COLUMBUS, Ohio – What the future holds for this Ohio State team remains uncertain.
Right this moment, the Buckeyes look pretty good. They’re 20-0 under Urban Meyer, and their most recent could be their most impressive.
A thoroughly dominating performance against an opponent with a pulse had been missing from No. 4 Ohio State’s resume before Saturday night’s game with Penn State, but the 8-0 Buckeyes filled that hole by starting fast and running the overmatched Nittany Lions right out of Ohio Stadium.
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A 63-14 Ohio State victory wasn’t done via quick knockout but rather a steady mix of jabs and power blows. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller ran by necessity and design and almost always into the open field. Power back Carlos Hyde had another big game, and anything that happened beyond the early second quarter felt like icing on an already decided result. The Buckeyes picked off Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg twice and recorded four sacks.
Whether the Buckeyes will eventually need style points in their quest to run the table and play in the BCS National Championship Game remains to be seen. But this performance — Miller’s second straight really, really good game — provided style points that others hadn’t. There’s a lot of talent on this Ohio State team, and almost all of it was on display Saturday night.
“I think it helps (nationally),” Meyer said. “But that’s not our focus.”
It was 42-7 at halftime, at which point Ohio State had 414 yards of offense. Ohio State finished with 686 yards, the most ever allowed by a Penn State team.
Miller accounted for four first-half touchdowns, two as part of his 84 yards rushing and two more as part of a 15-for-18, 204-yard half. Carlos Hyde also ran for 130 yards and two scores in the first half; he only carried three times in the second half and finished with 147 yards.
Miller finished 19-of-25 for 252 yards passing, a career high, and three touchdowns. His touchdown runs covered 39 and six yards, respectively, and his overall play is the biggest reason Ohio State looks more dangerous now than it did two weeks ago.
“We have to keep our foot on the pedal,” Miller said.
Said Meyer: “Braxton is becoming a quarterback. He’s not just an athlete playing quarterback. He’s working at it.”
Six Buckeyes scored touchdowns: Two quarterbacks, two running backs and two wide receivers. Ohio State scored with 1:10 left in the first quarter, with 13:00 left in the second quarter, again with 8:24 left in the second quarter, at 4:12 of the second quarter and then just 56 seconds later, at 3:16. And because Penn State couldn’t cover anybody, the Buckeyes added another one on a 25-yard pass to Philly Brown with 3 seconds left in the second quarter.
“We ran that in practice…they ran a coverage we predicted,” Miller said. “I just threw it. I knew he would catch it.”
Ohio State even won a replay challenge late in the third quarter. When the score was 56-7.
It was a total mismatch, and with 105,889 on hand — the fourth-largest crowd in Ohio Stadium history — and several high-profile recruits among them, it was a good time for it. The current state of Ohio State football is very good. The long-term outlook is healthy, too. What happens the rest of the season remains to be seen, and Meyer will continue to try every trick in his book to keep his players focused on the next game.
“Things usually work out,” Meyer said. “I like where we are as a team.”
Maybe Ohio State won’t end up being good enough or lucky enough to play in the Big Game. The Buckeyes are clearly on the improve, though, and there’s a lot of season left.