- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The cupboard is fully stocked, and Ohio State could put together a recipe with as many ingredients as it wants and shoot for something exotic.
But when it comes time to actually prepare the meal that gets the job done, simplicity and proven success has a way of looking more appealing. And the Buckeyes are in no hurry to mess with what works.
Sprinkling in some Jordan Hall when he's healthy might provide the potential for danger on the perimeter in the option game and he can be a threat as a receiver out of the backfield. A pinch of Dontre Wilson's explosive speed can go a long way in a hurry, and his bright future certainly makes Ohio State want to start getting him involved.
But the meat and potatoes for the Buckeyes remain the same as they were a year ago, and there hasn't been any reason for them to try anything different when Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller are both on hand to shoulder the load for the rushing game. And as hungry as No. 4 Ohio State is for a national title, it's becoming increasingly clear that feeding those two as much as it possibly can remains the most fulfilling option heading into the second half of the season.
"[Hyde] is the horse right now, and I think he's a great player," Urban Meyer said after his 18th consecutive victory as the Buckeyes' coach on Saturday night. "It shows you how much I trust the kid to be able to do that. It was kind of him and Braxton Miller just trying to run that clock out."
The Buckeyes are obviously using the terrific running tandem to do more than kill off games down the stretch, and their workload in the 40-30 victory over Northwestern on Saturday made quite clear how integral the partnership between the bruising tailback and the versatile quarterback still is despite the extra talent around them this season.
Hyde was given the ball 26 times on the ground against the Wildcats, getting a steady diet of power rushes on the interior on the way to 168 yards and three touchdowns in a performance that gradually wore down a defense that tired of trying to bring down the 235-pound bruiser. Miller complemented that with 17 rushing attempts of his own, perhaps failing to deliver the kind of game-breaking runs he's known for, but providing 4 yards per carry anyway to keep the chains moving and the defense from keying on Hyde.
Excluding a rush for punter Cameron Johnston on a botched fake, that combination accounted for every carry but four for the Buckeyes a week after Miller and Hyde combined for all but three carries in a victory over Wisconsin. So while the offense has shown clear signs of improvement in the passing game, spreading around touches to receivers and tight ends a bit more often since Hyde's suspension ended and Miller's knee sprain healed, the basic formula on the ground remains almost identical to the one that produced an undefeated record last year.
And with it working just the same way against consecutive ranked opponents over the last two weeks, there doesn't appear to be any reason to make things more complicated.
"Coach [Meyer] told me [at halftime] that we were going to start riding me," Hyde said. "I get excited when they tell me that.
"I wanted it bad, and I like when games come down to the fourth quarter and coach will put the ball in my hands. He started off in the beginning of the game putting the ball in my hands. I was just trying to catch a rhythm, and I caught a rhythm."
Collectively the Buckeyes are back in an familiar pattern with their ground game, putting the football in the hands of their two best offensive players and keeping it there as much as possible.
A little variety might spice things up every now and then. But the Buckeyes obviously haven't grown tired of tasting success.
3hJosh Moyer and Dan Murphy