Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer called the 35-23 win over Penn State the best team win for the Buckeyes so far this season, then he went on to praise a baker's dozen of players for their roles in the decision.
Quarterback Braxton Miller was named the team's offensive player of the week after rushing for 134 yards on 25 carries. He ran for a pair of scores and threw for another as the Buckeyes dominated the second half against the Nittany Lions.
"Our offensive player of the week started very slow, was not very efficient early on in the passing game, however he finished very strong," Meyer said. "Made some big plays for us, and his competitive spirit is a big reason why we won that game. That's our quarterback, Braxton Miller."
When asked if he sees Miller, who leads the Big Ten and is 11th nationally in rushing at 121.4 yards per game, is a candidate for the Heisman Trophy, Meyer answered in the affirmative.
"I didn't say that before, but I do believe Braxton is a Heisman candidate," he said. "He has to play much better. However, just from sheer production of a team that's 9-0, it puts him in that category, and that's without knowing all the other candidates."
Joining Miller on the "champions" list on the offensive side of the ball were offensive linemen Andrew Norwell, Jack Mewhort and Reid Fragel along with wide receivers Jake Stoneburner and Evan Spencer and running back Carlos Hyde.
"Jake Stoneburner continues his last few weeks have been the best football of his career at Ohio State," said Meyer of the senior who caught two passes for 86 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. "A lot of things that you don't see as well, but just his down-field blocking and physicalness. We're moving him inside and playing a little bit of fullback ever since we moved Zach (Boren) over (to defense), so some things you don't see, he's doing very well for us. We really appreciate his restored or rededication to making himself a great player."
Spencer caught three passes for 33 yards while Hyde ran for 55 yards on 22 carries against a Penn State defense selling out to stop the run.
"Evan Spencer played very good – made plays all three times he had an opportunity," Meyer said. "Carlos Hyde graded out a champion, and 91 percent of his yards were after contact. He's a very strong contact runner."
On the other side of the ball, linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Bradley Roby were the two to grade out as champions, and the sophomore shared the defensive player of the week honor.
Shazier led the team with eight tackles, including two sacks, and returned an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter. He was also named co-defensive player of the week for the Big Ten.
Roby had five stops, all solos, and Meyer said the staff noted seven pass breakups when it reviewed the film. He was credited with four by the official scorer at Penn State but still leads the nation with 2.25 passes defended per game.
"Brad Roby graded out 94 percent," Meyer said. "He had an inordinate amount of play opportunities, 30 opportunities, which is almost unheard of. They were throwing a lot at him.
"I even had one of my guys just recheck some of my records, and I don't think we've ever had a guy get his hand on seven balls."
Roby leads the team with eight weeks grading out as a champion, and he was announced Monday as a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award, an honor that goes annually to the nation's best defensive back.
Roby also graded out as a champion on special teams along with wide receiver Devin Smith, safety Ron Tanner and cornerback Adam Griffin.
"Griffin received a 'scarlet shirt, which is an award we give out to guys that get great efforts," Meyer said. "He stopped a fourth down fake punt, and Brad Roby made two tackles on kickoff."
Smith was named special teams player of the week after making four tackles as a gunner on the punt team.
News on the injury front was generally positive as well insomuch as there was not really any.
Meyer said Smith, who left the game at University Park with what appeared to be an arm injury, is fine, and the coach did not rule out the return of Etienne Sabino.
A senior linebacker, Sabino has missed the last three games while healing a broken leg.
"I just saw him," Meyer said. "There is no player trying harder. I would say it's questionable for this week, and we'll let you know as he gets going.
"Our trainer and doctor says we're as healthy as we've been."
The sixth-ranked Buckeyes will put their 9-0 record on the line Saturday against struggling Illinois (2-6, 0-4) in a game set to kickoff at 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.
ESPN will broadcast the game with former Buckeye Joey Galloway doing color commentary while Beth Mowins calls the play-by-play action.