COLUMBUS, Ohio — When the puzzle pieces are in order, the Ohio State picture is really quite a sight.
Question the opposition, take the results with a grain of salt or discount the performance entirely if you want because the outcome was never likely to be in doubt given the talent discrepancy. That would be missing the point that the Buckeyes appear to have finally figured out how best to use the tremendous personnel they have available to them, which strongly suggests the offense is going to be back to the level it needs to be when the competition finally gets stiffer at the end of October.
UNLV never was going to be confused with Penn State, and the Buckeyes have the 54-21 win on Saturday to prove it. That doesn’t mean the whole afternoon was meaningless, particularly for an offense that has been under so much scrutiny lately.
Parris Campbell needs to have a featured role in the attack at H-back. Remember those discussions last season about whether Curtis Samuel was getting enough touches? It’s fair to wonder now with Campbell repeatedly pulling away from hapless tacklers with his speed why he wasn’t more involved as a rusher and target for the horizontal passing game earlier in the season.
Binjimen Victor is a matchup nightmare for defensive backs. Throwing him a fade and letting him unleash his leaping ability against overmatched cornerbacks in the end zone seems like a no-brainer. Ohio State realized that on Saturday, and it should become a staple of the red-zone playbook.
J.T. Barrett long has been known as a great decision-maker with the football. Tacking on a little more responsibility with the run-pass options gives him more chances to make an impact by playing to his strengths as a dual-threat weapon with a knack for reading defenses correctly.
The list could go on for just about everybody involved on that side of the ball as Ohio State forges an identity for the offense. It didn’t happen right away for the Buckeyes, obviously, and beating up against a team from the Mountain West Conference isn’t going to simply wash away the stain of the Oklahoma loss. Nobody is suggesting that it should, or that Ohio State definitively has proven that everything is fixed with the power-spread offense that sputtered against the Sooners — and Clemson before that last season in the College Football Playoff.
Ohio State still has room to grow with its pass protection and blocking in front of tailback J.K. Dobbins. Not every deep throw from Barrett was flawlessly accurate, there was at least 1 notable drop from the receiving corps and Campbell coughed up a fumble that won’t make Urban Meyer happy in the film room.
But it’s also worth noting that Ohio State doesn’t have to be a finished product now. A new group of coaches is jelling, at the same time it’s experimenting and figuring out what works best with the tools at its disposal.
The final judgment isn’t going to come until Penn State rolls into the Horseshoe in October. But there is compelling evidence of progress on full display, and the puzzle is starting to look appealing.