What a difference a couple of weeks make. The Ohio State football team was left for dead when it lost to Oregon and then struggled against Tulsa. And to be fair, the criticism was justified and real. There were clear issues on both sides of the ball that needed to be corrected.
Against Akron, and even more importantly against Rutgers Saturday, the Buckeyes look like a much-improved bunch moving in the right direction. Remember, Michigan got all it could handle from the Scarlet Knights.
There were a lot of big plays on both sides of the ball, and there’s plenty to take away from a very, very impressive 52-13 performance on the road.
Here are five things that stood out as we watched the Buckeyes dismantle Rutgers on Saturday afternoon.
NEXT … Is the comparison real?
Can we compare like opponents at this point with Michigan?
1️⃣ Ohio State
2️⃣ Penn State
5️⃣ Michigan State
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 2, 2021
Michigan got beaten up by Rutgers in the second half at home last weekend but still found a way to win 20-13. The Wolverines looked great in the first half but weren’t as physical as the Scarlet Knights in the last thirty minutes of the game. Then, we saw this today from Ohio State.
It’s the first time we have like opponents to compare, and of course, there are all kinds of disclaimers to throw on top of it, but Ohio State was head and shoulders above Rutgers, and frankly, Michigan, with the matchup of like opponents.
For all the praise Michigan has gotten this year, the Wolverines might have raised their eyebrows just a bit over what OSU did on Saturday.
NEXT … The defense really is getting better
The defense is improving for sure
Noah Vedral entered today with 0 INTs.
— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) October 2, 2021
It was a little hard to take too much away from the Akron game because the talent gap was so wide, but after a very good defensive performance against a much better Rutgers team, there is real improvement in the defense and that’s a wonderful development.
This team is only a championship one if the defense can play at a high level, and it looks like it’s on the way. Against Rutgers, there was a lot more pressure from the defensive line, and things were covered up much better on the second level and beyond. OSU even forced three turnovers against a team that had been pretty stingy with the ball thus far. Yes, things are moving in the right direction after all the changes a few weeks ago.
NEXT … So, about C.J. Stroud
Yes, C.J. Stroud can be very good
There is some serious zip on this ball. Stroud stands confident in the pocket and throws a laser to Jeremy Ruckert for a 19- yard TD. Buckeyes up 38-6 in the first half. #GoBucks. https://t.co/M8kap6KLa1
— Buckeyes Wire (@BuckeyesWire) October 2, 2021
So, this is the C.J. Stroud we were all waiting for? The freshman quarterback was at an elite level Saturday after taking one week off to rest an injured shoulder. He was much more confident in the pocket, had zip on his passes, and was more accurate than we’ve seen him all season.
He was so efficient and productive, he was taken out of the game early in the third quarter to allow for some mop-up time for New Jersey native Kyle McCord. Stroud finished the day by completing 17-of-23 passes for 330 yards and five (yes five) touchdowns. And … there were no interceptions from the young gun for the first time this season.
If Stroud plays like this the rest of the season, welcome back to the Big Ten and CFP title race Ohio State. And on that note …
NEXT … The ceiling is just higher for OSU
Ohio State has a higher ceiling than any other team in the Big Ten
Ohio State has 16 former 5-star recruits on its roster, per 247.
Rutgers has gotten 3 former 5-star recruits in its entire history, and none of them are on this roster.
The talent gap is so, so evident. That's not a surprise, but it is jarring to see.
— Brian Fonseca (@briannnnf) October 2, 2021
Claiming this as a down year for Ohio State may have been premature. The talent on this team was always evident, but something just wasn’t clicking. Now, it appears as though things are starting to come together just in time to run through the Big Ten schedule.
As good as Michigan, Iowa, and Penn State have looked this season, the ceiling for those teams just isn’t as high as what it is for Ohio State with all the four and five-star talent oozing out of the roster. If the team can continue to improve and be as aggressive and interested as what we saw against Rutgers, all of those knee-jerk reactions to the demise of OSU this year will have been severely premature.
NEXT … Watching TreVeyon Henderson for a few years is going to be fun
The TreVeyon Henderson era at Ohio State is going to be a lot of fun
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 2, 2021
I think we can clearly say that freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson is RB1. He’s now getting the start, toting the rock the most, and in on the most crucial of situations. Oh, he’s also putting game-breaking highlights multiple times a game it seems.
He was banged up early in this one or he probably would have put up more astronomical numbers (the coaching staff said he’ll be fine). Still, while he was in there, the burst, explosiveness, and extra gear are evident. The weapons are aligning.
WATCH: C.J. Stroud keeps play alive, finds Olave on unbelievable TD catch and dash
WATCH: C.J. Stroud throws laser to tight end Jeremy Ruckert for touchdown vs. Rutgers
WATCH: Denzel Burke takes an INT to the house vs. Rutgers
WATCH: TreVeyon Henderson scores on second play from scrimmage vs. Rutgers