It was understandably overshadowed by Braxton Miller's impressive return from injury, but there was another intriguing development in the Buckeyes' backfield in last week's win over Wisconsin.
Ohio State senior Carlos Hyde is a big back in the mold of Green Bay Packers 2013 second-round pick Eddie Lacy, and was re-installed as the team's top running back vs. the Badgers after serving a three-game suspension to open the season (he rushed only five times vs. overmatched Florida A&M in his first game back).
Hyde powered through the Wisconsin defense for 85 yards on 17 carries, and I'm eager to see how he will be utilized in a highly anticipated Big Ten showdown against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday.
He showed as a junior last season that he belonged on the NFL radar, rushing for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns in less than 10 games. At 6-foot, 235 pounds, he's built to be a power back, but he's not just a big, lumbering guy. He can break tackles and pay dividends in the fourth quarter. Coach Urban Meyer can stick the ball in Hyde's chest 20, 25 times, and he'll wear defenses down.
I want to see how Hyde responds in a big game on the road vs. a cohesive and well-coached Northwestern defense. This is another chance for Hyde to make a statement on a big stage -- NFL teams don't ignore leading rushers from Ohio State.
Sankey gets another crack at Cardinal
Hyde is not the only back I'm interested to see in a marquee road matchup Saturday.
Coming off a win in which he set a school record with 40 carries (for 162 yards and a touchdown), Washington's Bishop Sankey will line up across from a very talented Stanford front seven.
The Cardinal certainly has not forgotten about last season, when Sankey lit it up for 144 yards on 20 carries, including a 61-yard TD run, in Washington's upset win. Sankey didn't forget about it, either -- it was the breakout game of his college career. He finished with perhaps the quietest 1,439 rushing yards and 16 TDs in the country last season.
Sankey is a horse. He will eat carries. He's not a monster-sized guy, but he runs with good power and vision. He'll drop his shoulder on a defender. When he gets to open field, he can run.
Stanford has a ton of pride. Not only did it lose last year, its run defense broke down. That's not normal for Stanford. So, it's going to be a heck of a challenge for Sankey to try to replicate last season's success in this game. Washington has cohesion on the offensive line -- something it did not have last season -- and knows what kind of challenge it has in Stanford.
Improved QBs square off
I'm also excited to watch the quarterbacks go head-to-head in Washington-Stanford. Both have shown tremendous improvement this season. The biggest difference in Stanford's Kevin Hogan is his ability to throw the ball down the field. Last year, it was dink and dunk, and it was the right thing to do to get the young guy going. This year, because of the run game they have, they take those shot plays. Hogan is more accurate.
After Washington QB Keith Price's sophomore year, everyone was saying he was terrific -- in his junior year, not so much. His protection broke down, he lost confidence, didn't make the right plays and tried to do too much. This year, Price is slinging it. His accuracy has been good and he really has it going right now.
Under the radar
One other player to keep an eye in the Washington-Stanford game is Huskies CB Marcus Peters. He may be the most underrated cornerback not just in the Pac-12, but in the country. He's very cerebral.