Ohio State got a measure of revenge on their march toward a repeat national title. In beating Virginia Tech 42-24 on the road, the Buckeyes avenged their loss to the Hokies in 2014, quieting the Lane Stadium faithful and wowing a national audience in the process.
Urban Meyer also answered the starting quarterback question, electing to give Cardale Jones the nod over J.T. Barrett. Under Jones, the Buckeyes amassed a bevy of explosive plays against a defense who had their number the year prior.
Said explosiveness was due in no small part to a returning Braxton Miller, who accounted for 140 total yards, and two touchdowns, and spun his way back into our hearts:
You almost have to force yourself to stop watching. Also, 'The Silencer' followed shortly thereafter.
The win extended the Buckeyes' winning streak to an FBS-leading 14, and also improved their record in true road games under Meyer to a cool 14-0. A note to the rest of the country: Do not invite Urban Meyer to your house. It may seem like a good idea, you think he'll bring cookies or something, but then oh gosh Urban has mud on his shoes and now he's jumping on the couch noooooooooo!
The Buckeyes return to play their home opener against Hawaii, who not only are 1-0, but come to Columbus sporting some of the cleanest throwbacks in college football. It's likely that most, if not all of, the points the Rainbow Warriors put up will be of the fashion variety. Here are five things to look for Saturday afternoon:
The battle continues
You thought we weren't going to lead off with the quarterback issue? You thought that after a whole off-season of Ohio State quarterback talk dominating the college football world that we'd had enough? Even after Cardale Jones dismantled Virginia Tech in week one? Apparently, you don't understand that here at LandGrantHolyLand dot com, we're all about the easy #clickz and #traffic. Luckily for us, a battle between two of the best quarterbacks in the nation can power us to Brock Lesnar-esque status amongst the blogoverse when it comes to each.
It appears as though 'OR' is going to be a staple of the Buckeye depth chart going forward, with Jones and Barrett still listed that way, despite Jones' week one performance. 12 Gauge has yet to start a game at Ohio Stadium in his career, and it's hard to imagine the staff taking that honor away from him, not only after last year, but also given his performance on Monday. It's clear that Barrett isn't going quietly, though. He'll almost certainly receive more playing time than he did against the Hokies; Which by the way, he led an easy, five play, 75-yard scoring drive, including a gorgeous touchdown pass to Michael Thomas. Not bad for a backup.
Regardless of who is playing, expect lots of touchdowns.
Run game (in)efficiency
The Buckeye rushing attack was awesome Monday night. After getting punked by the Virginia Tech defensive line last season, 'the slobs' paved the way for 359 yards rushing at 10 yards per carry. Of course, having weapons like Jones, Miller, and Ezekiel Elliott (not to mention Barrett when needed), makes said task easier.
Despite the flashy raw stats, much of their production on the ground came via explosive plays, as our own Chad Peltier explained:
The overall efficiency numbers (like the above drive averages) are great (10.2 yards per play and .75 points per play) due to the frequency of explosive plays, but they were usually big chunk plays rather than steady efficiency. Efficiency defined the Ohio State offense last year -- second in adjusted line yards, first in rushing opportunity rate, first in overall success rate+ -- so it's interesting to see the Buckeyes shift more towards the explosiveness side of the equation.
With the type of athletes Ohio State has at their disposal, big plays are going to happen. Elliott has an 80-yard run in three of the last four games, and Miller is a threat to score whenever he has the ball. With that being said, I'm guessing we see a bit more efficiency versus Hawaii, especially from the running back position.
Elliott only carried the ball 11 times on Monday, something Meyer lamented in his post game presser. Virginia Tech went out of it's way to keep the ball out of his hands, and the Buckeyes helped by not forcing the issue. Needless to say, Hawaii doesn't have the personnel to duplicate that plan.
Out of the dog house (maybe)
Now that it's week two, the suspensions of Joey Bosa, Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and Corey Smith are finally in the books. Usually, that would mean that they'd all be inserted into the starting lineup, but that doesn't look like it will be the case, at least for this week. Bosa is listed as an OR starter alongside Sam Hubbard, and figures to be a force in his first game back. It must be somewhat bittersweet for Bosa however, as he wont be spending his Saturday watching Ezekiel Elliott's puppy again.
While Marshall is listed as Parris Campbell's backup, he also slides back into the
muffed punt returner role for Elliott. Wilson and Smith are not so lucky, however.
Wilson is currently listed behind Johnnie Dixon at wide receiver, while Smith sits at third team, behind both Michael Thomas and Jeff Greene. Against Virginia Tech, Dixon and Campbell eased concerns at wide receiver that many had heading into Monday. Dixon had only one catch, but gained 29 yards on it. The redshirt freshman showed great awareness on the play in reacting to Cardale Jones leaving the pocket.
Despite Campbell's early drop of a would be touchdown, the youngster earned team honors as special teams player of the week, and paid homage to an injured Noah Brown's supreme blocking, helping spring two touchdowns with fantastic blocks of his own.
Smith and Wilson have each played key roles in the past, but given the ability and potential of Dixon and Campbell, winning their spots back isn't a given.
What to expect from the Hawaii offense
Did you know Hawaii Head Coach Norm Chow was once the offensive coordinator for those powerful USC offenses of the early 2000's? Or that quarterback Max Wittek was once a composite four star who played two seasons for the Trojans? Well, now both are at Hawaii, looking to revive their careers, as well as what was a bad Hawaii offense last season, especially through the air.
Wittek got off to a decent enough start to this season, leading the Rainbow Warriors to 28 points and a win versus Colorado, despite some Pac 12-esque officiating to end the game. Wittek's never been the most efficient passer, and kept that reputation sterling last weekend, only completing half of his passes with two interceptions. He did however make the most of his 19 completions, throwing three touchdowns, including a 76-yarder to receiver Marcus Kemp.
Kemp figures to be the focal point of new offensive coordinator Don Bailey's offense, after his six catches and 119 yards against the Buffaloes. If the Rainbow Warriors are able to make it interesting early, it'll more than likely be because of Kemp's abilities as a deep threat.
Letting the young bulls run
The aforementioned suspensions for Monday night already provided younger players at wide receiver and on the defensive line time to showcase their abilities to the coaching staff. We'll see even more of that this week across the board, in what's likely to be a large scoring margin in favor of the good guys. When you pay a cupcake to come into Ohio Stadium, it's imperative that you let as many people as possible take a bite.
On the offensive side of the ball, continue to look for Dixon and Campbell to log significant snaps, with James Clark, and Terry McLaurin joining them. Given that'll probably be Barrett quarterbacking for them, this game may be an early look at the next season's passing game. That also includes a lot of Marcus Baugh at tight end.
The duo of Warren Ball and Bri'onte Dunn will get carries, and as someone who is rooting really hard for Dunn to succeed, it'd be great to see him bounce back after his fumble on Monday.
Defensively, letting Larry Johnson rotate this stable of young lineman to supplement Bosa, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt should probably constitute as an NCAA violation, given the opponent. Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard stood out against Virginia Tech, and should continue to receive ample opportunity to do so again.
In the back end, the secondary sports two old friends that we may finally see on the field together. Erick Smith earned high praise for his play on special teams last season, but unfortunately, having Vonn Bell in front of you tends to limit playing time on defense. He's gotten rave reviews from the coaching staff however, and hopefully we see a lot of what his skill-set has to offer on Saturday. Lastly, his former Glenville high teammate, Marshonn Lattimore, unable to play last year due to injury, looks ready make his anticipated Buckeye debut:
First day back in practice, the hamstrings feeling good lol— Marshon Lattimore (@_ShonL2) September 10, 2015