His deep passes aren’t wounded ducks, and he is hitting the medium range out-routes well. He only runs with the ball when he has to, and is averaging more yards per carry this season.
No. 2- Mid-season defensive MVP: Chimdi Chekwa. With all the injury trouble in the secondary, Chekwa has been the rock. He takes away the opposing team’s biggest threat every week. He’s also a corner that isn’t afraid to stick his nose in and help stop the running game.
No. 3- Biggest surprise of the season: receiving corps. This is a solid group. Posey, Sanzenbacher, Stoneburner, Saine and Corey Brown are all threats, and any of them can be trusted to make a big catch. Moving Saine out wide was a great move, and one that I think is going to continue to pay dividends as the season progresses. LBs are just not fast enough to keep up with him.
No. 4- Biggest disappointment of the season: special teams. This is a no-brainer. How in the world did we get so bad, so quick with this group? Absolutely dreadful. While you can’t blame them completely for the loss in Madison, that opening return for a touchdown was just a killer momentum boost for that team and those fans. It was one of those ‘this is our night kind of plays’. You know kind of like how Ginn’s kick-off return against Florida should have been. If he hadn’t hurt himself celebrating.
No. 5- Most improved player: Terrelle Pryor. This one was tough. Herron could have been here. Torrence could have been here. Sweat could have been here. Nathan Williams could have been here. In the end Pryor won because of the importance of his development to this team.
No. 6- Telling stat of the season: the Buckeyes are ranked 7th in points scored, and 3rd in points allowed. That’s domination.
No. 7- Best coaching decision: Herron becomes primary HB. I’m not one of those guys that thinks every year you have to have an Eddie George or Archie Griffin. I do think that giving Herron the bulk of the snaps with the first team has made him a better rusher, and improved the passing game by moving Saine out to receiver. Win/win.
No. 8- Toughest opponent left on schedule: Iowa. Without a doubt that will be the hardest game for Ohio State. The Hawkeyes have a very good defense, and a very good passing attack. The offense is balanced though, as Adam Robinson is emerging in the Big Ten as a rushing threat. That said, Michigan should be as hungry as ever to get a win against the Buckeyes, and coming off the Iowa game it could be a test for the Bucks.
No. 9- Key #1 to running the table: staying healthy defensively. The Buckeyes get Ross Homan back this week. They will not get any of the defensive backs they lost back before the bowl game at best. As I’ve said for a couple weeks, a loss of Chekwa or Torrence and this unit is in deep trouble.
No. 10- Key #2 to running the table: keep spreading the love. The Buckeyes have done a great job offensively of spreading the ball around. They typically have 5 or 6 receivers involved in the passing game, and manage to get Jordan Hall a few touches (even in the first half) to spell Herron. While I’m not a fan of running Hall up the middle, I think he can be used to spread the defense wide and find a seam to exploit occasionally.
No. 11- Key #3 to running the table: stay focused. The team can’t afford to look ahead to Iowa this week, nor can they dwell on the outcome of the Hawkeyes game after it’s finished. For some reason Penn State decided we were their ‘big rival’ even though that would seem to be news to Ohio State. They want a win badly. Michigan will be fighting for Rich Rod’s job, and respectability in their own state. Always dangerous when teams have extra motivation.
No. 12- What I’m least looking forward to the rest of the way: new uniforms. It drives me crazy to think that we may be stuck seeing some strange new uniform for every edition of The Game from here out. Could you at least wear the helmets? I love the buckeye leaf tradition, and the best game of the year for that tradition is the Michigan game. Second consecutive year the team will be wearing a different helmet. Lame.