Built to Perform: OSU's ground game

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The focal point hasn’t changed.

Opposing defenses still have to account for Braxton Miller first and foremost to stop Ohio State on the ground, though even with extra attention the sophomore has proven plenty capable of busting big plays.

But when the Buckeyes are able to expand the arsenal around Miller and roll out additional weapons in the running game, that not only makes the quarterback more effective, it also turns an entire attack into a unit that is built to perform like few others in the country.

Ohio State now has a player who has developed into a tackle-breaking machine in running back Carlos Hyde and a backup from the same mold in Rod Smith. It has a reliable pitch-man in Corey “Philly” Brown for an outlet on the perimeter. And then there’s Miller, who is equally effective on the edge or bursting right up the middle. The group has helped the Buckeyes demolish defenses with 724 rushing yards and nine touchdowns over the last two games heading into Saturday’s home date with Purdue.

“The run game is predicated on being able to be physical and run the ball inside the tackles, create some conflict,” running backs coach Stan Drayton said. “Then the next thing the defense is going to do is try to load the box, so when they load the box, the next part of the offense is to be able to attack the perimeter -- and not just with one guy, but potentially two guys.

“That’s the essence of spread football in the run game, and we definitely have the personnel to fit it.”

That’s particularly true at quarterback for Ohio State’s version of the spread, which needs a triggerman who can stress the defense. Miller is certainly doing that in his second season as a starter with the Buckeyes, having rushed for 912 yards and nine touchdowns already while adding yet another component to the offense by throwing for 1,271 yards and 11 TDs.

He might only be getting started as he continues to learn new coach Urban Meyer’s offense while the Buckeyes recruit and develop talent to put more weapons around him. But even with the group he has with him now, Ohio State is already grinding up defenses at a rate that is hard to match.