The Ohio State football team made a mega statement against the Oklahoma Sooners. The Buckeyes learned these three things about their team looking forward to Rutgers.
To say that Ohio State made their announcement to the college football world on Saturday is an understatement. I was among many of the skeptics who saw the talent and recruited depth, but couldn’t see past the SIX TOTAL returning starters and so many first-year players all over the depth chart.
I admitted as much in the previews that the inexperience might cost Ohio State a game or two in the loss column, but those doubts were put to rest on Saturday night in Norman.
Aside from the statement win for the Baby Buckeyes, there is a lot to take away from the win. With the bye week ahead, there’s an extra week to prepare for Rutgers. Here’s what we learned against Oklahoma.
1. No doubts about the defense
In by far the toughest test on the schedule for an defense with so many question marks coming into 2016, those doubts weren’t just addressed, they were resoundingly silenced. If there are any questions left, they are whether or not the Buckeye secondary is the best in the country. Baker Mayfield never looked entirely comfortable with what he was seeing downfield and there were so few bad plays by the Buckeyes that it’s a legit question about their place in college football.
The pass rush also finally broke through, with Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes, Tyquan Lewis, and Dre’Mont Jones all having spectacular efforts up front. It’s not a coincidence that Mayfield threw so many interceptions when the Buckeyes were able to harass him in the pocket and get him off his spots when trying to deliver the ball. Both areas of concern, not to mention the impact Greg Schiano might have, are all behind Ohio State now.
2. Noah Brown answers his own questions as well
It all starts with easily the best catch of the year. All four of his scores offered a different feature of Brown’s game. He showed he can burn a man deep, make a great break on a defender, box a man out in the corner, and quite simply make a spectacular individual play. Noah Brown did it all against Oklahoma and gives Ohio State a dangerous duo when paired with the versatile Curtis Samuel.
It’s key for J.T. Barrett to have a true wide receiver he can trust on the edge. Samuel is best suited in the slot or in motion out of the backfield, where his lack of size is overcome by his athletic ability and match up issues. Think about how important Michael Thomas was to Barrett as a go to target and safety valve to throw to in tight windows. Buckeye fans are familiar with Thomas’ ball skills. Noah Brown showed the exact same skill set. Brown showed every facet of his game that made him such a tantalizing recruit on his way to Columbus. The way he competes in the Big Ten will be fun to watch.
3. Urban Meyer’s toughest coaching stretch begins now
It is unlikely the Buckeyes will be tested until Oct. 15. That’s when they head to Madison to play the Badgers. After that, it’s the same story until “The War on Michigan.” Ohio State plays the Spartans Nov. 19 and the Wolverines Nov. 26. After such a big win, it’s too easy to discount the rest of the schedule and begin looking forward to November.
Therein lies the challenge for Meyer and his veteran staff. How do you keep 19-23 year olds who are on top of the world focused on what appears to be lesser competition? How do you not look ahead to Michigan when there is a literal count down clock in your training facility? It’s not like there are a ton of starters around who have been there before to provide some guidance.
Greg Schiano will be invaluable as a coordinator that has head coaching experience and guys like Larry Johnson, Greg Studrawa, and Luke Fickell have spent so much time on the sidelines that their voices will carry weight.
But if we’ve learned anything as Buckeyes fans in the last five years, it’s that Urban Meyer has few peers as a motivator and planner. More important than the X’s and O’s the next two weeks is keeping the young Buckeyes focused and prepared like each game is the biggest game of the year.