My Top Ten Favorite Ohio State Buckeyes: #3 Carlos Hyde

Career Statistic Resume: Ohio State running back from 2010-13, Starter from 2012-13, 3,198 rushing yards, 6.1 yards per carry (including a 7.3 ypc average his senior season), 37 rushing touchdowns, 34 receptions, 271 yards, 4 touchdowns, 2013 Third-team All-American, member of the 2012 undefeated team.

Nickname: El Guapo, ‘Los, Thunder

When I was a kid, I used to play out my own college football seasons. I would toss a football back and forth to myself in the hallway, pretending to juke guys out, dive to catch errant passes and basically act out how the game would go in my head. I didn’t play out every single game, but at the very least I would write out a score for every single game of the 126 FBS teams, keep track of all their records and “release” my top 25 rankings for the next week of college football by showing them to my Mom (trust me, this is going somewhere sort-of relevant).

But around the age of 12, I made the very mature decision to … NOT stop playing out every single season, but to do so with four of the Power Five conferences. I know, thank you. The conference I extracted from my fantasy world was the Big 10, the beloved conference that had given me so much great football. It’s true that I loved the Big 10, but I also loved unpredictability and equality. With the Big 10 came Ohio State, and with Ohio State came my fandom. I almost never brought myself to making them lose. Every year, they would finish as the undefeated national champions of make-believe-college-football, or as an undefeated number-three ranked team that barely missed the BCS Championship. I realized that Ohio State’s presence was doing damage to my league’s integrity, so I had to move on (it’s getting there, I promise!!!).

I now attend Northwestern University and find myself with a conflict of interest. The Buckeyes come to play the Wildcats in less than two weeks, storming into Ryan Field on a Friday night. While the outcome of the game is most certainly not in doubt (R.I.P. 2019 Northwestern football), the team I will be cheering for is. Yes, I’ll be wearing my NU jersey to the game and would love to storm the field after a seemingly implausible upset. However, I can’t promise I won’t crack a smile when Justin Fields finds KJ Hill for his fifth passing touchdown of the first half.

Maybe I shouldn’t disregard the ‘Cats so soon. I remember what happened the last time an Uber-talented Ohio State team came to Evanston for a night game (the relevance, here it comes!!!). Back in 2013, Northwestern led Ohio State 23-13 with under five minutes left in the third quarter. Ohio State’s offense that night had been inept at best and literally giving the other team points at worst (think NU 2019). That is, until a man who had played virtually zero role in Ohio State’s 5-0 start to the 2013 season, dominated like no man I’d ever seen. That man was “El Guapo” aka Carlos Hyde.

Carlos split carries with multiple running backs during the dreadful 2011 season, and he didn’t fully take over the lead running back role until the midway point of the undefeated 2012 season. Carlos had been steady all season but his first break out came against that dreaded team up north in “The Game.” He finished with 26 carries for 146 yards on the ground, but what fans remember is how he ended it all. Ohio State lead 26-21 with four minutes left, needing about three first downs to secure the win. From there on out, every single play was a handoff to Carlos, who bulled his way through several defenders, getting the job done. By far the most satisfying was his conversion on a 3rd & 7, as he dragged the defender that clung to legs, churning his way for the first down. Hyde stood up, looked to the side line, and made the universal motion for “feed me” toward the X-ichigan sideline. Specifically, he was saying “feed me” as he stared down quarterback Denard “Shoelace” Robinson, a college football star who had used the feed me celebration for the entirety of his career. He ate Robinson’s lunch while staring him down. What a legend.

But Carlos hit a road block entering 2013. He was officially suspended by Urban Meyer for violation of team rules, and un-officially kind of suspended for the fourth game of the season, as some random true freshman running back named Ezekiel Elliott got a major share of the carries that day. The next week versus Wisconsin was quarterback Braxton Miller’s return for injury and the coaches celebrated by focusing the entire gameplay around the passing attack. Seemed like a lost year for Carlos.

Carlos finished this lost year by running for 1,395 yards in nine games, good for 155 yards per game. In the words of Ron Burgundy, “That escalated quickly.”

The escalation began on Ryan Field in 2013. Carlos totaled 26 carries, 168 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and pitched in four catches for 38 yards to cap off the night. He racked up almost all of those stats during Ohio State’s furious comeback, and let me tell you, the stats don’t tell how dominant he was. Whether it was stretching for an obscenely difficult touchdown on third and goal or catching check downs to bail out Braxton from once of his worst performances ever, Carlos became the Ohio State offense last night. I know he only had four catches in reality, but from someone who remembers watching that game, it felt like 40. The 12 year-old me was red and flustered with tears for most of the game, enraged at what seemed like a terrible loss for the Buckeyes, yet somehow, I was calm for the last period. That’s because I realized something—Northwestern couldn’t stop Carlos, and Carlos was winning this game, not Ohio State. That was a recurring theme for Ohio State in 2013.

2013 Ohio State couldn’t exactly, um, throw. And their defense was kind-of outright terrible in pass coverage after Christian Bryant broke his ankle against Wisconsin and was replaced by the infamous Pitt Brown. But that team could do one thing: THEY RAN THE READ OPTION BABY!!!

That was literally the entire playbook, with a couple of play actions thrown in for diversity points. Either Braxton would keep it and shake a big, husky guy as he burst outside, or Carlos would run behind his offensive line which only allowed him to be tackled for a loss once all season. I don’t know if people remember this, but Carlos started to get a little bit of Heisman buzz late in the year due to how dominant he was week after week.

Think about that. A man who was not on the field for three games and nearly irrelevant for the other two was being considered as the best, most impactful player in the country.

His chances were already slim, but they were all but shot when Ohio State was upset by Michigan State in the Big 10 title game. Ask the Buckeye faithful and most would concur that it was the decision to not give it to Carlos on a 4th and 2 that kept Ohio State from a win there and an appearance in the national championship. Instead of leaning on Carlos, by far the team’s best player, the staff drew up a straight sweep to the outside for Braxton. It didn’t go well. The coaches went with the faulty belief that their quarterback was the one who should determine their fate. Carlos would have determined a better one.

If you’ve been keeping up with this series. You’ve heard me say how a lot of times I like a player simply because of how good they are. I’m not going to bore with you that same monologue.

What I will say is this: Carlos was the one who convinced me that Ohio State could win a national title.

Sure, I spent the previous paragraphs detailing the many flaws of the 2013 team. But I won’t deny that I thought Ohio State was going to win it back then. I knew those flaws, but Carlos was so unstoppable that I thought he was going to will it into existence. From the time I dove into Ohio State football in 2006, Ohio State was great, but I knew that a championship was wishful thinking at best. I always thought that we lacked “the guy” on offense, the one Heisman-caliber star who could put the finishing pieces on a championship roster. Some would argue that Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller were those kinds of players, but that’s just nonsense in my opinion. Even an uneducated child like me back then could watch and understand that the quarterbacks on Heisman ballots could pick apart coverages and raise the level of the personnel around them, and that Terrelle and Braxton weren’t like that. Carlos Hyde was the first time I believed that Ohio State had the best, most important player in the country. It’s why I arrogantly flaunted Ohio State’s success to my friends during 7th grade, only to be severely disappointed by season’s end.

I truthfully and honestly believe that Carlos Hyde’s 2013 season was the best season ever for an Ohio State running back. I know that seems like heresy in hindsight. Ohio State boasts three Heisman winning running backs in Howard “Hop-a-long” Cassady, Archie Griffin and Eddie George (you can’t count Les Horvath if you want, he played like every position). Ezekiel Elliot compiled roughly 3,000 yards in an 18 game stretch and now dominates the NFL. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a running back mean more to a team in college football for one season. That’s just my opinion … but then again, this is my list. Beast on, Carlos.