The irrational exuberance at being officially baptized in the stagnant waters of the Big Ten that I've seen from both Rutgers and Maryland fans this past weekend is kind of adorable.
As some one who has closely followed the precipitous decline of what was, a decade ago, considered to be one of the best conferences in the country, it's actually pretty cool to see so many people really, really, really excited about being a part of it. Yeah, it's a little stupid to be pumped about the potentiality of winning via a last minute field goal in Bloomington, or having a good old fashioned shootout in West Lafayette, but I'm not going to begrudge Maryland or Rutgers fans their enthusiasm for something that a lot of us have lost at least a wee bit of enthusiasm for ourselves.
With that said...
Maryland students: not fans of Ohio pic.twitter.com/H0srngTl2v— Patrick Maks (@maksimuspatrick) October 4, 2014
This is unacceptable. Not for the massive shade thrown at the state of Ohio; that's totally fine and within the spirit of the B1G. We all hate each other here.
No, the problem here is just how said shade was thrown. It's like these students just learned their letters that morning, found a couple of pieces of scrap paper in whatever alleyway they woke up in, and then slapped together a display of mockery that is so lazy that it circles back around on itself and makes fun of the people who made it in the first place.
It's almost as if they haven't even tried to encourage a festering black hole to develop where their heart had once been, sworn sacred oaths to take down the institutions that their rivals hold dear, or at the very least spent several waking nights planning ways to kidnap the housepets of various Big Ten head coaches.
In other words, it's an issue of effort. Maryland talked a big (and B1G) game prior to Saturday's matchup, but once the hair started flying they ultimately showed... not a whole hell of a lot. I'd be disappointed if it wasn't so damn funny.
The one spot that I was potentially worried about coming into this game was Stefon Diggs doing ridiculous things for three and a half hours, and that started with the return game. As Johnnie Dixon noted, I shouldn't have worried.
Them boys coming down mane best kickoff team in the nation— Johnnie Dixon (@MakeHistory_JD) October 4, 2014
The kicking coverage was brilliant, and it's getting to the point where I can only dimly recollect a time where that was an area of extreme concern for Urban's team. Diggs was contained for the most part, and though Kyle Clinton had one errant kickoff and one kickoff that was almost errant but then hilariously didn't end up that way, the return team did their job. Jalin Marshall ended up with a nice 30 yard return, and Dontre Wilson averaged 14 yards on his three punt returns. Not too bad.
The Buckeyes got off to a predictably fast start with two quick touchdowns, including a nifty pass to Jalin. Then the Terps struck with a 56 yard field goal that I feel is my civic duty as an Ohio State fan to stand up and recognize.
WOW !! 57 yard FG for the Terps. Impressive !!— Clark Kellogg (@ClarkKelloggCBS) October 4, 2014
Jim Tressel shed a single tear.
The rest of the first half was pretty much all Buckeyes, with the exception of a pretty decent 75 yard drive by Maryland. What's really fun about watching the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes on offense is that they're still very much a weird patchwork of skill position players trying to find an identity, but despite an apparent lack schematic "theme," I guess, they are pretty dang good at putting up points in a really wide variety of ways. Ezekiel Elliott not getting yards? How about a bump pass to Dontre? Can't find Mike Thomas on a go route? Oh, here's Nick Vannett out in the flat!
It's an imperfect system, but it's working, and in the first half it worked to the tune of 31 points. And Maryland looked completely befuddled on defense. If only we had some way to represent this visually. If only...
Lets check in on Ohio State/Maryland: http://t.co/3Xb0sHBtPP— Mike Young (@MYoung11W971) October 4, 2014
Oh, that'll do.
The second half was a little closer to the first, and I mostly blame Jim Delany for this. I swear that I tried to play the part of the good Football Writers Association of America member and pay at least nominal attention to what the dude was saying, but nothing in the world can convince me that his sonorous voice wasn't responsible for briefly lulling OSU's defense to sleep.
Jim Delaney is a sharp guy..— Dustin Fox (@DustinFox37) October 4, 2014
But this is the longest interview ever…— Dustin Fox (@DustinFox37) October 4, 2014
Still, the Ohio State offense rolled on for another 500+ yard game, this time almost perfectly balanced. I agree with Ramzy here: if you need any further evidence as to the difference that coaching can make in the college game, look no further than the lack of adjustments that Cincinnati and Maryland made to the basic Bear defense that Virginia Tech ran successfully against the Buckeyes. Here's a hint, Ohio State has film on that game, too. It's possible that they've figured out ways to deal with it.
"Maryland apparently surprised by Devin Smith running a fly route" is all I need to know about Maryland's film study.— Ramzy Nasrallahween (@ramzy) October 4, 2014
But let's go back to that offense.
I like seeing Elliot get in his grove— Beanie Wells (@BeanieWells26) October 4, 2014
EzE deserves a lot of credit for the way that he's stepped up to the plate in terms of responsibility in the past few weeks. Dude had more carries against Cincinnati than he had had in the previous three games combined, and nearly matched that total against Maryland. I'm not sure that he's going to average 150 yards per game for the remainder of the season, but more reps is only going to be a good thing for him. Carlos Hyde didn't start to blossom until he was the featured back, and if Elliott has the same potential, there's no reason to wait.
JT Barrett: 18/23 for 267 yards, 4 TDs passing; 16 carries for 71 yards and a TD— Lori Schmidt (@LoriSchmidt) October 4, 2014
And now we come to J.T. Barrett. I'm not super shocked that he's playing well, but I am more than a little befuddled at how good he's able to make the other players around him look as well. Remember that yesterday was his fifth college football game, you know, ever, and he only seems to get better every week. He didn't hit that magical 300 yards passing number for the third week in a row, but he again made correct decision after correct decision 99% of the time.
We keep emphasizing that Barrett isn't the athlete that Braxton is, but the reason that we do that is because Barrett's limitations athletically might eventually make him a better player than Miller. Barrett not being a figurative football wizard might make him a literal football genius in the end, and with that comes sweet, sweet consistency. And more than anything that's what this team needs.
I apologize for waxing poetic about the offense and largely neglecting the defense. The linebackers especially played well, and while I would've liked to see Darron Lee house his pick instead of fumbling, the blaring airhorn that is an eventual Raekwon McMillan pick six is always fun to watch. Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett were again their monstrous selves, and if the secondary can avoid their now customary mid-game brain fart, they might actually warrant a bit of a primal yell.
I think I screamed Wu Tang pic.twitter.com/FcNucImPM9— Darron Lee (@DLeeMG8) October 4, 2014
But as momma knows, you can always tighten things up a little bit.
Somebody had the ball hanging out.High and tight boo boo #Buckeyes— candice (@candicenbc4) October 4, 2014
It's Rutgers week. Time to bring them back down to the dank earthy goodness that is the reality of the Big Ten.