From the hype leading up to tonight’s game, everyone seems to be talking about who Ohio State’s quarterback will be and how they will fare against the Virginia Tech defense. I’ll be focused, however, on the other side of the ball — on Ohio State’s defense.
Much as Cardale Jones deserves credit for stepping in and leading the OSU offense, the real key to last year’s National Championship, in my view, was the Buckeye defense. The defense gave up a lot of points during the regular season and was gashed repeatedly by a mediocre Michigan team, which caused many fans — me included — to fret about how Ohio State would perform against Melvin Gordon and the Wisconsin Badgers. But it was like a light bulb was suddenly turned on after The Gamne, and against Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon the defense played lights out. The D held up and repeatedly delivered crucial stops even though, against the Crimson Tide and the Ducks, they had to deal with a lot of offensive turnovers that put the opponents in good field position with the games on the line.
We know that Virginia Tech has a good defense, and it will be interesting to see whether Ohio State can move the ball against the Hokies and exorcise the demons of last year’s sack-filled debacle. But for the Buckeyes’ long-term success, I think the defense is the key — tonight and for the rest of the season. During the last three games last year, the Buckeyes managed to get great pressure with a four-man rush, cover opposing receivers, and shut down three of the Heisman Trophy finalists — all at the same time.
The defense has lost some starters from last year’s squad, and Joey Bosa is out tonight due to a one-game suspension. Can Darron Lee, Adolphus Washington, Josh Perry, and Tyvis Powell inspire and lead the defense to play like it did in those three unforgettable games? I think that is the question.