Chris Laviano

Associated Press

With J.T. Barrett at the helm, No. 1 Ohio State again looks like the team to beat in college football

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Ah, yes. This is how it was supposed to be all along.

The Cardale Jones experiment was nice, but this is who Ohio State was supposed to be all along: J.T. Barrett running point for an Ohio State offense that unloads on opponents with both barrels, as they did Saturday night in a 49-7 dumping of Rutgers.

Barrett earned his first start since breaking his ankle last November against Michigan and played, outside of a fumble that killed Ohio State’s opening drive, flawlessly. The sophomore completed 14-of-18 throws for 223 yards and three touchdowns while rushing 13 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, Barrett mirrored Chris Paul in his prime in the way his presence opened things up for his teammates. Ezekiel Elliott rushed 19 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Thomas caught five balls for 103 yards and a score. Braxton Miller snagged two passes for 55 yards and rushed once for 16 yards. Curtis Samuel caught a 30-yard touchdown pass.

This was such a thorough destruction that ESPN broadcasters Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit entertained themselves by creating a parlor game wondering when Urban Meyer would finally get Jalin Marshall his touchdown – in the middle of the third quarter of a road conference game. Marshall’s score came on a one-yard pop pass with 4:34 remaining in the frame, pushing the Ohio State lead to 42-0.

Elliott put a cap on the night for the Buckeye starters with a 55-yard scoring dash with 13:42 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Rutgers opened the game with the type of oomph you’d expect from a team with the top-ranked defending national champions and a national TV audience on campus. The Scarlet Knights took the ball to open the game and moved 64 yards over 12 plays, but the drive was undone when Kyle Federico clanged a 29-yard field goal off the left upright. The Knights forced a Barrett fumble to close Ohio State’s opening march, but that was basically that for Rutgers. Rutgers punted on its next eight possessions, a string only broken when Chris Laviano was intercepted by Gareon Conley, setting up Ohio State’s sixth touchdown drive of the night. The Scarlet Knights did not dent the scoreboard until only 13 seconds showed on the fourth quarter clock.

Ohio State, winner of 21 straight now, moved to 7-0 (3-0 Big Ten) on the season, one week closer to facing the two teams that actually have a chance of beating them. But as long as Barrett remains healthy and employed, this Ohio State team will continue to resemble that Ohio State team we thought we’d see all year.