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Yes, it’s been against weak competition, but Ohio State’s offense really is improving

Hear me out, this is more than just seeing the team through Scarlet and Gray colored glasses.

NCAA Football: UNLV at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“Ticked off J.T. Barrett is the best J.T. Barrett and he's the reason you're reading this. It's about the pass game again. The improved pass game again. Please don't throw things.”

- Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland.com

Buckeye fans, perhaps more than most other fandoms, tend to be divided into two distinct camps, the “Glass Full” side and the “Glass Empty” side; the proverbial “halves” tend to be few and far between with our bunch.

So, it is no surprise that following Ohio State’s embarrassing beat-down at the hands of the Oklahoma Sooners in Columbus last month, that many fans moved to the doom-and-gloom side of the continuum. However, as Lesmerises points out, there are reasons to be optimistic about the Buckeyes’ offense, beyond the fact that they’ve feasted on lesser opponents.

As CFB Film Room points out in the graph above, not only has quarterback J.T. Barrett improved his downfield passing throughout the season, he has done so dramatically. And while many of those naysayers will point to the defensive deficiencies of Army, UNLV, and Rutgers, Lesmerises brings up a good point.

He said, “A year ago, the pass game seemed much more the same from week to week, and all that changed was whether the opposing defense was lousy or not.”

That is likely where the most optimism comes from for the OSU offense, the fact that new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and quarterback coach Ryan Day have been able to make adjustments on a week-to-week basis, adding in new elements and concepts, that can (hopefully) be the foundation of an effective, diverse offensive gameplan when the back-loaded schedule kicks in on Oct. 28 against the No. 4 Penn State Nittany Lions.

So, while there will still be plenty to be concerned about until Barrett and company can do it against the likes of PSU, Michigan, and a potential Big Ten Championship game opponent, you don’t need Scarlet and Gray-colored glasses to feel good about the Buckeyes’ prospects.

“It took a scholarship slot that suddenly came open, when blue-chip prospect Dwayne Haskins flipped his commitment from Maryland to Ohio State, to send Terrapins offensive coordinator Walt Bell to Indianapolis to try to convince Bortenschlager to consider jumping to Maryland.”

- Roman Stubbs, The Washington Post

While the jokes about Max Bortenschlager’s last name sounding like an exotic dish you would order at Schmidt’s in German Village are funny, after losing their top two quarterbacks to injury, the Maryland Terrapins are now being led by a QB who only ended up in College Park because OSU’s QB2 didn’t.

Despite the unusual route from decommitting from Buffalo to starting for Maryland against Ohio State, Bortenschlager has an uphill battle against the Buckeyes this weekend. He went 18-28 for 154 yards passing in their win over Minnesota last Saturday, but Greg Schiano and Larry Johnson are likely to turn up the pressure on him to force the inexperienced signal-caller into difficult situations this week.

Bortenschlager was not sacked on Saturday, nor did he commit a turnover, and he marched the Terps down the field on an eight-play, 74-yard drive to beat the Gophers. While I’m not sure that he will be able to do anything similar against the Buckeyes, he is a quarterback coming into the biggest game of his young career with a decent helping of momentum.

“I thought about letting this Detroit Free Press column about Michigan State becoming a bigger rival to Michigan than Ohio State pass, but I just couldn’t do it.

This is not only a laughable premise now but doesn’t figure to age well because Michigan State’s time as a national powerhouse is probably over. ”

- Marcus Hartman, Dayton Daily News

Look, I get it. Being called “little brother” all of the time is annoying, but with the Michigan State Spartans sliding back in the pack of the Big Ten, claiming that they, in fact, are Michigan’s biggest rival is a bit ridiculous. It screams of sports media trolling, looking to espouse the hottest take possible solely for clicks and the inevitable “Ratio.”

While beating the Maize and Blue is certainly the cure for all Buckeye ills, I am not one that feels like OSU’s success needs to always be defined in relation to UM’s. Also, given the Buckeyes’ record against TTUN over the past decade-and-a-half, I don’t feel the need to punch down at either the Wolverines or the Spartans, especially while the latter has fallen on hard times (I’m still grateful to Mark Dantonio for the 2002 title, after all).

So, I will just say this; Keep trying Sparty.

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