With the non-conference schedule behind them, the Buckeyes started Big Ten play against ... Maryland? Nope, not a typo. Traditional opponent or no, the Buckeyes were able to continue their streak of excellent offensive performances, and got some help from youngsters all over the roster, in a 52-24 boat race of Maryland that was honestly not as close as that final score indicated, if you can believe it.
Ohio State remains undefeated in B1G play during the Land Grant Holy Land-era. In order to break down exactly who is up, who is down, and who do we need to buy into, let's break down the Stock Market Report.
Blue Chip Stocks:
J.T Barrett, QB: Since his forgettable performance against Virginia Tech, all Barrett has done is score points. Barrett finished 18/23 for 267 yards and four TDs, and most importantly, no picks. He also added another 71 yards and a TD on 16 carries. Barrett made great decisions with the football, and will almost certainly lock up another Big Ten Freshman of the Week award, which may need to be named after him by the end of the season. His athleticism may not wow anybody, but as he continues to grow more comfortable with the playbook and in reading defenses, his play is going to make this offense difficult to stop.
Ohio State's Special Teams: Maryland boasted one of the best punt and kick return units in the country, and Ohio State bottled them up. A 69 yard punt which pinned Maryland deep in their own territory near the end of the first half lead to a Darron Lee pick, and an emphatic door slam on any hint of a Maryland comeback. The Buckeyes decidedly won the field position battle, and when you can do that and take away a major advantage of your opponent, you're making Jim Tressel proud. Enjoy those first class seats.
Joey Bosa, DE: The entire Ohio State defensive front had a great game, but nobody shone brighter than Bosa, who was a veritable one man wrecking crew. Bosa had 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack, and constant pressure the entire game. Bosa and friends kept Maryland's running game bottled up, and prevented either of their QBs from getting comfortable. The Buckeyes scored a boatload of points, but their defense set a lot of that up, and that defensive effort started up front, led by Bosa.
Darron Lee, LB: I'll admit it, I wasn't sure high on Lee as a prospect when he signed with Ohio State. Maybe it was because it wasn't totally clear what position he would play in college (he was, after all, a high school QB). Maybe it was because he didn't have the high four-star pedigree that a lot of Ohio State's other prospects did. Maybe it's because he played at New Albany, and I'm from Granville, and we resented those guys in my day.
The point is, I'm an idiot, and Darron Lee is already showing he's one of Ohio State's best defensive playmakers. Lee's interception near the end of the first half broke the game completely open. Lee has a nose for the ball, and gives Ohio State a bright future at linebacker. He was dinged up at the end of the game, so hopefully he gets healthy in time for Rutgers.
Ohio State's offensive line: The last time I wrote one of these articles, I thought the offensive line was such a poor investment that I compared it to Greek sovereign debt and Pokemon cards. Well, I guess all those Charizards have paid off somehow. Big rushing performances against Kent State and Cincinnati could potentially be excused as big numbers against bad defenses, but Maryland was a top 35 defense by S&P+, and for most of the game, Ohio State just blew them off the ball. They did give up more sacks than the team would like, but for Ohio State rushed for 269 yards and controlled the clock, and that doesn't happen without great offensive line play.
Fourth down execution: Hard to pick too many nits with a win that big, but Ohio State managed to leave even more points on the table, whiffing on two red zone trips thanks to failed fourth down attempts. This blog will never criticize anybody for being aggressive and going for it (punting from inside your opponent's 45 should be banned), but Ohio State's play-calling might have been a little too cute, and even if it wasn't, the team failed to execute in those short yardage situations that they typically dominated for the rest of the game. Ohio State isn't likely to be so fortunate as to score 50 points in every other game in Big Ten play, so if they're going to go for it deep in the red zone, they need to make sure they get their points.
BUY: Ohio State's young defensive playmakers. Ohio State's much maligned pass defense unit wracked up four interceptions today. Three of those passes were picked off by either true or redshirt freshman, in Darron Lee, Raekwon McMillian, and Eli Apple (btw, if you tweeted about Apple's interception and didn't use APPLE PICKIN' in there, you done messed up). This unit has and probably will continue to make mistakes, but the potential is undeniably there, and today, their ballhawking ability was on full display.
BUY: Ohio State's depth at WR. Ohio State completed passes to nine different receivers against Maryland, and five Buckeyes caught more than one pass. With Barrett's accuracy, and with all the speed in this position group, wideouts have to know that if they keep running their routes correctly, eventually, they're going to get the ball in the right spot, and this many viable options has to give comfort in case anybody gets injured. Michael Thomas has probably been the biggest threat from this group (and he had an absolutely ridiculous TD catch to go with his team leading 75 yards), but it could be any of four other guys in any given game. That's a good problem to have.
Sell: Ohio State being eliminated from the playoff. It's probably still a longshot, give that Ohio State still has issues to resolve with their secondary, and they're depending on major production from a lot of very young players. Still, even that Oklahoma, Alabama, Oregon, Texas A&M, Wisconsin and and BYU all lost this weekend, it just goes to show that anything can happen in college football, and Week 6 is way too early to rule anybody out completely. If Ohio State keeps winning, things often have a crazy way of taking care of themselves.