COLUMBUS, Ohio — Well, there was no doubt about that one.
Ohio State scored early and often in a 77-10 rout of in-state foe Bowling Green, an impressive showing by any standard. This year’s team entered the season with a number of question marks given the amount of inexperience throughout the roster, but they answered those concerns convincingly in their debut performance.
Here’s a look at what we learned in the season opener.
1. The offensive coaching conundrum appears to have been solved for good.
Ohio State struggled last season with offensive coordinator Ed Warinner operating from the field while quarterbacks coach Tim Beck worked upstairs, but those days appear to be in the past. The 17-14 loss to Michigan State forced Ohio State to re-evaluate its process, and the Buckeyes looked overpowering against Michigan and Notre Dame in the final two games of 2015 after Warinner moved to the booth.
Warinner was moved from coaching offensive line to tight ends in the offseason, and he and Beck have both remained upstairs, with Warinner handling play calls. Ohio State’s offense was world’s better this year than last and eclipsed 50 points for the first time since the 59-0 win against Wisconsin in the 2014 Big Ten championship game.
The tempo flows so much better now without Warinner on the field, and Ohio State is a well-oiled machine with Barrett at the helm and so many weapons to choose from.
2. Mike Weber is up to the task.
Any worries Ohio State fans had about replacing Ezekiel Elliott can go away for the meantime. Mike Weber didn’t play as a true freshman last season, but that was more about a lingering meniscus injury than anything else.
He made the most of his starter status against the Falcons, rushing 19 times for 136 yards and flashing both speed and power. Ohio State players and coaches have said Weber reminds them of former running back Carlos Hyde, and the bruising back certainly looked the part on Saturday. His runs are more brutal than Elliott’s gracefulness but are no less effective. He looked every bit like a 1,000-yard rusher in his debut.
3. Curtis Samuel is the real deal.
We’ll have more of this in our postgame coverage, but Curtis Samuel put together an amazing performance against Bowling Green. The junior came into the season defined more by potential than production, although that wasn’t necessarily his own fault given how thin touches were spread last season on a playmaker-filled offense.
His final stat line of 13 carries for 84 yards and one touchdown and nine catches for 177 yards and two scores was exactly what this offense needs. Not only can he burn cornerbacks like a wideout but he can also run between the tackles, something that’s been missing from Urban Meyer’s offense in recent years. If he can keep up this form, opposing coordinators are going to get headaches from trying to figure out how to stop him.
4. Ohio State showed off a killer instinct.
One thing missing from last season was authoritative stompings of lesser teams that have typically been common in the Meyer era. Whether it was beating Florida A&M 76-0 in 2013 or shutting out Kent State 66-0 in 2014, Ohio State has often dispatched non-conference foes with ease. That was not the case in 2015 when OSU failed to blow out Hawaii (38-0), Northern Illinois (20-13) and Western Michigan (38-12).
The same can’t be said for this squad, which delivered a savage showing by taking down the Falcons 77-10. Although Barrett threw an interception returned for a touchdown that gave Bowling Green an early 7-0 lead, this contest was never in doubt. Barrett was in his best form, accounting for a program-record seven touchdowns and completing nearly 68 percent of his passes. Ohio State found the end zone 10 different times and made it look easy.
5. These freshmen can play.
The recruiting class of 2015 did not get off on the right foot, with only four of 25 players seeing the field as true freshmen. Whether or not that would have been the case had so many players not returned is up for debate, but it’s already clear that this year’s group will far surpass their contributions.
One year after Ohio State true freshman accounted for no offensive yards and no catches or rushes, Demario McCall scored two touchdowns, Rodjay Burns returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown and Nick Bosa posted a brutal sack of Bowling Green quarterback James Knapke. A total of nine true freshmen saw the field — more than double last year’s total for the entire season — and that number is expected to climb going forward. Burning redshirts this early in the season will give Ohio State a chance to deepen its rotation at a number of positions and develop its young players into contributors by the time Big Ten play rolls around.