Ohio State defensive end Chase Young was suspended Friday and will miss Saturday’s game against Maryland.
Young is being investigated by the school for a potential violation in 2018. He posted on Twitter that he accepted a loan from a family friend and repaid that loan in full. That puts his status in jeopardy for the rest of the season.
The length of Young’s suspension will have an impact on the Big Ten championship race, the College Football Playoff race, the Heisman trophy award and how the NCAA will handle cases like this in a new-world order. Here’s what it could mean for each.
‘FREE CHASE YOUNG’
Criticism of the NCAA trends after Ohio State star’s suspension
Ohio State can win Big Ten without Chase Young
Ohio State can still win the Big Ten championship without Young. Just look at last year. Standout defensive end Nick Bosa, who was earning fringe Heisman praise at the time, suffered a season-ending groin injury. The Buckeyes lost the following game at Purdue 49-20 but still managed to win the Big Ten championship in Urban Meyer’s final season.
This Ohio State seems better equipped to absorb that loss, at least in the short term. The Buckeyes play Maryland and Rutgers the next two weeks, and those should be easy victories. Keep in mind the Buckeyes allowed 404 yards per game in 2018. This year’s team allows 224.8 yards per game.
Young’s absence would be especially noticeable in looming high-profile showdowns against No. 5 Penn State and No. 14 Michigan. The Buckeyes should still be favored in those games, however, and on pace for another trip to Indianapolis.
We still think they will win the Big Ten, but this does put the pressure on Ohio State to go 13-0. If you don’t believe that, just look back at last season.
Will Chase Young’s absence impact Ohio State’s CFP hopes?
Why do we think Ohio State — which is No. 1 in the current CFP rankings — needs to win out? Rewind to last year. The Buckeyes lost to Purdue, and that egregious loss kept Ohio State out of the Playoff despite a Big Ten championship.
Now imagine that team with Bosa back on the field. Perhaps they would have been given the benefit of the doubt over Oklahoma, which took the final spot in the Playoff. Perhaps that gives Ohio State the final spot.
Follow that thinking into next year. With Young, who has 13.5 sacks and is considered the best defensive player in the country, Ohio State is a national championship contender. Without him, well, the committee might take a different view of the Buckeyes compared to LSU, Alabama and Clemson.
For example, what would happen if Ohio State loses to Michigan and wins the Big Ten championship? Or if it wins out in the regular season and loses the Big Ten championship? Those scenarios are more uncomfortable for Ohio State if Young is not back on the field.
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How Chase Young’s suspension will impact Heisman voting
Fair or unfair, Young’s Heisman campaign is probably over. At minimum, it’s going to be a mammoth challenge to overcome knowing Michigan’s Charles Woodson (1997) is the only defensive player ever to win the Heisman.
That’s not the only challenge. Florida State’s Charlie Ward (1993) is the last Heisman winner to miss a game during the regular season and still win the award. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa missed a game this season, but he has the dual benefit of being a quarterback and having a chance to erase that in the “Game of the Century” against LSU on Saturday.
Other Heisman contenders have been suspended during the season, including Georgia’s Todd Gurley (2014), but it’s happened to defensive players, too, but it did not happen during the regular season.
LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed from the school in 2012; a year after finishing fifth in the Heisman voting. Brian Bosworth finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 1986, but he was suspended from the Orange Bowl for a failed drug test and did not come back for his senior season.
Auburn’s Cam Newton is the exception. He was briefly suspended in 2010 before winning the Heisman Trophy, but his performance in the comeback victory against Alabama in the Iron Bowl outweighed the suspension.
Young could theoretically come back and dominate against Penn State, Michigan and in the Big Ten championship game, but it might not be enough to overcome Heisman voters who will not be able to turn away from the suspension.
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What will the NCAA decide?
The NCAA’s decision on Young will be the next step, and that’s going to be polarizing either way.
Young tweeted that he accepted a loan from a family friend and paid it in full, and his lawyer tweeted that “unfair and outdated (NCAA) rules punish athletes for making ends meet while enriching everyone else.” The #FreeChase hashtag has started.
Perhaps a one-game suspension is enough, but that decision won’t make everyone happy. If Young isn’t held out, then detractors will say the NCAA is toothless and powerhouse schools such as Ohio State get preferential treatment in cases like this.
If Young is suspended, then this case will get entangled with the player likeness debate — which the NCAA has shown progress on — and will lead to larger discussions about the pay-to-play debate and how schools can protect student-athletes from agent types who provide improper benefits.
At the heart of it, however, will be deciding whether what Young did — to which he admitted — is enough to keep him out for the season.
That impact will be felt at all these levels.