The history of storytelling is rich with monsters who are virtually unkillable. There are plenty of notable names on the list, from Stranger Things’ bulletproof Demogorgon to Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees to Hellboy’s Sammael, hound of resurrection.
But the current Ohio State football team most closely resembles the Hydra, that many-headed beast of ancient myth who grew two new heads in the place of every one that was cut off. Just imagine how badly Hercules would’ve had his hands full killing the thing if each new head also had a higher consensus rating from the scouting services than its predecessor. (While we’re on the topic, the Nemean Lion ain’t played nobody.)
While the Buckeyes haven’t yet had a chance to try their strength against a top-flight foe, they’ve done just about everything in their power to show just how multifaceted and deep they are as team. Despite losing a boatload of talent to the NFL, despite having to replace a half-dozen starters on either side of the ball, despite being full of young and inexperienced players ... Ohio State is still steamrolling everybody, and they’re doing it up and down the roster. Cut off one head, and two five-star recruits appear in its place to score touchdowns on the read-option.
The Buckeyes were in full Hydra mode against the woefully overmatched Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday. 16 different players got offensive touches during the 58-0 blowout, accounting for eight touchdowns on 11 offensive possessions. The defense let loose every single one of its weapons as well, holding Rutgers to laughably paltry offensive totals en route to the shutout win. Let’s take a look at some of the men responsible for the Buckeyes’ first conference win of the season:
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J.T. Barrett, QB: Remember last season, when Barrett played a good chunk of games in red zone duty and rarely saw the field otherwise? What a long time ago that seems. Barrett has looked incredibly polished through four starts in 2016, and his Rutgers was characteristically workmanlike: 21-of-29 through the air for 238 yards and four TDs, five carries for 46 yards. He was gone from the game before the third quarter was over.
Barrett’s ability to keep his eyes downfield amidst chaos is one of his most important traits as a football player. His first touchdown pass, an 18-yard strike to Dontre Wilson, typified this quality. Barrett was under fire from Rutgers’ front seven — to their credit, they looked really good in the opening quarter — and had to shake off what looked like a sure sack before finding Wilson with a dart at the goal line.
On top of his exploits from this single game, Barrett also became the Buckeyes’ all-time passing touchdowns leader by recording his 58th career score through the air. Given that he missed three games in Ohio State’s championship season and split duties with Cardale Jones for most of 2015, that’s no mean feat.
Raekwon McMillan, LB: The Buckeyes’ front seven have been outshone by their teammates in the secondary so far this season, but against the Scarlet Knights, they were the ones who got the job done early and often. No one from that unit was better in this game than McMillan, the best player in college football named after a member of the Wu-Tang Clan. Like Joshua Perry, who he played alongside last season, McMillan has quietly made hay this year by getting in on seemingly every play. He recorded seven tackles against the Scarlet Knights, including a tag-team tackle for loss, and kept up his solid run of play in a suffocating defensive effort for the Buckeyes.
Curtis Samuel, H-back: Brooklyn’s finest has become an unstoppable all-purpose threat in the absence of Ezekiel Elliott. Samuel looks born to play what will forever be called, for lack of a better term, the Percy Harvin role in Urban Meyer’s offense. He’s fast, he’s explosive, and he can get up and catch the dang ball.
Samuel’s arsenal of rushing and receiving skills was on display for the homecoming game. He finished with seven grabs for 86 yards and a TD to go with 68 yards on nine carries, and the Scarlet Knights — already without one of their best defensive players, Quanzell Lambert — had no answer for him. Samuel is a rare talent who’s blossomed into exactly who we’d hoped he’d be when he first came on the scene for the Buckeyes.
Nick Bosa, DE: It’s almost a shame that the younger Bosa plays in the shadow of his older brother, because if we were evaluating him solely on his own merits, we’d probably still be pretty damn impressed. Bosa’s not an every-down guy for the Buckeyes yet — the unique talents of Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard make that a tall order — but the sky’s the limit as far as his potential goes.
Bosa finished this game with four solo tackles, including a sack. It remains to be seen how he’ll far against a worthy opponent, but for now, it seems like the biggest knock on the younger Bosa is that he doesn’t have a signature sack celebration yet.
Mike Weber, RB: Weber tallied 14 carries, 144 yards on the ground, and a touchdown scamper in this one, including one run that went for 49 yards to set up another score. He’s not the focal point of the Buckeye offense, like Zeke was, but that’s probably impossible on a roster with this many young playmakers hungry for touches. No matter. He’s more than good enough, and he gave the Rutgers defense fits on Saturday.
Cameron Johnston, P: Zero yards punting against Rutgers? Let’s put forth a little effort here, guy.
BUY: Buckeye defense ... nation’s best? Let’s have a little fun with numbers. Ohio State’s defense had as many sacks against Rutgers as the Scarlet Knights had completions. The Buckeyes didn’t allow a rushing touchdown; after this week, they’re the only team in the FBS not to allow one all year. This unit is doing absurd things week in and week out. They contained their stiffest test in Oklahoma — a team that put up 49 points in a win over No. 12 TCU this week — and have embarrassed everyone else. It feels more and more apparent with each passing game that there’s not an offense in the Big Ten capable of really challenging this defense. Don’t say it too loudly, because you might jinx it, but ... We want ‘Bama.
BUY: Ohio State’s young talent. It was a day full of firsts for the Buckeyes. Freshmen Binjimen Victor and Alex Stump recorded their first career catches for the Scarlet and Gray, while Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon each found the end zone for the first time. Running back Antonio Williams got six carries, marking the first time he’s gotten the rock as a Buckeye. Freshman RB Demario McCall continued his solid run of play, tallying 85 yards and a TD in mop-up duty in this one. Victor, Stump, and Williams’ contributions had little impact on the result, but they gave Ohio State fans a great look at what’s to come for this talented young team. Victor, in particular, has been pegged as a future superstar, and it’s hard not to salivate thinking about what he might be doing to opposing defenses in a year or two.
SELL: Rutgers below full strength. Chris Ash’s cupboard wasn’t exactly full to begin with, but the lack of depth for the Scarlet Knights was thrown into even sharper relief in this game. Without star receiver Janarion Grant, Ash’s team was held to just three completions on 16 passing attempts; absent DE Quanzell Lambert, they gave up more than 400 yards on the ground to the Buckeyes. What was already an unfair fight became even more so in light of these injuries.