COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio State is off this week as the No. 2 team in the country rests up before a game Oct. 22 against Iowa.
The first six games have gone with few hitches as the Buckeyes have an average margin of victory of 33 points, scoring 48 points per game in the process.
Defensively, first-year coordinator Jim Knowles has gotten the Buckeyes holding strong with no more than 21 points allowed in a game.
As the page is turned to the second-half of the season, here is a look at the best of the first-half and the outlook for the rest of the Buckeyes season.
Best offensive players: C.J. Stroud, Miyan Williams
In most cases with good football teams, the best offensive player is usually the quarterback. Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud has established himself as the early favorite for the Heisman trophy with a fantastic first six games into his junior season.
Stroud has thrown an FBS-leading 24 touchdown passes with a completion rate of 70% and 1,737 passing yards, finding numerous receivers each game and being a leader in the locker room. If Stroud keeps up this pace, he seems poised to win OSU’s first Heisman trophy since Troy Smith in 2006.
It’s also worth mentioning running back Miyan Williams with how dominant he has shown he can be against Big Ten defenses. Williams has picked up the pieces for TreVeyon Henderson, who has dealt with injuries, and run for nearly 500 yards and eight touchdowns.
Williams’ mix of power running, bursts of speed, and ability to patiently wait for his line to open seams has Williams looking like one of the top backs in the Big Ten.
Best defensive player: Tommy Eichenberg
The defense has had vast improvements since Knowles took over before the season, and the player leading the way is captain Tommy Eichenberg.
The senior linebacker from Cleveland leads the Buckeyes in tackles with 50, just 14 fewer than his season total from last year. Each game, Eichenberg complements the defensive line to get to quarterbacks and prevent long drives.
Eichenberg and his linebacking partner, Steele Chambers, have strengthened the team to a top-10 unit in the country.
“I’m pleased,” Knowles said. “We have seen some success, but defense is such a right-now proposition. We don’t have three of four years to put this system in to make it a premiere defense. It’s got to happen right here, right now.”
Breakout player: Cade Stover
Cade Stover has played defensive end and linebacker but has found his home this season on the other side of the ball. The tight end has been fearsome lining up against defenses and has become a great target for Stroud to move the chains.
Stover has 16 catches for 206 yards with two touchdowns, both coming against Wisconsin. That game in particular was a showcase of Stover’s power and his nimble hands.
The Mansfield native grew up with a strong work ethic from his days growing up at a farm in Lexington.
“You can’t take days off,” Stover said. “It’s impossible. Christmas, cows eat. Thanksgiving, cows eat. Your birthday, cows eat. They don’t take days off, so why should you?
Best play: Marvin Harrison Jr.’s touchdown
You don’t have to look too far back for the Buckeyes play of the season so far: Marvin Harrison Jr.’s third touchdown catch against Michigan State.
The son of NFL Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, he has caught nine touchdown passes and set a Buckeyes record for three-touchdown games, getting two this season to total three for his young career.
His most recent score was his most impressive as Stroud went back to pass early in the third quarter on the MSU 19-yard line. After a short drop back, Stroud threw to his left toward Harrison, who was covered, with the Spartans safety joining in as the ball was in the air.
Stroud’s throw was short but Harrison extended his hands forward to snap the ball from waist height to above his head while jogging backward into the corner of the end zone. With catches like that, Harrison can certainly follow in his father’s footsteps at the next level.
Looking at next six games
The Buckeyes played all but one of its first six games at home. For their next six, its an even 50-50 split.
After playing Iowa at home, the Buckeyes visit Penn State, currently 10th in the AP Top 25. Then they visit Northwestern on Nov. 5 and play Indiana at Ohio Stadium on Nov. 12.
OSU’s penultimate game will be at Maryland, with The Game against Michigan at Ohio Stadium two days after Thanksgiving in what will be the 600th game at The ‘Shoe.
This final stretch includes the two biggest games on the schedule: Penn State (5-0) and Michigan (6-0). To date, the Buckeyes’ only competition for the Big Ten East title has been from those two, with one of those undefeated records coming to an end Saturday when the teams play each other.
Stroud and company should have few issues in the other four games as the Buckeyes look to reclaim the Big Ten East title. As for who OSU could play in Indianapolis in the conference championship game, the Big Ten West is led by Illinois, with Purdue and Minnesota close behind.
The team also could get even better once receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba returns to full health and Henderson gets into a rhythm at running back. At full health, the Buckeyes could prove to be the best team in college football in these next six games.