COLUMBUS, Ohio — Well, that’s going to be tough to top.
Ohio State did everything right in a 77-10 thumping of Bowling Green, and these grades certainly reflect that. From top to bottom and from start to finish, the Buckeyes dominated their in-state foe. It was over by halftime, and then the backups went in and did just as much damage.
We hand out grades to each unit, including coaches, and also pick our three stars of the game.
Offense (5 stars)
Other than scoring its most points in a game since 1950 and setting a program record for total offensive yards in a game, what did this offense bring to the table? I kid, of course. This was a special performance from a group that wasn’t necessarily expected to give one after losing running back Ezekiel Elliott, left tackle Taylor Decker and five of its six top receivers to the NFL.
The Buckeyes could have hung 80 on the Falcons had Ohio State coach Urban Meyer not elected to bypass a 38-yard field goal in favor of a fourth-down attempt that failed. Other than that and J.T. Barrett’s pick-six on the first drive of the game it was a spotless performance for the Buckeyes offense.
Defense (5 stars)
As good as the offense was, the defense might have been better. It lost defensive end Joey Bosa, defensive tackle Adolphus Washington, linebackers Darron Lee and Joshua Perry, cornerback Eli Apple and safeties Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell. All of those players made an NFL 53-man roster on Saturday, and yet the Silver Bullets looked just as good without them.
How good? The Ohio State defense outscored the Bowling Green offense, which produced only three points. And the Ohio State touchdown came courtesy of a true freshman that we weren’t even sure would play this season.
The defensive line looks like the real deal, the linebackers swarmed to the ball and the defensive backs weren’t the liability some feared they might be and instead might be a strength, as the three interceptions showed. What a day for this unit.
Special teams (4 stars)
Well, there’s not a lot to say here. We don’t know if walk-on kicker Tyler Durbin is any good or not because Meyer elected not to use him at the Bowling Green 21-yard line, instead failing to convert on fourth-and-2.
Because of the Pick- Six and the turnover on downs (oh, and the 11 touchdowns), punter Cameron Johnston was only used once. He got the job done, booting it 48 yards to the Bowling Green 18-yard line.
Ohio State’s many kickoffs went off without incident, which is always a good thing. Falcons kicker James Fields didn’t give OSU much of a chance to return kicks, instead popping up kickoffs that where fair caught. Dontre Wilson still needs polish as a punt returner, but it does appear he was right to fair catch a ball inside the 10 that Bowling Green was in good position to down deep in OSU territory.
Coaching (5 stars)
Give Urban Meyer credit for doing everything he said he wanted to do. The Buckeyes rotated at wide receiver. They rotated at defensive end. They rotated at cornerback. At all three positions, the backups showed why they deserve to be on the field. This is a deep, deep team, and Meyer isn’t playing the second string just for the heck of it. It’s going to be a battle all season to see the field and Meyer set that tone in Week 1.
Bowling Green isn’t Alabama, but it also isn’t Florida A&M. Meyer’s team humiliated the MAC champions in a way that nobody expected. He had his team ready to play. The expectations will rise in a hurry, so now he has a new challenge ahead of him.
Overall (5 stars)
What else is there to say about a 77-10 win? That’s as good as it gets at Ohio State, and it came in a game where nobody knew what they’d get out of a group of players high on talent but short on experience. This is what Ohio State should have looked like last season, and if it keeps up other teams will have plenty to plan for.
1. J.T. Barrett
What else can be said about the Texan? After throwing a Pick-Six on the first drive of the game, Barrett bounced back to set a program record for touchdowns accounted for. His accuracy (67.8 percent) was where it needed to be, and aside from one underthrow on a pass to Parris Campbell that still drew a pass interference penalty, he showed he could throw the deep ball.
2. Curtis Samuel
Meyer has never had a player like Samuel. There have been plenty of players who could rack up both receiving and rushing yards, but never one who could do it the way Samuel does. He can line up opposite the team’s best cornerback and catch a 60-yard pass or he can run between the tackles and get to the second level. Those skills were on full display during his three-touchdown day.
3. Malik Hooker
Well, you can’t say his teammates didn’t warn us. He’s drawn rave reviews for his practice performances but rarely played because his path to the field was blocked by future NFL players Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell. Maybe he should have, though. After making two interceptions in the spring game, Hooker followed that up with another two-interception day. The first was the most spectacular play of the day, as Hooker covered an immense amount of ground, leaped up and tipped the ball to himself before coming down with it as he fell.