Photo Courtesy Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Arguably the Ohio State Football season now begins – looming indeed. After the Buckeyes finished off Rutgers on Saturday in New Jersey 56-21 the agenda now focuses on Penn State and TTUN to solidify the exclamation point for the season.
First up is Penn State which is still “very” relevant in the Big Ten Eastern Division race was a victor against Indiana 34-27 on Saturday. And, well, afterwards comes TTUN who handled the Spartans of *ichigan State 44-10.
The Buckeyes have been awesome on both sides of the field this season – truly at a championship level – literally from the first second of play in the opening kickoff of game one. The season thus far, as beautiful as it has been, has not, however, won any championships
The 52.5-point betting spread at kickoff suggested a bloodthirsty parody we, as Buckeye fans, needed to witness (Let’s be honest) because an oversight of anyone is always a battle often lost, and though there was no upset here, and probably never would have been, the fact that Rutgers scored 21, is something no one else this season did (Including Wisconsin and Indiana) it, frankly, meaningless. But, it, what started off as an apparent route following slot cornerback Shaun Wade’s forced takeaways on the first two Rutgers possessions, both of which led to touchdowns, appeared to be on path of something historic. But not the case!
The Buckeyes instead settled for part-time whipping thanks fractionally to some deservingly noted moments by the Scarlet Knights.
Ohio State led 21-0 when freshman Garrett Wilson fumbled a punt return and the Scarlet Knights recovered the ball at the Buckeyes 34. Isaiah Pacheco scored on a 26-yard run three plays later. It was the first first-quarter touchdown the Buckeyes allowed this season.
Rutgers’ biggest defensive moment came midway through the second quarter. The Ohio State University running back J.K. Dobbins carried four straight times on a possession that began at the Scarlet Knights’ 7. He was stopped twice at the 1, and then knocked for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-1. SMACK DOWN!
Justin Fields threw for a career-high 305 yards on 15-of-19 passing and four touchdowns, including two to Ben Victor. Chris Olave set a career high with 139 yards on four receptions, hauling in a pair of deep balls that set up other touchdowns.
Dobbins rushed for 89 yards and a pair of touchdowns, yielding to Master Teague III to begin the second half. Dobbins has carried the ball only 42 times in the second half this season, one of many ways individual statistical accumulation has been hampered by Ohio State’s team-wide dominance.
The Buckeyes “experimentation” of the starting defense with sophomore Sevyn Banks playing in place of starting cornerback Damon Arnette. K’Vaughn Pope piled up 10 tackles off the bench and intercepted his second pass in as many games. Ohio State started youngster Javontae Jean-Baptiste and Tyler Friday — two New Jersey natives — while rotating defensive ends in the absence of Chase Young (suspension) and Jonathon Cooper (injury).
Young returns to active status this week, and while the Buckeyes did not need him the past two weeks, the thought of being without him is, well, frightful. He will likely be the best player on the field the next two weeks as the Buckeyes attempt to stitch up their third consecutive trip to the Big Ten championship game and an end to their two-year absence from CFP’s.
The Buckeyes can clinch the Big Ten East championship Saturday against Penn State.
As for tangible benefits of even playing Saturday’s game, those are more difficult to see. If Ohio State needs any of its young reserves in the season’s final weeks, whom have some “serious” reps – abundance-ly so, they are in a good place. This is an important reality some teams do not have the luxury of presenting.
Up and coming
Ohio State’s Big Ten aspirations and College Football Playoff standing now come down to two huge rivalry games. Penn State comes to Ohio Stadium this coming Saturday in the final home game for the senior class and, almost certainly, stars such as Chase Young, Jeff Okudah and perhaps others. Then the Buckeyes travel to face TTUN, which has won three straight since its loss to Penn State and has a thirst to ruin the Buckeyes dominance over them since 2012 which counts at seven.
Young’s return will create some of the most neon-like headlines this week. The Buckeyes also hope that defensive end Jonathon Cooper, linebacker Baron Browning, receiver Austin Mack, offensive tackle Joshua Alabi mend well enough to contribute in the closing stretch. So the focus needs to be not necessarily on their returns but on the education of the Big Ten that the Buckeyes are – well – the Buckeyes.