The Buckeyes will enter an offseason of transition following the Rose Bowl
Ohio State didn't make the College Football Playoff, but by most measures, it has been a terrific 2018 season for the Buckeyes. Their first-year starting quarterback shattered school and Big Ten record books and was named a Heisman Trophy finalist. A 62-39 drubbing of "That Team Up North" in the final week of the regular season clinched the Big Ten East Division and a trip to Indianapolis. A subsequent 45-24 victory over Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game earned Ohio State back-to-back conference titles and a berth in the Rose Bowl against Washington.
Of course, Buckeyes fans are a demanding bunch. With a 49-20 loss at Purdue on Oct. 20 that put their team in catch-up mode the rest of the season and in the end, there simply wasn't enough time for Ohio State to make its way back into the top four of the playoff rankings. But given the strong finish, it has left everyone associated with and who supports the program with a feeling of "what if," particularly as it relates to that lackluster performance against the Boilermakers.
This season also will be notable in that it's head coach Urban Meyer's last. He announced on Dec. 4 that he will retire following the Rose Bowl with offensive coordinator Ryan Day set to take over on Jan. 2, 2019. So that New Year's Day game in Pasadena, California, will carry even more significance than usual as it will serve as the likely conclusion to a historic coaching career.
With the Rose Bowl still to play, here are those players and moments that have stood out so far the 2018 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Offensive MVP: Dwayne Haskins, QB
Ohio State fans were excited about Haskins taking over at quarterback, but nobody could have expected this type of season from the redshirt sophomore. The numbers – 4,580 yards, 47 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 70.2 percent completion rate – speak for themselves. But Haskins did this in an offense that was more known for the zone-read days of Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett. It's safe to say it's been a successful transition and one that Buckeyes fans have embraced.
Defensive MVP: Dre'Mont Jones, DL
Following the early-season loss of Nick Bosa to an injury, Jones became the de facto leader and he also made an impact with his play too. The redshirt junior is among the team leaders in tackles, sacks, quarterback hurries and he even contributed an interception which he returned for a TD in the win over TCU.
Best Freshman: Chris Olave, WR
The underrated wide receiver began to earn more and more playing time as the season progressed, but Olave saved his best for The Game against Michigan. On offense, Olave caught two passes for 48 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but his biggest contribution may have come when he blocked a Wolverines punt that was returned for a touchdown and helped propel the Buckeyes to a 22-point lead after three quarters.
Best Play of the Season: K.J. Hill's One-Handed Catch vs. Minnesota
Hill has made crucial catches throughout the 2018 season, but this one-handed grab against Minnesota is arguably the most impressive. The Buckeyes trailed the Golden Gophers 14-10 in the second quarter when Haskins lobbed a ball downfield that Hill snagged with one hand and then ran it into the end zone. From there, Ohio State would not look back as Hill would add another TD catch to help make the final score 30-14.
Best Performance by a Player: Dwayne Haskins vs. Maryland
The Buckeyes escaped being upset by Maryland 52-51 in overtime, and it was largely because of Haskins. He went 28-for-35 for 405 yards and three touchdowns and an interception, with another 59 yards and three scores on the ground. Haskins accounted for all but one of Ohio State's touchdowns and helped his team avoid what would have been a devastating loss that would have cost them a shot at the Big Ten Championship Game.
Best Game (Team Performance): The Game
The type of dominating performance the national college football world had expected from Ohio State through all of 2018 finally came to pass in one that mattered most. Michigan came to Ohio Stadium ranked fourth, winners of 10 in a row and sitting in prime position to get into the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes dominated the favored Wolverines from the start, throttling them 62-39 to deal Jim Harbaugh and company a crushing defeat.
Defining Moment: Binjimen Victor's TD Reception at Penn State
Trailing 26-14 in Happy Valley, Ohio State fans were on the edge of their collective seats as Dwayne Haskins tried to rally the Buckeyes to victory. Victor's reception and winding touchdown run helped propel the Buckeyes to a 27-26 win on the road, which ended up being critical by the time all was said and done.
Biggest Disappointment: Blowout Loss at Purdue
Any Ohio State fan who knows the history of the Buckeyes traveling to West Lafayette would tell you that the Purdue game left many feeling uneasy about how the Buckeyes would finish the regular season. What was so bitter about the loss was not that it happened, but the manner in which the 49-20 loss transpired. For the remainder of the season, Ohio State was left trying to defend a performance that had many questioning if the Buckeyes were one of the best teams in the country.
Senior Who Will Be Missed the Most: Parris Campbell, WR
Campbell is not just the team's leading receiver. He's a threat to make something big happen every time he touches the ball. Campbell's big-play ability in the open field has often been on display this season and will be difficult to replace in 2019.
Player to Watch in 2019: Chris Olave, WR
Olave was recognized earlier here for being the best freshman on the team in 2018. It will be interesting to see how his role expands next season, considering the impact he has already made with limited opportunities. Michigan fans probably won't be too thrilled to see him next year.
Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Coaching Transition from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day
On Jan. 2, 2019, Day will officially take over as Ohio State's head coach. While the offensive coordinator has certainly been responsible for the Buckeyes' success this season and led the team during Urban Meyer's three-game suspension, this will be his first head coaching job. It's hard enough to take the place of someone like Meyer, but to do so at one of the most high-profile and scrutinized programs in the country? Ohio State fans won't be the only ones paying close attention as Day looks to hit the ground running in January.