Folks, Ohio State football might be good again. Back-to-back drubbings of overmatched teams have started to air out the stink left behind by the Oklahoma game, and the Buckeyes still have a few more tune-up games left on the schedule before things get serious.
This one was fun.
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J.T. Barrett, QB: What a difference a few cupcakes can make. Barrett looks rejuvenated as a quarterback, a different guy entirely from the signal-caller who was so utterly bamboozled by everything Oklahoma threw at him two weeks ago.
In less than a half on Saturday, Barrett passed for a cool five touchdowns and over 200 yards. Granted, UNLV is hardly the caliber of defense that Barrett will have to face each week as the Buckeyes enter Big Ten play, but it's so refreshing to see him throwing bullets to receivers right on the money again.
Nick Bosa, DE: The younger Bosa looks more than ready to take up his brother's mantle as Ohio State's most terrifying edge rusher. He practically camped out in the Rebels' backfield on Saturday, recording a sack and three total tackles for loss, with a pass defensed for good measure.
The Buckeyes' pass defense has struggled at times in this young season, and repairing that starts up front by putting pressure on the quarterback. Safe to say Bosa can take some credit for the absurd numbers the Ohio State secondary put up against UNLV. (The team's 13 total tackles for loss certainly didn't hurt.)
Parris Campbell, WR/H-back: We've seen plenty of evidence of Campbell's home-run potential so far this year, and he didn't disappoint against the Rebels. Campbell got the game's scoring deluge started early, taking a pass to the flat from Barrett all the way to the house for a nice TD from 69 yards out. He caught just two more passes in the first half before heading to the bench with the rest of the starters, finishing his day with 105 yards through the air. He tacked on an 82-yard kick return that put the Buckeyes inside the red zone, too, if you're into that kind of thing.
C.J. Saunders, WR: There's an abundance of two-initial guys making impact plays for Ohio State's offense this season, so you'd be forgiven for not knowing just who the hell No. 80 was as you watched him tear up the UNLV defense on Saturday. C.J. Saunders, a junior wideout from Dublin, Ohio, had just one career catch for the Buckeyes, a 14-yarder in the Army game.
Not so on Saturday. Saunders reeled in six catches for 102 yards and a TD, scoring on a 28-yard reception that was barely half as long as his longest catch-and-run on the day, which went for 50. Good on the young man for bursting onto the scene in the biggest way imaginable.
(P.S.—When was the last time Ohio State had multiple 100-yard receivers in a game? Maybe the world really is ending.)
Dwayne Haskins, QB: The calls for Haskins to start after the Oklahoma game and his 4-for-4 passing performance against Army were perhaps a little premature. The true freshman showed his age at times on Saturday, throwing a pick-six, but he also showed off the tools that will make him the Buckeye QB of the future. In mop-up duty for Barrett, Haskins finished with 223 yards through the air and two TDs, as well as 20 yards on the ground.
Erick Smith, S: One of the more underrated members of Ohio State's secondary, the junior safety had a solid day against the Rebels, recording a team-high five tackles, including three solo efforts and 0.5 tackles for loss. Smith was a huge contributor to a defensive effort that held UNLV (and their talented QB Armani Rogers) to just 88 yards passing.
Penalties, penalties, penalties. The Buckeyes were flagged eight times for 85 yards against UNLV, too many of which happened while the experienced guys were on the field, not the scrubs. The most egregious sequence saw the Rebels extend a drive twice on failed third downs thanks to Ohio State penalties. (One of those calls was prooooobably really bad, but still.) It didn't hurt them much against a team with as many problems as UNLV has, but when Penn State weekend rolls around, it will have to be a different story.
Kickoffs. My kingdom for a kicker who can reliably put the ball in bounds or into the end zone.
BUY: Former defensive linemen putting on the moves and finding paydirt.
A former defensive lineman should not be capable of stuff like this pic.twitter.com/hvnzTaW3Ho— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) September 23, 2017
SELL: Fumbling on the one yard line twice in one game. No one who reads this website gambles for anything more than recreational purposes, and certainly no money is ever involved, but it must still be hard to watch Ohio State fail to cover by turning the ball over twice in spitting distance of the end zone.
BUY: The dude who showed up to our alumni tailgate with a bag full of Chick-fil-A chicken biscuits. The nearest franchise location to the brewery where the Seattle OSU alumni meet is 12.5 miles away, and some guy showed up with food from there for the 9 a.m. kickoff's whole crowd. He was gone by halftime, but his legacy will live forever. MVP-caliber stuff.