No one tell Ohio State, but we just saw a third straight week of the defending national champs playing like they deserve to be called just that. The Buckeyes' 49-7 drubbing of an overmatched Rutgers squad outdid any pregame expectations for Urban Meyer's team, with the Scarlet and Gray dominating just about every possible angle of this game.
After a first half that saw touchdowns from J.T. Barrett, Michael Thomas, and Ezekiel Elliott, the Buckeyes poured it on after the break. Ohio State scored seven touchdowns before their opponents mustered one. This is the kind of win that you'd expect from a team that's held the number one ranking all season: a resounding defeat of a team that does a few things well but is overmatched when all facets of the game are taken into consideration.
While Ohio State was denied the shutout, this was perhaps the defensive coaches' best showing since the 38-0 shutout of Hawaii in week two. There are a whole host of players to thank for the Buckeyes' big win over the Scarlet Knights on Saturday, so let's take a look at who's up and who's down after the 49-7 contest:
Blue Chip Stocks
J.T. Barrett, QB: Urban Meyer is no fool, and his increasing trust in his redshirt sophomore QB only goes to prove that point. Barrett was absolutely electric in his first start of 2015, racking up 324 all-purpose yards against a middling Kyle Flood team. Barrett accounted for five of the Buckeyes' seven touchdowns, hardly a number to be sneezed at, and one that calls to mind the deadly efficiency that Barrett -- perhaps slated to be a surgeon in another life -- conjured all of last year.
It was a banner day for Barrett, who finished with his second consecutive 100-yard rushing day (the fourth of his career), and marked the eighth time that he's racked up 300 or more yards for the Ohio State offense. The best player in last year's Big Ten hasn't gone anywhere, and other teams are in trouble the more momentum he acquires this season. He's now 12-1 as a starter, and has accounted for 12 TDs in the last three games.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB: We're beginning to suspect that there's never been a running back quite like Zeke. When he's not dashing for 100+ yards per game -- which he's done for 13 straight contests, for those counting at home -- he's demonstrating a preternatural ability to pick up the pass rush, which is a trait that NFL teams value beyond just about any other (besides an electric ability with the ball in one's hands). His streak of century rushing games appeared to be in doubt for a few minutes, but Zeke eats when he wants to, and a 55-yard touchdown dash in the fourth quarter locked up a baker's dozen consecutive hundred-yard rush games for Elliott.
He's not as trendy as Leonard Fournette, but as the second-biggest Ohio State story of last year, perhaps Elliott has grown a little weary of the spotlight. But that doesn't diminish what he does. He's a complete football player with gamebreaking potential, with the ball or without. He's found the end zone 13 times this season, averaging an insane 28.5 yards per score.
Joey Bosa, DE: What is there left to say about the man with most potential on Ohio State's defense? Bosa hit paydirt again on Saturday night, sacking Rutgers QB Chris Laviano with authority and making clear to all involved just who was in charge of that particular matchup. He's a force of nature, and one who will keep coming up in big spots as long as the Buckeyes put him in the position to do so.
Michael Thomas, WR: Five receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown...is that good? Michael Thomas showed off his hands AND his wheels in this one, making Rutgers' secondary look foolish several times during Saturday's rout of the Scarlet Knights. Kyle Flood's team shouldn't take it personally, though -- he pulled the same shenanigans against all-world DB Kendall Fuller in Week 1 against Virginia Tech.
Braxton Miller, WR: That position change is looking sweeter by the day. Braxton didn't find the end zone against the Scarlet Knights, but he did about as much as could be asked regardless. His circus catch after a defensive ricochet showed off the kind of field vision that he's developed as a wide receiver since the season began. He had 71 all-purpose yards, including a 45-yard catch from J.T. Barrett that put the Buckeyes in scoring position. XBRAX360 looks as electric as promised, and there's little doubt that he'll be a key part of the Ohio State offense moving forward.
Nada, none, zip. Hard to nitpick after a performance like that. Uhhh, Eli Apple, don't try to make open-field tackles with your shoulder? That's literally it.
Buy: Team discipline. For the first time this year, the Buckeyes didn't commit a single penalty, and the impact was clear. Meyer's squad was able to draw Rutgers into a number of compromising positions on Saturday, and they got the better of Kyle Flood every time they got the scarlet Knights to jump, hold, interfere, or otherwise break a rule to try to keep the ferocious playmakers of Ohio State in check.
Buy: The new offensive play calls. For all of the early season stress, Ed Warinner and Tim Beck look to be at their best when J.T. Barrett is under center and they can scheme around the more mobile of the two Buckeye QBs. Ohio State was deadly in short yardage and effective on standard downs against a mediocre Scarlet Knights D, which was all they really needed to cruise against Rutgers. The rest of the Big Ten should rightly be afraid of the collective battering ram heading their way.
Buy: Late fall Urban Meyer. He's the Pumpkin Spice Latte of college football. Urban Meyer is now 26-0 at Ohio State in October and November, meaning that we should probably trade in leggings and North Face vests as our fall standards for excellence. Meyer just doesn't lose as Ohio State's coach as the season builds towards its climax, and that's all we really need to know. Finish 12-0? A first-month struggle against Northern Illinois might as well have not even happened.
Buy: J.T. trusting his arm. 125 of Barrett's 247 passing yards came on exactly three throws. One of those was a ridiculous scamper by Thomas, who found an impossible seam and took the ball to the house through traffic. Another was a 45-yard completion to Braxton Miller, who has shown flashes of the kind of hands and vision that will keep him employed on the next level. But the prettiest throw of the day was a 30-yard bomb to H-Back Curtis Samuel, streaking into the end zone away from his man. Barrett couldn't have placed the throw better had Samuel been decked out in a bright red bulls-eye. It feels safe to say that his long ball is in decent shape moving forward.