October 7, 2012

What we learned in the Buckeyes win over Nebraska

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio - After four weeks of inconsistent, enigmatic efforts, the Ohio State football team appears to be finally revealing its true identity in its first season under the direction of Urban Meyer. Last week, the Buckeyes gutted out a 17-16 win over Michigan State on the road and yesterday, a 63-point offensive output against Nebraska helped lead the way towards Meyer's second Big Ten win, catapulting the Buckeyes to a No. 8 ranking in the AP Top-25 entering the second half of their season.

As is usually the case, Ohio State's latest game taught us a thing or ten about the Buckeyes. And since we're all about education here at Buckeye Grove, I thought I'd share what I think I learned from Ohio State's 63-38 win over the Huskers yesterday:

The Meyer Era is officially underway in Columbus
When Meyer accepted the Ohio State job last November, fans imagined points, and lots of them. With the exception of the Buckeyes' 56-point effort against a far inferior Miami (OH) team in the season opener, the dominant offensive outings that many have come to expect from Meyer-led teams had yet to be seen in Columbus. That all changed on Saturday.

With a record crowd in Ohio Stadium- that included multiple blue chip recruits- and a primetime national audience watching from home- the Buckeyes compiled 63 points and 498, many of which came after a slow start in the first quarter. With arguably its two toughest Big Ten opponents in the books in the Spartans and Huskers, Ohio State is looking as strong as ever heading into its second half of the season.

Carlos Hyde loves himself some Huskers
A year after racking up 104 yards and two touchdowns in Lincoln, the OSU running back put together his best game as a Buckeye on Saturday, compiling 140 yards rushing the ball and four touchdowns. With the Buckeyes and Huskers not scheduled to meet again until 2017, it's a safe bet that Hyde will be hoping to meet Nebraska in a potential Big Ten Championship Game in 2013.

Braxton Miller's Heisman Trophy campaign has legs
Geno Smith, 2. Braxton Miller. That's how most logical people are ranking the 2012 Heisman Trophy contenders. Smith is putting up astronomical numbers on a higher ranked West Virginia squad, but Miller is making the most of Meyer's spread offense in Columbus, adding 313 yards of total offense and two touchdowns to his resume on Saturday. Miller still has a long way to go to pass Smith as the midseason Heisman favorite, but right now, it's looking like a safe bet that Miller will become the third Meyer-coached quarterback to wind up in New York for the presentation of college football's most prestigious award.

The OSU offensive line is legit
Any unit can put together a few good weeks, but considering that it's now been three consecutive great weeks for the Ohio State offensive line, it's hard not to say that the Buckeyes' front five isn't becoming a real strength of this team. After the game, Meyer said that he couldn't imagine this line being where it is at this point in the season and credited the unit with accelerating the advancement of his first offense in Columbus. Games are typically won in the trenches, and with both sides of the OSU line hitting their strides, the rest of the Big Ten could be in trouble.

The tight ends actually are being involved in the offense
Between Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett, Ohio State tight ends combined for three catches for 85 yards and one touchdown against the Huskers. Those may not be eye-popping numbers, but when you consider the lack of production that the Buckeyes have gotten from that position in recent years, it's hard not to be encouraged by the play of the two second-year players, who are sure to be staples of Meyer's spread in coming years.

What Bradley Roby wants, Bradley Roby gets
Earlier in the week, the Ohio State cornerback complained to the media about having yet to record an interception on the season. After calling picking off Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez a must, Roby recorded two interceptions against the Huskers, including one in the first quarter that he returned for a touchdown. With efforts like that, Roby might not get too many more balls thrown his way, so it might be wise for the redshirt cornerback to enjoy the interceptions while they last.

The Ohio State defense is yet to be Urbanized
While the OSU offense may already look like the northern version of a SEC squad's, the Buckeyes' defense is still leaving a lot to be desired. OSU surrendered 437 yards of total offense and 38 points to the Huskers, allowing plays of 74 and 73 yards on the day. The Buckeyes offense may be good enough to win games in the Big Ten by itself right now, but to compete nationally in the coming years, improvement from its counterpart is a must.

Slow starts are still a problem
For the third time this season, the OSU offense went scoreless in the first quarter, only compiling 17 yards on 13 plays. So far this season, the Buckeyes have been able to overcome stumbling out of the gates, but it is becoming an alarming habit for Meyer's squad, and it's one that is bound to bite it should it continue.

John Simon is back at full strength
After not doing much to make his mark through the Buckeyes first five games of the season, the senior captain and defensive emerged with his best effort of the year on Saturday, recording five tackles for a loss of yards, including two sacks. If the Buckeyes can manage to get a consistent pass rush from Simon to go along with the dominating performances of Johnathan Hankins, it would be go a long way towards shoring up some of the defensive problems that have plagued the Buckeyes this season.

12-0 is in play
Several members of the Ohio State football team have mentioned going 12-0 and competing for an AP National Championship as a goal this season, which seemed like a pipe dream for a team coming off of a 6-7 season. But with the Buckeyes now at the midway point in the season and likely to be favored in the remainder of their games, at least the first part of that goal is looking not only possible, but perhaps likely, which should make for an interesting start to the Meyer Era in Columbus.


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