OSU Measuring Itself Against Own Standard

The Ohio State football team is blowing away opponents at the moment, but just how good are the Buckeyes? The national pundits don't seem to know, and that's fine; for Ohio State, the measurement that is most important is the one that's inside the program.

Any way you want to slice it, Ohio State blew out Rutgers on Saturday, and there was about as big a gap between the teams as the 56-17 final would indicate.

The Scarlet Knights entered Ohio Stadium at 5-1 but the Buckeyes had more first downs, rushing yards, yards per carry, passing yards, yards per attempt and completion, plays, turnovers gained, net punting average, net kickoff average and sacks.

Yet afterward, the talk wasn’t about how good Ohio State had played but how much better it can still get.

“We didn't play great on Saturday,” head coach Urban Meyer said Monday at his weekly press conference.

So what would great be for this team?

That’s a scary thought.

"I think the sky is the limit,” offensive tackle Taylor Decker said. “I know I can speak for the offense, I don't think we've played to our potential completely. We've had dumb mistakes here and there, we haven't executed necessarily as much as we've wanted to.”

It is true that the Buckeyes are certainly not perfect. There have been turnovers and punts, sacks allowed and big gains given up. Perfect is a high standard, but perfect is what the Buckeyes are going for.

But it appears right now that the team is in a stretch where not being perfect is more than good enough. Since losing to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6, the Buckeyes have beaten Kent State, Cincinnati, Maryland and Rutgers by an average of almost 40 points.

This week could provide more of a test as Ohio State travels to take on a 4-2 Penn State team that will have the support of a White Out crowd behind it, but the struggles of the Nittany Lions’ offensive line and special teams has Ohio State as a close to a two-touchdown favorite.

After that will be a home visit from Illinois at night before the game many have circled, a Nov. 8 trip to Michigan State to take on a Spartans team ranked seventh in Scout’s publishers’ poll.

Until then, will the Buckeyes be able to prove to the nation – or even themselves – exactly how good they are? National voters, who have Ohio State ranked below eight or nine other one-loss teams depending on the poll, haven’t seemed to have gotten back on the Buckeyes train yet and likely won’t until a win against the Spartans.

"I think a little earlier in the season they forgot about us, but we're going to make some noise,” Decker said. “We just take care of what we can take care of and the pieces will fall where they may, but I definitely think we're headed the right direction. We take care of our end of the deal, whatever happens in the rest of the country, it's whatever. We want people to know that we're a team to be reckoned with."

To get to that point, Ohio State will have to keep improving. The team appears to be leaps and bounds better than it was when it matched up vs. Virginia Tech, putting together an offense that is firing at a historic level having scored at least 50 points in four consecutive games for the first time in school history.

It was always expected a young team would get better throughout the year – more than half of the starters are in their first year and half are underclassmen – but the team’s emergence over its last four games has been impressive.

“That (national) stuff will work itself out but right now I think it’s just kind of us trying to be as good as we can be,” senior tight end Jeff Heuerman said. “We’ve come miles from where we were when we played Virginia Tech. We really built on that loss and tried to improve as much as we can. I think we’ve done that, I think we’re a completely different team than we were against Virginia Tech and I think it would definitely be a different outcome if we went back and played that game over.”

How good the team can be will be determined by the standard it holds itself to, one that appears to be high right now. It’s a standard held within the program, one that makes it harder to measure when the scores are so lopsided like they have been the past four weeks.

Just ask the coaching staff as far as how well the team played in its win vs. Rutgers.

“It’s something that is ingrained in the program and it’s that never satisfied mentality,” defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. “It’s not an easy way to live your life, but we understand that. These guys that come here, they understand that. It’s the expectation. Not that it’s always going to happen, because that’s not reality. We have to see the maturity and the growth of what we do.”

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