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Is Ohio State Ready to Win in the Big Ten? Results are Mixed

Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer

After Ohio State arguably lost ground during a bye week, the Buckeyes gained some of it back against Cincinnati.

Where that leaves Ohio State for the Big Ten season, which starts Saturday at Maryland, remains in question.

While Ohio State had last week off, the Buckeyes' lone loss of the season started look more and more embarrassing as Virginia Tech lost to Georgia Tech, its second consecutive loss since the win in Columbus.

As for the Buckeyes, they defeated Cincinnati 50-28 on Saturday, answering some questions about the offense’s ability to win in the Big Ten, but the defense may remain a liability.

First the good:

For a team that couldn’t move the ball consistently against Virginia Tech, the 50 points is a welcome sight.

Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett was magnificent, completing 26-of-36 passes for 330 yards with four touchdowns and no turnovers to go with 79 rushing yards.

That said, the biggest development may have been running back Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed for 182 yards and a touchdown in 28 carries. Before that breakout by the sophomore, none of Ohio State’s tailbacks had rushed for more than 171 yards total this season.

Ohio State's 710 total yards also approached a school record.

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Now the bad: Aided by a leaky secondary, Ohio State needed nearly all of that production. 

Ohio State jumped to a 23-7 lead early in the second quarter, but that devolved into a five-point lead in the third.

The pass defense that prevented Ohio State from playing for a national title a year ago made this game more interesting than it needed to be. The Buckeyes allowed touchdown passes or 60, 83 and 78 yards, the last two in the second half.

How many Big Ten teams will be able to challenge Ohio State like Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel did? Perhaps a few.

Maryland passed for 361 yards and three touchdowns against Indiana and has averaged better than 10 yards per attempt in each of the last two games.

To boot, the Terrapins gave up a mere 126 yards through the air against a high-powered Indiana offense.

With that kind of matchup arriving Saturday, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer talked of a “hard conversation” with defensive coaches coming this week.

“You don't give up 200 yards passing and be able to look you in the eye say that's a championship level football team out there,” Meyer told the media. “I see certain units playing at a very, very high level, not nine."