I’m not really much of a fan of noon kickoffs.
I know other sportswriters are, since you can get back from the stadium before 3 in the morning, and maybe even find time to watch another football game. But I typically only cover games from the press box a few times a year.
From my desk at the SB Nation offices, or from my couch, the energy just isn’t there at the noon shift. The excitement of a College Football Saturday needs a little bit of time to properly build up, and you can’t properly crank up to king hell chaos at 1:30 in the afternoon. Plus, that’s like, right after lunch. That’s prime nap time.
It isn’t uncommon for teams, even highly talented, well-regarded teams, to come out flat on a noon kick, even when facing overmatched opponents. Any concerns that group would include Ohio State were summarily dismissed by the mid-second quarter.
Ohio State didn’t just beat Rutgers. They crushed them. They held the hapless Scarlet Knights to three completed passes. Three. They rung up over 660 total yards, and rushed for over 400. There was barely a damn thing Rutgers did well over the course of the game, even though cosmetically, it didn’t even look they played that poorly, or at least, not until it was far too late. Urban Meyer showed about as much mercy on former pupil Chris Ash as the NPR News Team did during the Anchorman fight scene.
You can take away a lot from this game, but perhaps the biggest thing might be how this was a dramatic object lesson in the importance of recruiting.
The Buckeyes, per the 247Sports Talent Composite, have the third most talented roster in college football, behind only Alabama and USC. They have 58 blue-chip players on the roster, and have another class stocked full of them coming in for 2017. At every position group, the Buckeyes have elite talent all over the two deep.
Rutgers, per that same metric, has the 50th most talented roster. They have seven blue-chip players, with out of those being a quarterback that doesn’t play. After they suffered a few injuries, most recently to Janarion Grant, Chris Ash was forced to dip into very inexperienced players, low three-stars, and more.
The Buckeyes haven’t been without injuries themselves. They’re now down two rotational offensive linemen, a good wideout, and a starting linebacker has missed most of the season so far. They’ll probably lose more over the course of the year. But that depth allowed them to continue to stampede over Rutgers, even well into the fourth quarter, when Ohio State’s third stringers were able to continue to move the football.
Recruiting matters. Chris Ash was hired, in part, to improve that situation with Rutgers, especially with in-state talent. If he does, despite their hapless past and tough schedule, Rutgers will improve.
And it’s Ohio State’s recruiting that allows them to compete at the level they’re at right now, despite replacing a gazillion players and dipping into underclassmen all over the field.
Okay. Let’s rank some stuff.
1. J.T. Barrett, career passing touchdowns king at Ohio State
If you missed this somehow, J.T. Barrett managed to set an awfully big record yesterday. Barrett tossed his 58th career touchdown pass to Marcus Baugh in the first half, breaking the all-time Ohio State career record. He’d later finish the game with 59, giving himself some breathing room between him and Bobby Hoying, the previous record holder.
We all need to appreciate the context here. Barrett has yet to play a full season for Ohio State. He missed the postseason in 2014 due to injury. He missed huge chunks of 2015 thanks to Cardale Jones, and when he was playing, he wasn’t throwing much. And now, in the 4th game of the season, he stands alone, in rarified air among Ohio State giants.
Barrett has an entire season left this year, and maybe even another one, to just completely obliterate this record. The fact that he’s done this so quickly, especially given Ohio State’s offense, is an amazing testament to his efficiency. Under Barrett, Ohio State doesn’t always throw for eye-popping numbers, but they score a ton of touchdowns. Cheers to amazing career that would already him on the short list of greatest Buckeyes ever, even if it ended tomorrow. Here’s hoping Barrett isn’t finished yet.
2. The Buckeyes’ amazing defense
It’s been four games, and Ohio State’s defense has still scored more points than they’ve given up, which is an absolutely bonkers stat. They didn’t score against Rutgers, or even record a turnover, but their domination was as through as it could get by every other metric.
Rutgers’ wideouts were blanketed on nearly every dropback, and Ohio State’s defensive line regularly got into the backfield, either harassing quarterbacks or preventing the run game from developing. Rutgers finished with only 116 total yards, including an absolutely paltry 33 yards passing.
Ohio State is also the only team in the country that hasn’t given up a rushing touchdown.
Credit the secondary. Credit The Rushmen. Credit the coaching. Because despite being young, and not being that heavy in sexy-havoc type plays, this defense has been simply outstanding.
3. Popeyes’ delicious fried chicken
Look, let’s be honest. Most fast food is actually bad, a fact that becomes more apparent the older you get. The Taco Bell 5 Buck Boxes that I could demolish with no repercussions at 22 are, well, much riskier propositions at 29.
But friends, we can all understand and appreciate that there is one fast food option that is worth any gastrointestinal, financial, or dietary distress, and that’s Popeyes. Pizza and wings may be excellent football-watching food, but there’s something sublime about demolishing a box of extra-spicy tenders (c’mon, nobody orders the regular), some cajun fries, and a biscuit. I’m normally relatively anti-#brands, but I will happily stump for Popeyes any day of the week and twice on Saturdays.
It’s the only fast food that my wife will let into this house without complaint or judgement. Even my two-year old understands how dope it is. It brings families together. Thanks, Popeyes.
4. Curtis Samuel
I’m not going to say the words Percy Harvin here, because anybody that types that name again when discussing a multi-faceted Urban Meyer offensive threat deserves to have their fingers smashed with a hammer.
So instead, let’s talk about the true comparison for what Samuel has been able to bring to the table: Christian McCaffery. Like McCaffery, Samuel has emerged as a home run thread not just running the football, but catching it as well. Samuel leads Ohio State in both receiving yards and catches, but he’s also rushed for 260 yards on the season as well.
Meyer has talked about getting Samuel 15 or so touches a game, and when he’s in the ballpark, he’s easily good for 100 all-purpose yards. His blazing speed is an excellent counterpunch to what Mike Weber can bring to the table, and defenses haven’t been able to account for him yet. That just makes everything else easier.
5. Firewatch is good and you should go play it
When I’m not watching football or reading my daughter “Pottytime for Chickies” for the 400th damn time, I’ve been playing Firewatch over these past few days. It’s one of the rare video games that has even attracted my game-skeptical wife over, who has insisted I play it even if I’m doing something like reading a book.
You may be skeptical that a narrative-heavy game set in a national park that involves prolonged periods of just, hiking, would be any good. You’d be wrong. It’s awesome, and if you like games, you should probably play it.
... Just don’t spoil it for me. I swear.
If one of you does before I get a chance to finish the game, I will be #madonline.