Sugar Bowl X-Factor: Defense by Mike Scharf

There’s no denying Ohio State’s defense had a slow start to this 2020 season, which was predicted due to seven starters taking their talents to the NFL which included two of the top three picks in Chase Young, and Jeff Okudah.

Along with Okudah and Young, the Buckeyes lost Damon Arnette, Jordan Fuller, Malik Harrison, Jashon Cornell and Davon Hamilton to the 2020 NFL draft.

The loss of stars and slow start to the season didn’t stop the Silver Bullets from picking up rhythm and improving as a team through the abnormal 2020-COVID season.

The following is currently the Buckeyes’ defensive stats:

  • Total Defense: 34
  • Scoring Defense: 24 (Tied)
  • Passing Defense: 104
  • Rush Defense: 7
  • 3rd Down Defense: 19
  • Sacks Per Game: 26 (Tied)

In order for a Sugar Bowl victory and appearance in the 2020 National Championship, the Buckeyes defense needs to step up and execute the game plan for Trevor Lawrence’s high-powered Clemson Tiger offense.

Here are a few X-Factors defensively that could lead the Buckeyes’ to victory come Friday night.

Jonathan Cooper – Tommy Togiai – Haskell Garrett (Defensive Line)

Chase Young is dominating on Sunday’s for the Washington Football team and early on the Buckeyes faced problems replacing his 16.5 sacks from last season. That being said, the front seven has been dominate of late and the strong unit for the Buckeyes. (As noted above, they are 7th in the country in rush defense.) The experience and leadership of fifth-year senior Jonathan Cooper has been enormous all season long and will continue into championship season. Cooper has 20 tackles and 2.5 sacks on the season. The dominate-duo of the interior between Tommy Togiai and Haskell Garrett has been the biggest x-factor for the Buckeyes all season long and will cause disruption in the Tigers backfield. Togiai and Garrett have a combined 36 tackles and 5 sacks.

Pete Werner – Tuf Borland (Linebackers)

The Buckeye linebackers are a veteran group led by seniors Pete Werner and Tuf Borland. Werner leads the team with 37 tackles, 2.5 TFL, and one sack. Borland is second with 26 tackles, and 1.5 sacks. Both Werner and Borland are a big reason why the Buckeyes have played well against the run this season. These two, along with Baron Browning face their biggest test of the season Friday with the read option of Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne. Lawrence and Etienne have a combined rushing of 1,103 yards and 20 touchdowns.

The Buckeyes veteran group of linebackers are led by seniors Pete Warner and Tuf Borland. Warner leads the team with 37 tackles along with 2.5 TFL and one sack. Borland is second on the team with 26 tackles along with 1.5 sacks. These two, along with Baron Browning are a substantial reason why the team has played so well against the run this season. The biggest test will be this Friday as they look to contain the read option between Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne. Lawrence and Etienne have a combined rushing of 1,103 yards and 20 touchdowns this season for the Tigers.,,

Shaun Wade (Secondary)

This is a redemation game for Shaun Wade. Although, the talk of this year’s Buckeyes has been the secondary and the struggles they faced at times. The starting corners from last year’s defense were Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette as they were both drafted in the first round last April. Along with those two the Buckeyes lost, Jordan Fuller, who was a dominate force at safety for last year’s secondary. The struggles have been apparent for the secondary, but the Buckeyes have picked it up led behind the fifth-year senior and future first-rounder Shaun Wade. Wade will be coming into this game LASER focused as he is looking for his redemption against the Tigers. Last year, during the Fiesta Bowl, Wade was called for a controversial targeting call on Trevor Lawrence which led to be the turning point of the game in favor for the Tigers. Wade has 20 tackles and 2 interceptions on the season.

Final Analysis

Wade won’t be the only one looking for redemption. This Buckeye defense, along with these X-Factors will come in determined to prove something. Not only have the media questioned the creditability of the Buckeyes due to the fact they only played six games.

Clemson Tigers’ head coach, Dabo Swinney added some fuel to the fire. Swinney ranked the Buckeyes 11th on the coaches’ poll ballot and stood by that decision saying “I didn’t rank anybody who didn’t play nine games or more in the top 10. That’s why they were 11. I have all the respect in the world for Ohio State.” — The Buckeyes will be ready.

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