Michigan State is the darling of the Big Ten these days, despite going out to Oregon and getting blitzed in the fourth quarter by the Ducks in a 46-27 loss. It didn’t lose much in the way of respect since then, despite Oregon going out and losing to an unranked Arizona team at home.
Yet, the team that has yet to lose a regular season Big Ten contest in over two years — Ohio State — sits quietly and nearly completely off the radar despite a nearly similar resume as that of Michigan State.
One team sits at No. 8 and the other at No. 15 in the rankings, yet it seems like ever since the home loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2, Ohio State has been written off by the national media.
I mean, it was hard not to write the Buckeyes off, given the horrid game redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett had against the biggest test he would see in the non-conference season. Without a competent quarterback in the fold there’s little doubt OSU wasn’t going anywhere.
Another part of the narrative has to do with Va Tech struggling in the weeks after its historic win in Columbus. After all, they do hold a 4-2 record and that does kill a little bit of the “hey at least we lost to a very good team argument.”
However, that Week 2 loss appears to have woken up the Ohio State offense, and with a guru like Tom Herman calling the plays that’s a dangerous combination.
Add in a quarterback who didn’t pack it in after that poor showing on the national stage, and there is a lot to like about what Ohio State brings to the table.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett is second in the Big Ten with a 66.2 percent completion rate and in yards per attempt (10.2), is fourth in yards (1,354) and leads the conference with 17 touchdown passes over the course of just five games this season. That isn’t even taking in to consideration 276 yards (3.9 yards per carry) on the ground as well.
Barrett is also getting help from a host of scary-good skill position players.
Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott is fifth in the conference in rushing, averaging 92.4 yards per game (462 yards), while the team is rattling off 247 yards a game on the ground (fourth in the B1G).
Three pass catchers are averaging over 15 yards per catch, with sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas hauling in 17 passes for 322 yards and five touchdowns. Senior Devin Smith also has stepped up to the plate with 11 catches for 313 yards and five touchdowns.
Any time you have multiple weapons that can make the big play at any time, you’ve got an offense capable of winning games in the Big Ten.
Defensively, there are some question marks in the secondary, and the answers may not come this season given the depth chart as it stands. However, anytime you put out the defensive line the Buckeyes do, you’ve got a chance to stop any attack before it gets to the secondary.
Joey Bosa changes games, ranking second in the Big Ten with seven tackles for loss, while Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington have been equally disruptive when Bosa isn’t doing it himself.
One thing we’ve all learned this college football season is that there’s no such thing as a perfect team. Nearly every team in the country has a fatal flaw that could hand them a loss on any given weekend. Yes, even the media darling of Michigan State (who is very good in its own right) isn’t the perfect team they’ve been made out to be.
With the new Big Ten East, at least the debate between Michigan State and Ohio State will be able to be settled on the field, in the regular season. Should both teams remain undefeated coming in to their Nov. 8 meeting, there’s little doubt that the winner will be in a position to be in the conversation on the national level once again.
With the SEC West beating each other senseless, the Pac-12 a giant mess and the Big 12 completely up in the air — there’s a clear path for whomever wins that game to be a major player in November, when it really matters most.
In a year full of surprising results, it isn’t all that hard to see Ohio State emerging as the Big Ten champion and sitting with an 11-game win streak to end the season.
One thing is for sure, Ohio State is aware of where they are and what is going on around the world, as head coach Urban Meyer held his annual “State of the Buckeyes” meeting with his team.
Coming out of that, the Buckeyes appear to be aware of the chance they have in front of themselves, per ESPN.com.
“We’re going to go out and try to win every game and take care of trying to win a Big Ten championship, and after that, we’ll see how things stack up,” said center Jacoby Boren. “Hopefully it will work out for us.”
If that were to happen, Ohio State could well have the resume needed to get to Pasadena and represent the Big Ten in the first College Football Playoff. Dare we say it may also have the name recognition to also help it along with the results?
Just a few weeks from now we’ll get a good sense of just what the 13-member College Football Selection committee thinks of the teams this season. Until then, speculation and surprising results will reign supreme.
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