It’s hard to believe that after a Week 2 loss at home to Oklahoma, Ohio State fans were wondering if the Buckeyes’ offense would ever get rolling.
Some of that probably was a hangover from getting shut out in the playoff loss to Clemson to close out last season, but after scoring just 16 points and throwing for 183 yards with an interception against the Sooners, the frustration was bubbling in Columbus.
Boy, does that seem silly now.
On Saturday at Nebraska, the Ohio State offensive locomotive continued to plow ahead as the Buckeye scored on their first eight possessions and destroyed the Cornhuskers, 56-14. It was the fourth straight game Ohio State scored 50 or more points, matching a school record as it heads to a bye week before a showdown with Penn State.
“This is a good time to be cooking, and also a good time to have a bye week,” coach Urban Meyer said. “We know what’s coming next. We’ll enjoy the win and have a day off tomorrow and come to work Monday and get ready for a big one.”
The catalyst, of course, has been J.T. Barrett. He threw for 325 yards and five touchdowns while adding a pair of rushing touchdowns. His seven scores in one game matched his school record as Ohio State had 633 total yards and 41 first downs while scoring the most points by a Nebraska conference opponent in Lincoln and most overall by any opponent since Minnesota won 61-7 in 1945.
“Something we talked about was understanding we were coming to a place with a lot of tradition and pride, here at Nebraska,” said Barrett, “and they were going to take their best shot at us and we had to be ready to go.”
That best shot wasn’t very good, especially as the Ohio State offense rounds into elite form. Since the loss to Oklahoma, Ohio State has gained more than 500 total yards in five straight games and Barrett has completed 99 of 137 passes with 18 touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I like our practice habits, this is a clean-living team we have, and this is a good bunch of guys,” Meyer said. “You can tell the way guys practice.
“We’ve had three or four weeks of incredible practices.”
They also happen to have a quarterback who, for some reason, doesn’t get mentioned often when the talk of the Heisman Trophy begins. He didn’t play well in the high-profile game against Oklahoma when the Sooners’ Baker Mayfield stood out, but Barrett’s numbers are as good as anyone’s.
He’s 138-for-207 for 1,838 yards and 21 touchdowns with just one interception while he’s run for 359 yards and five more touchdowns.
“I feel like there’s great chemistry on offense,” Meyer said. “J.T.’s efficiency tonight was elite.”
Continue that elite efficiency and it could lead to a win in two weeks over Penn State and a possible path to another East Division title and a spot in the Big Ten Championship game.
There’s plenty of football to be played until then, but you can bet Barrett is hoping for at least one more shot that he deserves to be mentioned with the best as the Buckeyes look to prove their offense has put its early struggles in the past.
“I thought our guys played very well, when I look up at the scoreboard and see a very balanced offense, that’s what our goal is,” Meyer said. “Our goal is a 250-250 game and we’re getting those kind of performances in the last few games. We are very well aware of what’s coming down the pipe here. Very mature team, we have some very good leadership on this team … really strong leadership on this team.”
When a team has gone 5-18 over a two-year stretch and hit the road in Big Ten play with just one overall victory this season — that coming against Morgan State of the FCS — it’s not a real shock that many people wouldn’t expect that team to win.
However, the silver lining for Rutgers was it got the chance to play at Illinois, a team that might be in worse shape than the Scarlet Knights. Second-year coach Chris Ash and his team took advantage as Illinois committed three turnovers and Rutgers ran well in a 35-24 victory, the first conference win for Ash.
“Nobody gave us a chance to come out here and win a football game,” Ash said. “I know that, but nobody gave up on each other in that locker room.”
And nobody expected them to. However, I can’t imagine this changes many minds about what’s happening with Rutgers. Good for the Scarlet Knights, but until they start becoming a factor against teams from their own division, most fans won’t expect a ton of wins.
■ As good as Rutgers is feeling about the win, what must things be like at Illinois? The Fighting Illini have lost four straight this season and have dropped six straight Big Ten games, their last win coming last year against Michigan State.
Not exactly how Illinois expected things to go under second-year coach Lovie Smith.
“(This) isn’t where we want to be, but that’s where we are,” Smith said. “When you have a performance like this, thank God you get a chance to play another game.”
■ The misery also continues for Nebraska, which got blown out at home for the second straight game. The Huskers have lost four of their last six games and will have to scramble just to reach a bowl game.
“There’s not a lot of anything happy, good to say about that one,” coach Mike Riley said. “That was a real disappointing loss, how it started and continued through it.”