Best of the First Half: Handing Out Awards Through Ohio State's First Six Games of the Season

By Tim Shoemaker on October 19, 2016 at 10:10 am
Urban Meyer leads his team on the field against Indiana.

If you blinked, it's possible you may have missed the first half of Ohio State's season.

It seems like just yesterday the Buckeyes were getting set to open their season against Bowling Green and now, all of a sudden, we sit here at the midway point of the year. Ohio State is 6-0 with a primetime showdown at Penn State awaiting Saturday.

Over the course of the first six weeks, many old stars  shined, many new ones emerged and there was an abundance of big plays and moments that helped the Buckeyes remain unbeaten. 

That's why we're here today, to recap all of it and hand out some first-half awards. So, without any further delay, here are some superlatives for Ohio State's season through the first six games.

Offensive MVP

Ohio State currently ranks 12th nationally in total offense with an average of 516.5 yards per game. The orchestrator of the whole attack is quarterback J.T. Barrett.

Barrett hasn't been perfect through six games this season as the Buckeyes' passing attack stumbled a bit against Indiana and in the first half of the Wisconsin game, but the redshirt junior signal caller is certainly among the best players in the country and playing like a Heisman Trophy candidate.

There could be an argument for Ohio State's anchor on the offensive line, Pat Elflein, or its most dynamic playmaker, Curtis Samuel, to be the offensive MVP, but Barrett seems like the right choice here.

Barrett is completing 63.2 percent of his passes and has thrown for 1,207 yards, run for 434 yards with 22 total touchdowns. He also broke Braxton Miller's school record for touchdowns responsible for in last weekend's victory over the Badgers.

Defensive MVP

For me, this was a three-horse race between defensive end Tyquan Lewis, middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan and safety Malik Hooker. I'm going with a somewhat surprising pick, though, and taking Lewis.

Urban Meyer called him "the J.T. Barrett of our defense" on Monday as Lewis' contributions to Ohio State's defense go far beyond his team-high four sacks and his 5.5 tackles for loss. The redshirt junior led the Buckeyes in sacks a year ago, but he's proving to be just fine without benefitting from having Joey Bosa lining up on the other side of the defensive line.

Best Unit

It seems crazy to say considering Ohio State lost a top-10 pick at this position group, but the Buckeyes' cornerbacks have been just as good if not better than they were last year even without Eli Apple.

Gareon Conley has emerged not only as one of the Big Ten's best cover corners, but he's well-known nationally now, as well. And finally healthy, redshirt sophomore Marshon Lattimore looks like a potential first-round pick himself as he's shown all the traits that made him a highly-coveted prospect coming out of high school back in 2014.

Ohio State also rotates in sophomore Denzel Ward as its third corner and uses redshirt freshman Damon Arnette as the team's nickel. Both have provided the Buckeyes with plenty of depth behind Conley and Lattimore.

Lattimore leads this group with three interceptions on the season while Conley has a pair. 

Best Freshman

Let's be clear here: This includes both redshirt and true freshmen, and our selection is running back Mike Weber, who is off to a stellar start to his Ohio State career.

There are arguments to be made for Nick Bosa, Michael Jordan and maybe even Robert Landers, but Weber's 612 rushing yards, four touchdowns and 6.5 yards per carry average is awfully impressive. 

The combination of Weber, Samuel and Barrett gives Ohio State quite a three-headed monster in the backfield. 

Best Game

There's hardly a debate for this one. The clear answer is Ohio State's 30-23 overtime victory last Saturday at Wisconsin.

The Buckeyes trailed by 10 points at halftime before Barrett rallied the team to force overtime. Then, in the extra period, he hooked up with Noah Brown for a 7-yard touchdown on Ohio State's possession and the Buckeyes' defense held and ended the game with Tyquan Lewis' walk-off sack. 

Best Play

Malik Hooker's crazy interception against Bowling Green was certainly an eye-opening play, but Brown's touchdown catch against Oklahoma was the catch of the year so far in college football.

Brown actually had four touchdown grabs in that game, but you know exactly which one we're talking about. Let's watch it again, shall we?

GIF: Noah Brown does the impossible.

Biggest Surprise

With the loss of 16 starters — eight on each side of the ball — there were plenty of unknowns surrounding Ohio State prior to the start of the season. Most of those questions have been answered over the first six weeks, but perhaps none more emphatically than the secondary.

We hit on the play of the cornerbacks above as Conley, Lattimore, Ward and Arnette have been lockdown for the most part, but the Buckeyes' secondary as a whole has been lights out all season.

Malik Hooker has emerged as a superstar at safety with a team-high four interceptions. Hooker has all of the makings of a potential first-round NFL talent. The other safety, Damon Webb, is tied for fifth on the team with 24 tackles. 

Ohio State ranks sixth in the country in pass defense, allowing just 159.5 yards per game through the air. The Buckeyes' 11 interceptions as a team rank fifth nationally. That's awfully impressive for a group that had to replace three of four starters coming into the season.

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