The recent winning ways of the Ohio State Buckeyes mean very little until the the program can defeat an opponent of some substance.
A 55-14 drubbing of the 4-5 Illinois Fighting Illini is expected of Ohio State at this point. If the Buckeyes stumbled and the final score was much tighter, it would have reflected far more poorly on the program than any type of positive impact from winning another game decisively against an inferior opponent.
All that matters for the Buckeyes this season is next weekend’s contest against the No. 8 Michigan State Spartans.
The Buckeyes possess an impressive offense and talented defense. Very few teams in the country are playing as well at the moment. But the College Football Playoff committee places a heavy emphasis on strength of schedule, which is a detriment to Ohio State’s chances.
Plus, another loss by the Virginia Tech Hokies this weekend — the one team to beat Ohio State this season — will continue to haunt the hottest team in the Big Ten Conference.
There is no denying what Ohio State is currently doing, though. The Buckeyes are racking up points and massive chunks of yardage each and every week.
During Saturday’s contest against Illinois, Ohio State posted its fifth 50-point effort in six weeks. Nearly every weapon on the Buckeyes’ offense was effective and made plays. Quarterback J.T. Barrett threw for 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns before being pulled for backup Cardale Jones. Jones threw two touchdowns as well and even ran for 47 yards during a limited appearance.
Ohio State is currently rolling. However, that early-season loss and a weak slate of games will prove to be problematic for head coach Urban Meyer and his Buckeyes.
Everything is riding on next weekend’s contest against the Spartans. And it still may not be enough to sniff the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Since losing to Virginia Tech Sept. 6, the Ohio State Buckeyes are 5-0 and average 51 points per game.
Urban Meyer‘s squad is well ahead of that pace with a 31-0 lead over the Illinois Fighting Illini at halftime as the Buckeyes put together another dominant effort.
The most impressive part of the Buckeyes’ early season turnaround has been its offensive efficiency and overall explosiveness. This developed due to the improved play of redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett and a plethora of offensive weapons.
Saturday night’s effort hasn’t been any different.
Barrett is 15-of-24 passing for 167 yards and two touchdown tosses. The quarterback is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 38 yards on the ground.
What’s most impressive is how the Buckeyes roll through their offensive options.
Three different running backs have carried the ball for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Freshman Curtis Samuel led the way with 45 yards and both scores. Meanwhile, seven different receivers caught passes.
Senior Devin Smith continues to be the Buckeyes’ most dangerous weapon on the outside. The wide receiver caught three passes for 72 yards and both of Barrett’s touchdown tosses. The first-half performance placed Smith in elite territory among Buckeyes history:
Ohio State’s defense played well, too.
Illinois only managed 117 yards. The Illini’s quarterbacks finished the first half 6-of-14 passing with two interceptions.
Despite a nearly insurmountable lead, the Buckeyes can’t let up during the season half. If Ohio State plans to make a legitimate run to become one of the four teams in the inaugural College Football Playoff, the program has to dominate since the Buckeyes suffer from a weak overall schedule. Expect Ohio State to put up even more points during the second half.
Despite a three-interception performance during a disappointing loss to the Northwestern Wildcats, Joel Stave is expected to be named Wisconsin’s starting quarterback for Sunday’s contest against the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen has yet to officially name his starting signal-caller for this weekend’s game, but the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel‘s Jeff Potrykus cited multiple sources which said Stave will take over duties behind center.
Stave will replace junior Tanner McEvoy, who started the first five games of the season. McEvoy is a top athlete at quarterback, but he hasn’t proven to be a consistent passer. The 6-6, 223-pound signal-caller already threw five interceptions this season and got off to an extremely slow start against Northwestern.
Wisconsin is one of the few teams in the nation with an experienced No. 2 option at quarterback. Stave played in all 13 games last season. The junior threw for 2,494 yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions as the Badgers’ primary starter in 2013.
The change isn’t permanent, though.
The coaching staff already acknowledged a quarterback rotation will be used Saturday.
“It’s a real delicate balance,” Wisconsin offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig told Potrykus. “The most important thing is to stay within yourself and stay within the strength of the entire unit, not deviate to match one player or the other.
“You’re going to play the player with the hot hand. If the course of game, the course of the season dictates that, absolutely. We want to put our best players on the field.”