Unlike the NFL, college football does not include a slate of preseason exhibitions to prepare its teams for the “real” season. Or does it? Ohio State’s opener had many trappings of a professional cash-grab game, at least after the first eight minutes. A big lead devolved into big questions, especially with a legitimate opponent arriving next week. Leaves are awarded on a zero-to-five basis.

Offense (3)

OSU’s start could have been measured in lightning bolts — four touchdowns in 13 plays covering 200 yards and 8 minutes, 10 seconds. Then the storm passed and the Buckeyes settled in — too far in, it turns out, with seven straight empty possessions. Today’s lesson: Superior + inferior + decent = good but not great.

Defense (3)

While the Ohio State offense hit every pitch it saw (for extra bases!) in the first part of the first quarter, the defense made web-gem plays for the entirety of the first half. Florida Atlantic had two first downs and minus-14 total yards at halftime. Unsustainable, yes, and the Buckeyes made sure with an uninspired second half.

Special teams (3)

Not much to see here, really, though Demario McCall made a big play in the nine-minute window when the outcome was decided — a 35-yard punt return to set up Ohio State’s second TD. Beyond that, kickoff and punt units did their part to ensure that the Buckeyes routinely won the field-position battles.

Coaching (3)

Let’s acknowledge this much: If the circumstances had been reversed — if the Buckeyes played in a funk at the start and then rallied with flawless, precision football — the howls would be deafening. That doesn’t excuse the letdown, but it gave Ryan Day and his staff plenty of ammunition in the film room in the coming days.

Fun (2)

There’s no party until the deejay arrives, so it seems Ohio Stadium’s time has come — finally — as a proper entertainment venue. On the other hand, football still draws citizenry to the Horseshoe, and the big crowd reveled in the opening acts, then turned into 100K Silent Bobs. Man, but people do dig that four-way Script Ohio.

Opponent (2)

Ohio State’s jackrabbit start, combined with Florida Atlantic’s decision to begin in a sack race, looked like it would make a great day for snark: The Buckeyes were going to put the Ow in Owls, you can’t spell FAILURE without FAU, etc. But Lane Kiffin’s team hung in and outscored OSU in the second half. Building blocks, ya know.

Officiating (3)

There was one egregious miss by the crew, when McCall was destroyed by FAU’s Akileis Leroy after catching a second-quarter pass and going to the ground. Ain’t nothing but a late hit, and likely targeting. Otherwise, replay twice intruded on the proceedings, and thankfully led to two misses overturned.

rstein@dispatch.com