If future opponents thought Virginia Tech provided the blueprints to beat Ohio State, the Big Ten can scrap those plans.
The Buckeyes offense that looked hapless against the Hokies now looks like it can win the Big Ten behind redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett.
With a 52-24 win at Maryland, Ohio State picked up a third consecutive lopsided win since the stunning loss at home to Virginia Tech, the latest victory the most impressive of them all.
Against the Hokies, Barrett struggled against a pass rush, completing 9-of-29 passes with three interceptions. The run game provided little relief for the quarterback who was pressed into duty only because Braxton Miller was lost for the season.
Now, Barrett is starting to look like a legitimate All-Big Ten QB. Since Virginia Tech, he’s completed better than 72 percent of his passes in every game to go with 15 total touchdowns and one interception. Barrett’s 17 touchdown passes this season is already the ninth-best single-season total in Ohio State history.
And this is from a guy who expected to be a backup all year.
Credit adjustments. Credit maturity. Credit an improved offensive line and run game. All are valid.
“I'm just trying to get better during the week and not wait until game day to just react to everything I learn the defense on Tuesday and Wednesday so come Saturday I can have that confidence and go out and play," Barrett told the media after the win.
Not to be overlooked is the emergence of Ezekiel Elliott. Ohio State tailbacks were ineffective in the first three games. Against Cincinnati and Maryland, the sophomore Elliott rushed for 321 yards and a touchdown on 52 carries.
Much of this may be due to Ohio State’s ability to adjust to the zero coverage every opponent has played against the Buckeyes since the Virginia Tech loss, coach Urban Meyer said.
Elliott has been able to run the ball, enabling Barrett to take shots down the field. Barrett completed five passes of at least 25 yards against Maryland, giving him 11 yards per attempt in the game.
"You start to see the quarterbacks, receivers and coaching staff get really excited and start making more aggressive calls,” Meyer said. “That's a sign that our run game is really solid and our o-line is growing up. The bare zero coverage takes away the other team's run game. It forces the other team to take some other shots. We've worked hard at it because we know what's coming.”
Now that Big Ten play has started, Ohio State is able to take advantage of those shots.