Jim Knowles is in his second season at defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Ohio State University. His first Ohio State defense, in 2022, improved statistically in all four major defensive categories from 2021, including significant improvements in total defense and passing defense. Consider:
• Ohio State was 14th in total defense in 2022 (321.5 ypg); 59th in 2021 (372.6);
• 24th in scoring defense (21.0 ppg) vs. 38th (22.8 ppg);
• 26th in rushing defense (121.1) vs. 28th (126.7); and
• 26th in passing defense (200.5) vs. 96th (245.8).
Knowles’ work with the Buckeye defense has improved by even greater margins so far in 2023. We’ll get to the stats in a moment, but here’s the best note about the Ohio State defense in 2023: Ohio State is the only school in the country with two Top-10 wins this year and in both games – a 17-14 win over No. 9 Notre Dame and a 20-12 win over No. 7 Penn State – it was the defense leading the way. Imagine Ohio State scoring but 14 and 20 points against Top-10 teams … and winning. The defense held Notre Dame 157 yards below its per game average, and against Penn State the Buckeye defense held Penn State to 1-of-16 on third down, to minus-1 rushing yards after the first quarter and 240 total yards.
The 2023 Buckeyes are nationally ranked in the Top 10 in three major categories: scoring defense (2nd), total defense (5th) and passing defense (3rd). The unit is 25th in rushing defense. Additionally, Ohio State’s 2023 defense is No. 3 nationally in fewest plays over 10+ yards and it has allowed just one play over 40 yards.