LINCOLN, Neb. — That first-half Ohio State team looks like a championship contender.
What happened in the second half? No idea. It didn’t matter, yet again.
If you’re looking for the final score, this isn’t the place for it. The Buckeyes have made it really easy to break down their performances and finish the postgame analysis well before the final whistle over the last five games, but what they did on Saturday night at Nebraska bordered on ridiculous.
This column was done by halftime. Ohio State was already up by 35, and there was no sign of slowing down. And while there is certainly something to be learned about third-stringers and walk-ons continuing to dominate and provide a look at Ohio State’s embarrassment of riches on the depth chart, lately the third and fourth quarters haven’t revealed anything about the program’s chances of winning the Big Ten and returning to the College Football Playoff.
And while the usual caveat about the level of competition over the last month or so still applies, what Ohio State has done in the first couple quarters during this pre-Penn State stretch is exactly what a contender should do. The offense has clearly demonstrated progress and expanded the playbook. The defense has been absurdly dominant, particularly with the defensive line looking like the nation’s best unit. And while the special teams still are a bit of an issue, the kicking game hasn’t been anything other than a minor nuisance.
The Buckeyes are obviously going to need to play a full 60 minutes at that level to claim the hardware they are chasing. And it’s finally time after this extended period of tune-ups for them to turn their attention to a big-time showdown with the Nittany Lions looming after the off week and validate the improvement when it counts.
But this certainly looks like one of the scariest teams in the country when everything is clicking. Maybe that early loss to Oklahoma was simply the kind of wake-up call the program needed, maybe a bit of patience was always going to be needed before Ohio State found its highest gear. Either way, it’s still extremely difficult to go undefeated in college football these days, and Clemson just provided another reminder of that on Friday night when Syracuse sprung its upset of the defending national champions.
Ohio State made certain it wasn’t going to suffer the same fate in a conference road game, and it honestly locked that result up even before it went to the locker room at halftime.
J.T. Barrett was unfazed by the windy conditions, delivered some pinpoint passing and added to his career Big Ten-record touchdown haul with 4 scores. If he played in the third quarter, odds are he added to that total.
But there’s no need to wait to be sure for this analysis. The Silver Bullets on defense are never going to be threatened enough by the Huskers to make it a competitive affair in the second half. The offense has too many weapons even with the backups on the field to make the fourth quarter all that educational. Maybe the kickoff specialists showed some progress late in the game, but there’s time to break that down later.
For now, all that matters in that the first-half Buckeyes again look like one of the best teams in America.
And just like all the Nebraska fans heading to the exits before intermission, there was really no reason to worry about what happened after that.