25 words or fewer: Despite Ohio State's 16th straight win, the movie theme in its offensive room is Fahrenheit 500. The heat is on to reverse a "discombobulated" trajectory.

25 words or fewer

Despite Ohio State's 16th straight win, the movie theme in its offensive room isFahrenheit 451. The heat is on to reverse a "discombobulated" trajectory.

In the polls

Mississippi turned out to be top-ranked Ohio State's best friend, knocking off No. 2 Alabama on a day when poll voters likely were poised to unseat the offense-challenged Buckeyes. Instead, OSU stayed a strong No. 1 in both polls, while Michigan State leaped to No. 2 in the Associated Press media poll and to No. 3 in the coaches' poll behind No. 2 Texas Christian.

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Who's hot?

Darron Lee. The sophomore linebacker literally took matters into his own hands, jumping a wide screen pass, making the interception and returning it 41 yards with a nice diagonal move for the touchdown that gave Ohio State some breathing room. Talk about picking his spots: Lee has been credited with just 12 tackles, but he's had 21/2 sacks, one forced fumble, one quarterback hurry, the pick-six and what amounted to an assist on Vonn Bell's fumble return for a TD against Hawaii.

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Who's not hot?

Both quarterbacks. Cardale Jones got the sixth straight start, was yanked after a mediocre first quarter (two interceptions) in favor of J.T. Barrett, and this time Barrett finished the game. Beyond the touchdown pass he threw to Michael Thomas in the second quarter to tie the score, though, Barrett (one interception) also struggled in the spark department as the offense as a whole wrestled with a Northern Illinois defense that played an odd-man front it hadn't shown the first two games. The Buckeyes are 104th nationally in passing yards (176.7 per game), shades of the inept days from four and five years ago.

What went right?

The Ohio State defensive plan for a third straight game. The Buckeyes, bolstered by the play of their front four, kept talented Huskies quarterback Drew Hare off balance all day. A team that was averaging 374.5 yards passing going in was held to 80, which included interceptions by Lee and Eli Apple, the first suffered by Hare this year. Ohio State is No. 5 nationally in total defense (225.0-yard average), No. 5 in passing yards allowed (119.0) and No. 4 in pass defense efficiency. And the Buckeyes have done that against two straight pass-happy opponents that have been held under 100 yards in the air.

Back to the drawing board

That's what the offensive coaches have had to do the past two games when the opposing defense offered the unexpected. The Buckeyes' problems were further skewed by five turnovers, including lost fumbles by Ezekiel Elliott and Curtis Samuel that blunted promising drives. More troubling is that Hawaii and Northern Illinois - neither known for shut-down defense - were able to keep Braxton Miller, Samuel, Jalin Marshall and Elliott from breaking off a big one. Without those explosive plays, the OSU offense looks quite so-so.

Dinged up

No injuries were reported.

Catch that?

Because of poor clock management and the inability to gain a first down after getting the ball back with 2:52 left, the Buckeyes punted back to the Huskies with 1:34 to play. The game was put back in the hands of the OSU defense, and when defensive tackle Michael Hill - a fast-rising contributor - forced a bad pass from Hare on third-and-10 followed by a pass breakup by nickel back Cam Burrows, the deed was done.

Up next

It's another attack from the MAC, with Western Michigan (1-2) coming to Ohio Stadium to meet the Buckeyes for the first time. But it will be a homecoming of sorts for third-year coach P.J. Fleck, whose first job was as a graduate assistant under Jim Tressel at OSU in 2006. Fleck turned Western Michigan from 1-11 his first season to 8-5 last year. Like Northern Illinois, the Broncos, losers to Michigan State and Georgia Southern the first two weeks, used FCS Murray State as the warm-up for OSU. They beat the Racers 52-20, gaining 628 yards, with 355 coming on the passing of Zach Terrell, who was 25 of 30 with four TDs.

This week's challenge

Crank up the offense. Whether that means settling on one quarterback is up to coach Urban Meyer. Bottom line: The Buckeyes are 75th nationally in total offense (411.0-yard average). Of late, a team that was expected to showcase one of the more potent attacks in history has had more fizzle than sizzle.