For the past few weeks, everyone has been trying to diagnose Ohio State’s struggles.
The Buckeyes haven’t looked the role of defending national champions. They’ve not won games in the typical, dominant fashion that is expected out of a team vying for a second-straight title. The eye test has proven with regularity that this team is not the nation’s best.
While that belief may continue to float around in the coming weeks, Saturday’s 49-7 thumping over Rutgers confirmed the Buckeyes are free from any football ailment. Though they may not have been appealing to watch at times in the first portion of the year, the Buckeyes are still a dominant power.
Despite popular belief, there’s nothing wrong with Ohio State.
In fact, there’s never been anything wrong with this team that now sits 8-0 on the year and hasn’t lost a regular season conference game since Urban Meyer took the headset in 2012.
ESPN writer Austin Ward wrote earlier this week: “The formula and results haven’t changed, but the work Ohio State has shown on occasion doesn’t seem to be impressing people grading it, mostly poll voters who are increasingly dropping the program from the No. 1 spot thanks to concerns over some sloppy performances.”
Sure, the Buckeyes have encountered their fair share of difficulties this season.
A narrow seven-point win over Northern Illinois in the second week of the year left folks scratching their heads. Needing a 28-point second half to take down Indiana in the Big Ten opener was a shocker for most across the country.
The overall failure for Ohio State to display that same dominant and punishing style of football it showcased against Alabama in Oregon in route to a College Football Playoff Championship has been disappointing to most.
But each week Meyer’s squad has been able to do the one thing that matters most in college football. The Buckeyes have been able to put more points on the scoreboard than their opponent.
Until that aspect changes, Ohio State shouldn’t be worried about too much.
Yes, if the Buckeyes continue to play a disordered style of football it could drop them from the top ranking in the polls. Fair or not, that’s the reality of the new College Football Playoff.
But with an unbeaten record, simply winning football games will be enough to secure a seat in one of the four playoff spots.
That’s all that matters.
Even though it didn’t need to justify its record or prove to the country that it had the talent capable of back-to-back title runs, handling Rutgers the way it did Saturday night re-established Ohio State’s relevance in the playoff push.
Since hoisting the trophy at the end of last season, the Buckeyes have remained in the top spot of the AP polls each week. Recently, though, criticism of Meyer and the defending champs has surfaced with more frequency.
Much of that reproach has been directed towards Meyer and his reluctance to hand the starting job to J.T. Barrett prior to Saturday’s contest in Piscataway. The issues offensively were blamed on Cardale Jones and his inability to get comfortable under center this season.
Certainly his seven touchdown, five interception performance after seven games this year isn’t the ground-breaking performance that most had anticipated, but his play was never so poor that Ohio State found itself in an improbable situation.
Each and every week the Buckeyes have found a way to win.
With Barrett completing 14 of his 18 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns and adding two more scores with his legs, it’s likely that Jones won’t start again for the Scarlet and Grey this season. Maybe with Barrett in the lineup Ohio State’s offense will manufacture more successful drives and put more points on the scoreboard.
It might culminate in bigger margins of victory for the Buckeyes and begin to silence some of the critics who have emerged over the past month.
Regardless of how good Ohio State looks on Saturday afternoons, it’s quite clear that this is a team fit for another Big Ten and national championship run. It didn’t need to pummel Rutgers into submission on Saturday night to prove that.
A 42-point victory certainly aids your argument, though.