Ohio State’s 2018 season mostly has been an exercise in Dr. Jekyll giving way to Mr. Hyde, so who could be surprised when the Buckeyes came out of the locker room for the second half playing like the Bride of Frankenstein? So what started as a first-half comedy became a second-half thriller. That’s not going to impress the Academy. Leaves are awarded on a zero-to-five basis. — Ray Stein
Dwayne Haskins Jr. continues to treat this game of tackle football as some sort of video game. He again racked up numbers — 499 yards, five touchdowns — bordering on obscene. The running game was not so dynamic, but even that meager output put the Buckeyes above 600 total yards for the game. Simba, though, is nigh unstoppable.
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Some will quibble with the generosity shown here, especially considering how Ohio State came out of the halftime locker room apparently wearing their cement cleats. Put it this way: The lapses could have been worse — and have been at other times in this whack job of a season. Final analysis: not a playoff defense.
Special teams (2)
Blake Haubeil really should consider the health of his head coach before he goes sending two kickoffs out of bounds, and then sees a chip-shot field-goal attempt blocked. Few things make the man crazier. Otherwise, Drue Chrisman gives thumbs up to dome football (four punts, 54.8-yard average), and the returns were decent.
Ohio State likely needed a dominating performance to impress the committee, and that probably was asking too much to begin with considering the emotional high of the Michigan game and Northwestern’s no-quit DNA. Still, some of the play calls were in the odd-bird category, especially the running game love. Throw it!
Some of the steam was taken out of the Buckeyes’ sails even before kickoff, knowing that Oklahoma had won and figuring Clemson would waltz. Nonetheless, the teams put on an entertaining show, and even though Northwestern’s comeback had OSU hearts fluttering, it made for a better spectacle.
Northwestern isn’t very big, isn’t very fast and isn’t physically imposing, and it’s possible all the players are ugly under those helmets. But goodness do the Wildcats play to the whistle regardless of the scoreboard. Team Fitz made the Buckeyes earn every inch. The Wildcats may not like the result, but they’ll enjoy their bowl trip.
Referee Ron Snodgrass and his crew made full use of the review process, which helped the Buckeyes once (fumble recovered) and went against them twice (knee down reversed a fumble call, and an incompletion). Fans didn’t think much of Isaiah Prince getting flagged for finishing a block, but it was a tad rougher than necessary.