WE'RE BACK ON THE WAGON. Saturday's game against Kent State was effectively over by the midway point of the 2nd quarter, and it was just what the doctor ordered for a team that largely failed to show up last week during Virginia Tech's upset victory. The Buckeyes rolled, doing their best to get every single skill position player involved in the fun. Buckeye fans, who for the past week have sounded like Paul Finebaum callers after games in which Alabama only wins by 30, have a lot to be happy about.
Ohio State still has a lot of work to do to be taken seriously after last week's debacle, but the Buckeyes did exactly what they were supposed to by wiping the floor with an inferior opponent. The good news is that the rest of the B1G has not looked great. That's also the bad news, as the conference needs to prove it's not a complete dumpster fire if it doesn't want to be left out of this year's inaugural playoff. All the Buckeyes can do is continue to win, and hope that the rest of the conference doesn't come down with whatever Rutgers has had for the last five years.
On to the report.
Blue Chip Stocks:
J.T. Barrett, QB: On a day in which he threw six touchdown passes, good enough to tie the school record, the most praise Barrett got from commentator Matt Millen was that he had done "pretty good." Hint: that should tell you more about Matt Millen than about J.T. Barrett. The freshman QB's performance, while not electrifying, was completely sound from start to finish. He had more time in the pocket, with a noticeable uptick in good decision-making and correct reads. Kent State is nowhere near as talented as Virginia Tech, but it was great to see Barrett making good throw after good throw to set the tone for the offense.
Curtis Samuel, RB: The first-year back has been a breath of fresh air in an offense that has largely lacked the ability to punish teams with power running since Carlos Hyde's departure. On Saturday, he was good for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns on 15 carries. Samuel has shown a good ability to put his head down and move the ball forward, and plays bigger than he is. He added 4 catches for 40 yards, just because.
Michael Thomas and Devin Smith, WRs: Both Thomas and Smith only finished with two catches on the day, but they made the most of them. Thomas's grabs were good for 77 yards and a touchdown, that coming on a 63-yard catch-and-run that showcased the same open-field ability that he showed off against Va. Tech last weekend. Smith did his best to match that effort, putting up 50 of his 59 yards on one grab that he took to the house. With Barrett and Cardale Jones spreading the ball around to every available target, these two still made plays worthy of the highlight reel.
The Offensive Line: The guys up front got the job done on Saturday. They kept J.T. Barrett's jersey clean, and gave him plenty of time to make throws downfield. They also opened up some good holes for the running game to exploit without being flagged for holding. While Kent State's pass rush isn't nearly as fearsome as Virginia Tech's, the O-line has to be feeling good about the way they held up throughout the game.
Ohio State's ability to get their defense off the field: In a complete reversal of last week's fortunes, the Buckeyes made big stop after big stop on third downs throughout this one. OSU forced Kent State to punt a whopping 11 times on Saturday, keeping the defense fresh and keeping the ball in the offense's hands. Last week, the Buckeyes couldn't stop a nose bleed on third down. This week, they stopped just about everything. Three interceptions, including a career first from freshman safety Erick Smith, were the icing on the cake.
None: Look, we're not gonna be picky after a game in which the Buckeyes outgained their opponent by 502 yards. So...uh...J.T. Barrett didn't look good running the football, I guess. Receivers shouldn't let balls hit them in the chest and bounce immediately into the hands of the defense. We should avoid fumbling the ball on the same play that we recover it after blocking a punt, maybe. Those are awfully specific gripes. I don't have much bad to say. Golden Flashes vs Buckeyes coverage
BUY: Ohio State's home crowd. This is a world in which historic programs, from Michigan to Alabama, are failing to sell student tickets and keep fans in the seats. Program directors love to blame those pesky millenials for caring more about WiFi access than the product on the field, but maybe the football culture at those schools just...isn't as good as ours. The capacity crowd barely thinned out before the final whistle despite the blowout, which makes us at LGHL damn proud to be Buckeyes.
BUY: Urban refusing to pump the brakes. You won't like Urban when he's angry. Despite resting a few key players for the last third of the game, OSU didn't let up a bit even after Kent State had already cried Uncle. The Buckeyes needed to put points on the board and come away from this one without a shred of doubt, and they achieved just that. It's not easy to record a clean sheet in football, and the Buckeyes blanking the Golden Flashes felt pretty good.
SELL: Matt Millen in the booth. About the only performance worse than Kent State's on Saturday was Millen's. His speech was halting and unsure, and he rambled an awful lot. He butchered the Boy Scout Oath and Law. He stolidly refused to heap too much praise on J.T. Barrett despite an outstanding performance. I'm sure Matt Millen is a good man, a good father, whatever, but if I never hear him call another football game it will be too soon.