There are certain hallmarks of being a younger sibling that never really fade. Like stealing clothes while claiming you had permission and using everything they did as an excuse for everything you do, losing to your older siblings at their games of choice pretty much comes with the territory.
For me, this Sisyphean battle always took place on two fronts: chess, and Midway's NFL Blitz 2000 for the N64. I have spent countless hours of my life squaring off with my older brother in those arenas, and in all my years on earth I can probably count my victories on my hands. No matter what I figure out, what moves I learn, what strategies I adopt, he's always a step ahead—never will I make up the two-plus years of practice he has on me. We don't even play chess anymore; I'm basically a moron and he's about to become a finance professor. (It's also harder than Blitz when you have a head full of Great Lakes Christmas Ale.)
I imagine this is how it's going to feel to be Chris Ash for quite some time. He's a head coach now, and deservedly so, but he will never change the fact that he learned some things from Urban Meyer, and Urban Meyer has an insurmountable lead in head coaching years. For the second time in Ash's tenure at the helm of Rutgers, he got sonned by Meyer on Saturday. Let's take a look at how it went down.
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Johnnie Dixon, WR: What you should know about Dixon's performance on Saturday, if you somehow missed it, is that his first two targets against the Scarlet Knights were both catches. He took them both to the end zone for a total of 105 yards. He had just one grab the rest of the game, but he didn't really need more than that: his first catch of the day would've been enough to beat Rutgers by itself.
Mike Weber, RB: Boy, is it good to have Mike Weber back. Though last year's workhorse carried the ball just 10 times in this game, he made the most of it, finding the end zone three times in his return from injury.
It wasn't otherwise a world-beating performance from Weber, who recorded 44 yards on the ground, but it didn't need to be. Having J.K. Dobbins, Demario McCall, and J.T. Barrett to share carries with tends to take the pressure off. With Weber close to full strength, this is one of the most fully-weaponized backfields in college football.
J.T. Barrett, QB: It was a third-straight quality performance for Barrett, who threw for 275 yards and three TDs en route to breaking the record for career passing yards by an Ohio State QB. Barrett added 89 yards on the ground, and his legs allowed for one of the Buckeyes' best plays of the day when the Rutgers secondary bit hard thinking he was taking off running. Instead he lofted the ball over two defenders and into the waiting arms of Johnnie Dixon, who took it the rest of the way for a 70-yard score.
Dante Booker, LB: One-third of a linebacking trio that's a candlestick maker short of an all-time unit nickname, Booker had himself a day against Chris Ash's hapless offense. He record four tackles (all solo), including a sack and another tackle for loss, and stopped one of Rutgers' only promising drives of the day short by recording a tip-drill INT. There are so many defensive contributors on a weekly basis that it's becoming difficult for one guy to stand out, but Booker is a pretty safe bet for a few stellar plays a game regardless of the opponent.
Demario McCall, RB: After a productive season in 2016 as Mike Weber's backup, McCall was in side-of-a-milk-carton territory after the Buckeyes' first four games. While he didn't see the field before Ohio State got up by 35, McCall still made the most of his opportunities on Saturday, finding the end zone twice and racking up 138 all-purpose yards.
It's going to be tough sledding for McCall going forward, as the road for the Buckeyes gets thornier from here on out, and Antonio Williams will probably still be ahead of him on the depth chart when he gets healthy. Still—McCall is a tremendous talent, and it would be a shame for him to ride the pine all season. Hopefully this performance allows him to carve out a little more space for himself in the game plan going forward.
Penalties, forever and ever amen. It's starting to feel like a real problem that this team can't get out of its own way. The Buckeyes got flagged an even 10 times against Rutgers for a total of 106 yards, 30 of which came on a single series of bad decisions by Terry McLaurin after a huge OSU gain. It doesn't matter against Rutgers, just as it didn't matter against UNLV, but losing a field's worth of yards on dumb plays might make the difference between winning the B1G East and watching Penn State celebrate in our faces again.
BUY: The o-line's steady development. It's taken some time, but the big guys up front seem to be figuring things out. Chris Ash is an excellent defensive coach and Rutgers' aggressive D is far better than its lackluster offense; despite all that, they mustered just two sacks and four total tackles for loss. J.T. Barrett had time to throw and room to move inside and outside the pocket (see the aforementioned Dixon TD). This is a different team when Barrett gets the space to throw or run like his old self. Look out, Big Ten.
BUY: Tressel Ball??? Watching the Ohio State defense operate on the first few drives made it feel like the mid-2000's again, with a lousy opponent making headway down the field until the "bend, don't break" doctrine came into effect. It was vintage stuff, really; despite a few frustrating marches, the Scarlet Knights barely even sniffed scoring distance against this suffocating defense.