Fresh off a season-saving win over then No. 2 Penn State last weekend in the Shoe, Urban Meyer's squad learned it earned a No. 6 ranking in the first edition of the College Football Playoff rankings released last night.
Needing to Just Win Baby, the Buckeyes now get set for a roadie against an Iowa Hawkeyes squad that while just 5-3 overall, stands 4-1 at home with the lone defeat coming at the hands of the Nittany Lions in a 21-19 nailbiter.
Following the big comeback last Saturday, most observers reveled in the greatness of J.T. Barrett while fretting the debacle that is OSU kickoff coverage but another great storyline unfolded as oft-injured wide receiver Johnnie Dixon cashed in two huge fourth quarter touchdowns amid the stunning win.
Urban Meyer was obviously thrilled with Dixon's performance and said as much during his Monday presser:
Q. Johnnie Dixon to me is an example of a guy I call him an embedded player in the program that suddenly is coming on, just like K.J. Hill. What is it about these guys, what do they -- obviously he had to deal with chronic knee problems there. But what is it about these guys that kind of see the light? Is it opportunity? What is it, you think?
COACH MEYER: You gave some good stories. There's also storylines of a few that haven't. And I'd rather not talk about that. But I think it has to do -- I just called his high school coach today, 15 minutes ago. We talked to him on the speakerphone, me and Johnnie.
He comes from that kind of program. He comes from that kind of family. They don't know quit. And they know that at some point that rock will break if you keep hitting it.
The success enjoyed by Dixon this year is a long time coming for a terrific kid that's dealt with knee injuries dating back to the first occurrence during 7-on-7 drills back in 10th grade.
Dixon met with the media yesterday and talked about the long journey.
"One of my high school coaches told me one day I was going to wake up and feel completely fine," Dixon said. "I thought that was a joke, thought that was never going to happen but one day I woke up and I felt good. It’s part of the rehab as well, a lot of offseason rehab. God blessed me."
Due to the chronic knee issues Dixon entered the 2017 season with a mere seven catches for 55 yards and zero receiving touchdowns in his Buckeye career.
After tearing up spring ball all signs pointed to the staff believing Dixon could not only earn a spot in Zone Six's rotation but be a legit, consistent contributor.
Many including yours truly had serious doubts about that – no matter how much they wanted it to be true because the kid is incredibly easy to root for – and even though Dixon did miss one game due to injury, he's emerged as a big play threat.
Dixon kicked off the season with a 59-yard scoring strike against Indiana and after a few modest weeks he burned Rutgers for 115 receiving yards and two touchdowns including a 70-yard connection with Barrett for six.
He had just one catch but it went for 35 yards against Maryland and after another one-catch outing against Nebraska, Dixon again showed his value as a game-breaker with those two touchdowns when OSU needed it most last Saturday.
The first, a 38-yarder after he sat down in the middle of Penn State's defense before racing up field trimmed the Nittany Lions lead to 35-27 with 11 minutes left in regulation.
On Ohio State's next offensive possession he went back to work hauling in a 10-yard back shoulder toss from Barrett for a touchdown cutting the deficit to 38-33 with 4:20 to play.
Dixon's three catches on the night went for an average of 18.7 yards and actually lowered his season average to a ridiculous 25.5 yards which we be good for third in the country if he had enough receptions to qualify (he's one short and don't forget he missed a game.)
Roll up Dixon's season-to-date and he's posted 13 grabs for 332 yards and a team-leading six touchdown catches. Looking for an astounding stat? Dixon's six touchdowns average 38.7 yards per catch.
The fact the rest of Zone Six has found its footing allowing for the continued six man rotation only strengthens the chances Dixon can stay healthy which is clearly a good thing for Barrett and the Ohio State offense, and a great thing for an excellent kid deserving every minute of it.