The 3-0 Ohio State Buckeyes are off to a fast start to the 2016 season. There were some major questions about the team heading into the campaign, let’s take a look at three things we’ve learned about the Bucks so far this year.
1. The Defense is Exciting
Most fans were justified to be a bit skeptical about the Buckeyes D and their impressive showings against Bowling Green and Tulsa. Everyone knew in the back of their head that the talent was there, but they were definitely a young group. Through Week 2, the defense had allowed an average of 216 yards of offense and 6.5 points per game* (technically the defense had not allowed a touchdown). They had picked off opposing QBs seven times and returned three of those to the house. Going into the Oklahoma game, it was fair for the Buckeye faithful to be a little nervous about how the defense would perform. They didn’t disappoint. They held the Sooners to 24 points, intercepted two Baker Mayfield passes, and brought back one of those for a touchdown. This is a young, talented squad that makes plays all over the field and gives Buckeye Nation some comfort that, should the need arise, they could win a ballgame all by themselves.
2. J.T. Barrett is a Cool Cat
Buckeye fans have been spoiled recently with playmaking quarterbacks. Watching J.T. Barrett, now in his third season with Ohio State, is simply a stress-free experience. He makes plays with his arm (10 touchdowns, 217 yards per game), with his legs (3 TDs, 53 yards per game), and doesn’t make many mistakes (besides the first drive of the season). I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the relationship he’s seemed to develop with wide receiver Noah Brown, who’s tied for first in the nation in receiving touchdowns. Brown and the rest of the receiving corps are reasons why J.T. is currently fifth in the country in QB rating, has thrown his name in the hat for Heisman contention, and will continue to be the leader of the Buckeye offense that’s averaging nearly 57 points per game.
3. The Running Game is Just Fine without ‘Zeke’
Ezekiel Elliot accounted for 57% of Ohio State’s rushing yards last year. Just like in the case of the defense, Elliot’s departure left big question marks on the offensive side of the ball, but again, the talent was there. It didn’t take long for any doubts about the Buckeye running game to be squandered. Mike Weber has answered the call, averaging 117 yards on 18 carries per game. Junior Curtis Samuel is averaging over eight yards per carry early on in the season, as is senior Dontre Wilson. True freshman Demario McCall has gotten some opportunities and looked pretty good through the first few weeks of the year. The previously mentioned J.T. Barrett is frustrating defenses with his 50+ yards per game on the ground and three rushing touchdowns. On any given play there’s a player in the backfield that can put six points up on the board. Considering all the other offensive weapons spread across the field, Buckeye fans should rest assured that the ground game is in good shape.