Todd Boeckman is not just serviceable – He is dangerous. He was not simply taking what the Penn State defense gave him last Saturday night. The Buckeyes got the Nittany Lions off balance with a good offensive game plan and Boeckman attacked them with good throws all over the field.
Did he benefit from lots of help? Without question. The offensive line played exceptionally well, as did, well, everyone else on that side of the ball.
Penn State has a good defense and Ohio State just shredded it.
On the road, in a hostile environment, with ghosts of struggles past hovering all over the place.
Of course Boeckman still had his one brain cramp per game – there is no defending the pass he threw into triple coverage that was intercepted by Dan Connor – but he made more than enough great plays to make up for that.
We already knew he could produce big plays, but Boeckman was great in the clutch in Happy Valley. He completed 8 of 9 passes on third down, and every completion went for a first down.
I was holding off anointing Boeckman a weapon until this game, but his carving up of the Nittany Lions was impressive, even reminiscent of another graduate of his St. Henry High School alma mater.
Former Redskin Bobby Hoying had one of his finest days in a season-defining win at Penn State in 1995, making several unbelievable throws on his way to 354 yards and three touchdowns. This was the same fella who had his share of ups and downs prior to his senior year, but the win in Happy Valley was a big step in his transformation from good to great college quarterback. Not just a great performance, but a great performance in a big spot.
Now they both have Penn State.
With Boeckman, we now have enough evidence to know he is someone to count on for big plays and production, and it is fair to expect great play every week.
What we look to learn this week:
Will the real Ohio State front seven please stand up?
Without question, the Buckeyes miss having full use of Todd Denlinger up front but despite lacking their best all-around defensive tackle for most of the game, their performance against a weak Penn State running game was disappointing.
Term it perplexing, too, after Ohio State shut down a far better running attack at home one week earlier against Michigan State.
Then again, Kent State had plenty of success running the ball on the Buckeyes for a while as well, so perhaps it is time to rethink the idea that this run defense is impenetrable.
It's not time to make a conclusion yet, but I'm calling this the area most in need of watching this week with Wisconsin heading to town.
The Badgers, of course, are famous for their running prowess, but don't be fooled by past perceptions. This is a relatively diverse attack (more balanced in run-pass ratio than Ohio State, for one thing) when there are some healthy wide receivers for quarterback Tyler Donovan to throw to.
So while I would still judge the Michigan State running game to be better than Wisconsin's, the Badgers have more people out wide to worry about than did the Spartans now that Paul Hubbard is back opposite Kyle Jefferson, so Ohio State might not be able to concentrate so much on just one aspect of its opponent's attack.
All-Buckeye Beaters Team Nominees:
Because I am as skeptical at the overabundance of assists the scorekeepers at Penn State awarded as I was when I saw virtually none given out by the folks at Purdue, defensive nominees are going to be scarce.
Dan Connor? Nope. He was somehow credited with 18 tackles (13 assists) but had virtually no effect on the game. His interception? A Todd Boeckman gift.
Sean Lee? Ok, you can come along for being the only player on your team capable of breaking up a Todd Boeckman pass on a third down. But that's it.
Offensively? Now we've got something to talk about.
The Penn State offensive line played very well, in particular center A.Q. Shipley, left guard Rich Ohrnberger and left tackle Gerald Cadogen. They opened up some gaping holes, including on Rodney Kinlaw's touchdown run.
Also getting nods? Dan Lawlor, a fill-in at fullback who pancaked Marcus Freeman on the touchdown run, and tight end Andrew Quarless. Quarless helped out with lead-blocking duties and Quarless had the Nittany Lions' longest gain from scrimmage, a 30-yard catch on their opening drive.
Fit To DVR This Weekend:
Just wondering…Does anyone think ESPN wishes it would have passed on the OSU-Northwestern laugher in favor of getting the one Big Ten game this weekend with two ranked teams? Wisconsin's trip to Ohio State is on the Big Ten Network anyway.
Also at noon, those with DVR can tape the "Ohio State Hangover Bowl" between Penn State and Purdue. The Boilermakers finally showed some signs of life the last two weeks after back-to-back stinkers against the Buckeyes and Michigan. It will be interesting to see how Penn State reacts to being the latest squad to be embarrassed at the hands of Jim Tressel's team. None of Ohio State's previous four Big Ten victims this season has won the following week. But I digress…
After the Buckeyes and Badgers finish up their high-noon showdown, Michigan's trip to Michigan State should be interesting. John L. Smith never beat the Wolverines while he was coach at MSU, and his replacement Mark Dantonio made some waves last summer by saying he would measure his program against Lloyd Carr's.
Outside of the Big Ten, the best game of the day is unquestionably unbeaten Arizona State's trip to surging Oregon. That game is set for a 6:45 EST kickoff, but you'll probably need ESPN Game Plan to get it. The winner stays alive in the national title hunt.
The 8 p.m. slot Ohio State has thrice filled will feature yesterday's news (Florida State) at No. 2 Boston College. The Golden Eagles only needed 14 points to win last week. That should be enough again.
CUS WORDS BIG TEN POWER POLL
1. Ohio State (Time for Tressel to end jinx against Bucky in the Horseshoe)
2. Michigan (Will they make it to The Game with any starters healthy? Stumbling Spartans are up next.)
3. Wisconsin (You're up.)
4. Illinois (Bye week with Minnesota this week, then close with The Big Two.)
5. Penn State (Reality has set in – the Nittany Lions aren't big boys anymore.)
6. Purdue (Still have a chance for a decent bowl game.)
7. Michigan State (Overlooked Iowa? Well all is forgiven with a win over Big Blue.)
8. Indiana (Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers.)
9. Northwestern (Still one win from bowl eligibility.)
10. Iowa (Still not buying the Hawkeyes.)
11. Minnesota (Only allowing 123 more yards per game than second-worst defense in conference, Northwestern.)