Quick Thoughts: Ohio State Defeats Maryland

Ohio State opened big Ten play by blasting Maryland 52-24 on the road Saturday afternoon. Who stood out for the Buckeyes in the win?

- First off, while not a Top-20 team at all, Maryland is a quality football team and blowing them away on their field is an accomplishment. Coming off the UC win when Ohio State could have been full of themselves is also something to mention positively. In short, this was a nice win and one the Buckeyes should feel good about.

- Just about everybody in uniform played well today for Ohio State, but two players flat out controlled this game: Joey Bosa and J.T. Barrett. Maryland had zero answers for both players, and they made this one a blowout.

- With Bosa, this might have been his best game ever and he's had a lot of darn good ones in a short career. Credit Larry Johnson for moving Bosa around, so Maryland couldn't adjust their blocking scheme to deal with him. He was just as devastating coming up inside as he was blowing by the tackle on the outside rush. You also cannot run right at him, the usual remedy for a great pass rusher. Bosa will be a Top-5 pick next year in the NFL draft. He would be a high pick this year if he were eligible.

- I've always liked Barrett, when he was recruited through last year's spring game when it seemed the staff lost confidence in him. I never saw Cardale Jones beating him out for the #2 job, and now I'm having a hard time seeing Braxton Miller reclaim this job next year. But that's a story for 2015. Since I liked Barrett so much after Navy and Virginia Tech, you know how much I think of him now. He will put up Heisman numbers in his career at Ohio State, and win a ton of games. He will leave Ohio State as one of the greatest QB's in school history. He's THAT talented.

- I think the secret to stopping the OSU offense is controlling the middle of the field between the guards, and taking away the inside run and pressuring the QB up the middle. Once Ohio State establishes the inside run, everything else opens up offensively. Whether it's Carlos Hyde or Ezekiel Elliott, they have to own the area between the guards and work that offense from inside-out, not outside-in. When the center and guards are playing well, Ohio State is going to purr offensively. Boren, Elflein and Price crushed the Maryland interior today, and that let everything else flow accordingly. And Elliott ran hard and found holes.

- I also think Ohio State needs Devin Smith to operate at their full potential. They can toy with the depth chart, or start someone else to send a message, or do anything they want with him. But he provides something the others can't, and he also opens up things in the passing game. Thomas, Corey Smith and Spencer won't cut it against good defenses, and they need Devin Smith engaged and playing well. Devin can take the football from here and run it all the way over there in a hurry, and nobody else on the roster can do that from the outside receiver position. He has flaws, and the drops can be maddening at times, but he has the most talent of any wideout, and I don't think that's even debatable. In a group of average players, Devin Smith can be a game-changer. It's up to the staff to bring that out, and up to Smith to play at a higher level.

- Now, for the defense. How do you evaluate this defense? This is a tough one for me. There is so much to like about this group, but then a big play goes against them and you just shake your head. I've said consistently that they do not have enough man cover talent, and I think everyone gets that by now. There's only two ways to solve that issue, and one is short-term and one is long-term. For the now, they have to put the best defensive backs on the field and coach them up on a daily basis. For the future, they need cover corners. I see Denzel Ward and Eric Glover-Williams as part of the solution. They need more than those two going forward.

- For the linebacking corps, it's more of the same. They need better players than what's on the roster as upperclassmen, although Darron Lee looks promising. Raekwon McMillan is the real deal. The injury to Berger and the uncertainty of Hubbard makes them take a second look at only adding two linebackers in the 2015 recruiting class. They would take three if the third was a difference maker in their eyes and not a developmental project. Kilby-Lane was that guy, but that's gone. Jerome Baker IS that guy, and that ship is sailing into port. I think Nick Conner and Justin Hilliard fit well with what they need. I think the future is bright at this position group. Just not sold that the present is top shelf, but they were alright today.

- I think people expected the D-line to be dominant, and this group was that against Maryland for the most part. Of course, maybe Bosa was so dominant that it covered up everyone else just being good. The dropoff from Noah Spence to Miller/Frazier is as wide as the Atlantic Ocean, and the loss of Spence cannot be discounted. On the opposite of Bosa, you've gone from All-American potential to just a guy. Every team suffers losses in personnel, from injury, suspension or attrition, but this was a key loss. They have not come within miles of replacing Spence, and it is what it is. But in a dream world, how different would this defense be with Spence? I think dramatically better.

- I do like the overall scheme and philosophy of the Ash defense, even if execution has had a few blips this season to date. They need to stick with the plan, and keep getting better. I believe if in 75 plays you execute properly in 70, and get absolutely rolled in five, then you need to work on the five, and not throw out the 70. They aren't getting drilled consistently on long, time consuming drives for the most part. It's been the big play killing them. They need to be cut down, and I think things will be better as the year progresses. This is the offensive era of college football, and you just aren't going to throw shutouts anymore, so you need to continue to do what you do right, and work on what is hurting you. Not start over.

- Where do they go from here as a team? You win. It's really as simple as that. The Virginia Tech loss is gone, just as the Maryland win is over. This is about winning games on a weekly basis, and then you get ready to do it again. Can they beat Rutgers? I believe they can, and that's all the team needs to be concerned with. They don't get a do-over with the Hokies, and they don't get Kent State again. Michigan State is still far off in the distance, and the Big Ten championship is a million miles away. The college football playoffs? Eons and eons away. Beat Rutgers and life is good. Al Davis had it right: "Just Win Baby."

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