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Ohio State Football: 2022 Team Awards

Plenty of positive and puzzling moments for the Buckeyes this season.
Dallan Hayden, Ohio State Buckeyes Football

Amidst a roster full of impressive skill-position players the emergence of freshman Dallan Hayden in the Buckeyes' banged-up backfield was a pleasant surprise.

After an offseason of coaching staff upheaval, the Ohio State Buckeyes came into the 2022 college football season focused on defeating "That Team Up North," winning the Big Ten championship and the national title. The Buckeyes were unable to accomplish their first two goals but still have a shot at the third.

After Utah defeated USC 47-24 in the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Buckeyes replaced the Trojans for the fourth and final spot in the College Football Playoff. With a month to prepare and get healthy, Ohio State is in a position to win its first national championship since 2014. Doing so would certainly help to ease the sting of a second consecutive loss to Michigan, if not altogether erase it.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Ohio State Will Win the College Football Playoff

The Buckeyes were 11-0 and ranked No. 2 in the nation before falling at home to Michigan for the first time since 2000 in the regular-season finale. Despite that disappointing loss, there still have been several noteworthy performances this fall.

Offensive MVP: C.J. Stroud, QB

The redshirt sophomore has been outstanding in his direction of the Ohio State offense once again, completing 235 of 355 passes for 3,340 yards, 37 touchdowns, and only six interceptions. For his efforts, Stroud was recognized as not only the Big Ten's first-team quarterback but also the Offensive Player of the Year. On Monday, he was announced as a Heisman Trophy finalist for the second straight year.

Defensive MVP: Tommy Eichenberg, LB

Eichenberg leads the team with 112 tackles and thrived under the new defensive staff's tutelage. What was also impressive about Eichenberg's 2022 performance is that he did so while playing with two broken hands during the latter portion of the season.

Best Freshman: Dallan Hayden, RB

Hayden has rushed for 520 yards and five touchdowns this season as fellow running backs Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson have both dealt with injuries. Hayden's biggest contribution came in the win at Maryland on Nov. 19 when he rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. Because of that effort and the health concerns regarding Williams and Henderson, it confusing why Hayden was not used more in the loss to Michigan.

Best Play of the Season: Marvin Harrison Jr.'s acrobatic reception against Indiana

Harrison turned in so many noteworthy plays this season, but the reception against Indiana on Nov. 19 where Harrison was able to contort his body in order to get one foot down may top the list. Harrison was named the Big Ten's wide receiver of the year and he's a Biletnikoff Award finalist.

Best Performance (Player): J.T. Tuimoloau dominates in the road win against Penn State

Tuimoloau was a one-man wrecking crew against the Nittany Lions, collecting six tackles, three tackles for a loss, two sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. He also had a pass breakup that resulted in another interception for teammate Zach Harrison. Tuimoloau's second pick was the icing on the cake for his big day, as he returned it 14 yards for a touchdown and Ohio State's final points in the eventual 44-31 outcome. Not surprisingly, Tuimoloau was named Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week following that performance.

Best Performance (Team): The "Black Out" night game vs. Wisconsin

Wisconsin is usually one of the most difficult opponents Ohio State faces, and this Sept. 24 game loomed large on the schedule. From the very beginning of the matchup in the Horseshoe, the Buckeyes dominated, scoring a touchdown on their first possession and then intercepting Graham Mertz on the fifth play of the Badgers' opening drive.

Ohio State jumped out to a 28-0 lead before Wisconsin scored and coasted to a 52-21 victory. Even though the Buckeyes would go on to start the season 11-0, they never seemed as completely dominant as they were against the Badgers.

Defining Moment: Cade Stover's critical TD catch in the win at Penn State

Ohio State was leading Penn State 23-21, but the outcome was far from certain. Stover's touchdown reception with a little more than eight minutes remaining in the game gave the Buckeyes a comfortable lead that they would not relinquish. The play also helped establish a narrative that the Buckeyes could never ever be considered out of a game, by virtue of their quick-strike offensive abilities.

Biggest Surprise: Ohio State's defense vs. Michigan

The Buckeyes came into The Game as favorites yet played disastrously on defense against their archrivals. While coordinator Jim Knowles' reputation for high-risk, high-reward defensive schemes was well-known by Ohio State fans, the manner in which Knowles continually blitzed, even with a questionable secondary, was one of the main culprits in the demoralizing 45-23 home loss that cost Ohio State a chance at a Big Ten championship.

Biggest Disappointment: Michigan

How could it be anything else? All offseason, Ohio State's coaches and players reassured their fans that they would be ready for the Michigan game. When the opportunity presented itself in the biggest game of the year, Ohio State gave up numerous big plays on defense that eventually led to the Wolverines winning The Game for the second year in a row.

Senior Who Will be Missed the Most: Zach Harrison, DE

Harrison was probably the most-hyped member of his recruiting class years ago, and this season he flashed big-play ability. While Harrison never turned into the same type of dominant Buckeye defensive end like Joey Bosa or Chase Young, Harrison did show a knack for swatting passes at the line of scrimmage, and he will be missed up front in 2023.

Offseason Storyline: Figuring out Michigan

Go ask former Ohio State head coach John Cooper about having good years, but not beating "That Team Up North." Ryan Day has built a tremendous program, but the concern over losing to Michigan is very real. With the game in Ann Arbor in 2023 — and more than likely with a different quarterback leading the Buckeyes' offense — the pressure on Day and his coaches to play better against the Wolverines will be palpable.

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is podcasting for Land-Grant Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.