He's not going to say it, but Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer knows exactly how important the Buckeyes' road game at Michigan State is on Nov. 8.
Sure, Ohio State still has games against Penn State and Illinois before it travels to East Lansing, but on the heels of the Buckeyes' 56-17 pasting of Rutgers on Saturday, it's hard not to look down the road at the matchup with the Spartans.
The winner of that game should get the opportunity to play for a Big Ten title and if the winner of that Nov. 8 showdown finishes the season with just one loss, it will get serious consideration for a berth in the first-ever College Football Playoff.
Like any coach in college football, though, Meyer insists he and his staff take it one game at a time, but after the win over the Scarlet Knights, he also believes the Buckeyes may be deserving of more national recognition leading up to that Nov. 8 showdown with Michigan State.
"I think we are," Meyer said when asked if the Buckeyes are a top-10 team. "Someone will blog it out and say here's Coach Meyer ranting and raving again. I'm not. I don't really watch the other teams, but I think we're playing at a pretty high level right now."
Bringing the Balance
It seems we keep talking about this every week, but it's something that needs to be addressed: Ohio State's offense over the last four weeks has been remarkable in terms of its balance.
Against Rutgers, the Buckeyes totaled 585 yards of offense — 324 on the ground and 261 through the air. The numbers were even closer, too, but Ohio State ran the ball for the majority of the fourth quarter when the end result was already well in hand.
“I credit the growth of our team towards our leaders on offense. We’re moving forward and getting better with every game," redshirt freshman H-back Jalin Marshall said. "Everybody who gets the ball can make something happen.”
Offensive Line Continues Improvement
Rutgers entered Saturday's game ranked third nationally in sacks with 24.
The Scarlet Knights recorded zero against Ohio State and really didn't pressure quarterback J.T. Barrett at all.
It was perhaps the best game of the year for the Buckeyes' offensive line. Barrett had all day to throw and Ohio State racked up over 300 yards on the ground. You can't really ask for much more than that.
“It’s what we’re supposed to do by shutting defenses down," right guard Pat Elflein said. "Coach (Ed) Warriner really prepared us well for this game. We came in and got the job done.”
Defense Turning the Corner?
It was far from a shutdown performance, but Ohio State looked pretty impressive defensively against the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers is by no means an offensive juggernaut, but any time you can hold a team to close to 100 yards below its season average, you've got to be encouraged.
“Our defensive line was huge today. We played great," linebacker Darron Lee said. "We knew we had to bring pressure and stop their run. We knew we had to execute and this was something Coach Meyer emphasized the past few weeks.”
That pressure allowed the Buckeyes to force three turnovers, one of which they returned for a touchdown.
“You can see the progression of our players and see us getting takeaways and scoring," safety Vonn Bell said. "It’s very impressive this young group can understand what the coaches are telling us. We’re all in.”