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Ohio State relying on Jim Knowles' defense to get Buckeyes back to College Football Playoff

Before Ohio State's spring football game in mid-April, first-year defensive coordinator Jim Knowles took a walk around the field to soak in the atmosphere of his first time inside Ohio Stadium. As he made his way throughout the Shoe, where there was an announced crowd of 60,000 for a glorified scrimmage, Knowles said he heard fans yelling to him, "We love you, Knowles! You're the best!"

"The thought crossed my mind -- we haven't even given up a first down yet, or a point," he said with a chuckle. "But then I made a conscious decision: You know what? I'm going to enjoy this."

He raised a fist in the air, a triumphant gesture back at the Buckeyes fans.

"I was like, 'That's right, let's go!'" he said, "knowing full well that we haven't done anything yet."

All eyes are on Knowles to see what he does do this fall -- and if it will be enough to get the Buckeyes back to the College Football Playoff.

Following four seasons at Oklahoma State, where he elevated the Cowboys' defense to a level of success not typically seen in the pass-happy Big 12, Knowles' reputation precedes him. With an offense that is again projected to be the best in the country, defensive improvement could be the missing piece to the Buckeyes' national title aspirations.