Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, December 20, 2011
BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart spent the season covering Big Ten football, and now it?s time for his team-by-team season recaps. Every day, Dienhart will post a recap for each Big Ten school, in alphabetical order. Up next: Ohio State. Watch our video from the Buckeyes' thrilling victory over Leaders Division champ Wisconsin now and read Dienhart?s season recap in this post. Coming up: The rest of the Big Ten in Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin. Read all the one's we've posted so far on our Season in Review page.
Record: 6-6 overall; 3-5 Big Ten
Bowl: Gator vs. Florida
Season recap: The season got off track before it even began. An NCAA investigation cost Jim Tressel his job in May, and it also caused star quarterback Terrelle Pryor to turn pro early. And the offense was without running back Dan Herron, tackle Mike Adams and receiver DeVier Posey for the first five games because of NCAA violation, further hampering an offense that was led primarily by a true freshman quarterback. And Posey?s suspension was extended by five games because of further violations. OSU?s attack ranked 11th in the Big Ten (319.8 ypg) in total offense and last in passing (124.8 ypg). Bottom line: Interim head coach Luke Fickell had his hands tied working with a depleted roster, as Ohio State had little chance to win a seventh Big Ten title in a row and ended up with the program?s worst record since a 6-6 mark under John Cooper in 1999.
High point: The Buckeyes stunned the nation by beating No. 11 Wisconsin, 33-29. And they did it in dramatic fashion, as Braxton Miller hit Devin Smith with the game-winning touchdown pass with 20 seconds left. The win made Ohio State 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten. This team had hope. Maybe it could win the Leaders Division.
Low point: It was painful to blow a 21-point second-half lead in a 34-27 loss at Nebraska. But it was worse to fall at Purdue, 26-23, in overtime. Ohio State appeared to have momentum and a chance to win the Leaders Division, as it brought a three-game winning streak to West Lafayette. But the Buckeyes saw a potential game-winning extra point blocked in the waning moments of regulation, and then lost the game in overtime. It was the first of three consecutive losses to end the season for the Buckeyes.
Offensive MVP: QB Braxton Miller. The precocious true freshman was thrust into action sooner than expected after Terrelle Pryor left school in the summer amid NCAA scandal and Joe Bauserman was ineffective. Miller had his ups and downs in leading the Buckeyes in rushing with 695 yards while passing for 997 yards with 11 touchdowns and four picks. And he did all of this with several key offensive cogs out for extended stretches while serving suspensions for breaking NCAA rules.
Defensive MVP: DL John Simon. Perhaps the strongest player in the Big Ten, Simon was a force up front all season for a Buckeye defense that carried its share of the load during this rough season in ranking sixth in the Big Ten (328.6 ypg). Simon had 14 tackles for loss and was third in the Big Ten in sacks with seven.
Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow Dienhart on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed.