Phil Harrison

Harrison: Ohio State Has Quickly Reloaded. Now What?


Ohio State lost 16 starters to graduation and the NFL. Phil Harrison takes a moment to reflect on the faces of the new Buckeyes.


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You simply can’t lose as much talent as Ohio State did and not feel the growing pains of a young rebirth.

At least that’s the theory.

Gone from last year are a total of 16 starters – eight on each side of the ball – five of which went in the first round of the NFL Draft. That’s a lot of lost production on a team that came within a whisker of a crazy quarterback competition of getting a chance to defend its title.

So it would come as no surprise if the Buckeyes looked rustier than a Pinto after too many winters while trying to figure things out against a very good MAC team in Bowling Green.

After eleven touchdowns and 776 offensive yards later, maybe it’s time to rethink just how good this team can be.

Balance on offense

Last year, the Buckeyes finished a cool 100th in the country in passing yards per game. That may have been partly because they had Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, but also because of the quarterback inconsistency and lack of emergence of a home run threat at wide receiver.

That doesn’t cut it for Urban Meyer who has gone on record to state that he’d prefer to have a 50/50 balance on offense — ideally 250 yards passing, and 250 yards rushing. He’s likely to be ecstatic then after Barrett and the Bucks went for 417 yards through the air and 359 on the ground.

Check.

Playmakers abounding

You know about quarterback J.T. Barrett. He had himself a day … and a half. Barrett set an OSU record by throwing for six touchdowns and accounting for seven total, and had a career passing day, throwing for 349 yards on 21-of-31 passing on what amounted to about three quarters of work. His coach was pleased.

But Barrett appears to have plenty of guys to spread the ball around to. New starter Mike Weber handled himself well in replacing Zeke Elliott at running back, but there were also a slew of receivers seemingly catching passes and running to sing Kumbaya in the endzone.

And then there’s Curtis Samuel. He was a bit lost in all the Braxton Miller hype last year, but he appears to be the main weapon that Meyer will look to employ in multiple ways this year. How about 261 combined yards and three touchdowns from the 5-11, 197 lb. junior from Brooklyn? Meyer was also pleased with his performance.

And those aren’t the only playmakers. All told, nine different guys caught a pass, with five of them reaching pay dirt.

Defense wins championships

It’s not just the offensive end though. This Bowling Green team led the MAC in offense last year, and with plenty of pieces back, you’d expected it to be able to move the chains quite a bit against a newly refurbished defense.

Instead, what we saw was an offense that couldn’t find it’s tempo, couldn’t get enough separation down the field, and struggled to convert on third down. Maybe some of it was the new coaching staff and first game jitters, but surely some of it had to do with the athleticism of the Scarlet and Gray defense, as they held the Falcons to just 244 yards of total offense.

When Falcon quarterback James Knapke did get opportunities to throw, often times the defensive backs and safeties for Ohio State made big plays.

It’s only one week

Before we get too high on what and how Ohio State dismantled Bowling Green, let’s all pause to remember that it’s only one week. We’ve seen many teams barely survive, others get upended, and then teams look like world beaters this opening weekend. We’ve also been too quick to judge teams after just one or two weeks in past seasons, only to see them look like a shadow of themselves as the season wore on.

There are still plenty of land mines to navigate on the schedule. The Buckeyes must travel to play an angry Oklahoma team in two weeks, go on the road to Wisconsin, to Michigan State, and of course host Michigan with perhaps the universe on the line.

Still, Urban Meyer has been very brash about the talent on this team and what he thinks it can become. Is it perhaps ahead of schedule? Time will tell.

But so far, so good in this one.

 

Phil Harrison is the lead Big Ten writer for CollegeFootballNews.com. Catch his analysis and opinion all-season long.