Will Big Ten schedule be a breeze for Ohio State football? | Reporters roundtable
Editor's note: After each Ohio State football game, beat reporters Joey Kaufman and Bill Rabinowitz discuss the lasting storylines and other key developments.
Ohio State opened Big Ten play with a bang on Saturday night, pummeling Wisconsin in a dominant 52-21 win.
The scene was far different from the teams’ last meeting in Indianapolis in the Big Ten championship game in 2019.
When they vied for the conference crown three years ago, the Badgers were far more competitive and built a 21-7 halftime lead before a late comeback from the Buckeyes.
In Saturday’s matchup, Ohio State got off to a hot start. It scored touchdowns on each of its first four possessions and went ahead 28-0 early in the second quarter.
Wisconsin might be declining as a power in the Big Ten West, but there are few questions about the Buckeyes’ class in the conference.
Kaufman: The expectation was this matchup would serve as a measuring stick of Ohio State’s toughness, a quality that has been in question ever since November’s loss to Michigan. But the Buckeyes handled themselves well in the trenches against a physical opponent. They had two 100-yard rushers and kept Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen quiet for most of the night.
Rabinowitz: Allen had 165 yards, but that's quite misleading. He had a 75-yard touchdown run against backups that padded his number. Ohio State held him in check when it mattered. Ohio State's offensive line repeatedly pushed back Wisconsin's front four for TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams. C.J. Stroud and his receivers did the rest.
Kaufman: I’m not sure Wisconsin is as formidable on the defensive side of the ball as past seasons. Jack Sanborn is no longer apart of that linebacker corps. But the particular personnel aside, Jim Leonhard’s defense has never been overwhelmed like it was against the Buckeyes. The 51 points were the most it’s allowed since Leonhard was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2017. In the three times Ryan Day went up against his unit, Ohio State scored 38, 34 and 27 points. An offensive showing like that can’t be taken for granted.
Rabinowitz: This is certainly not a vintage Wisconsin team, but the Badgers are stuck in the past. They need to get a modern passing game with a competent quarterback. But enough about them. Watching OSU crush Wisconsin after seeing several Big Ten games earlier in the day made it starkly clear that the Buckeyes are the team to beat in the conference. Michigan struggled with Maryland and even Penn State needed the second half to put away Central Michigan.
Kaufman: Lest we should forget Michigan State, which might be the most disappointing team in the Big Ten East through the first month. The Spartans were hammered at home by Minnesota a week after losing at Washington. The Mel Tucker era in East Lansing hasn’t been much without Kenneth Walker III, who’s now in the NFL. (Tucker is 10-2 with Walker and 5-7 without him.) The Buckeyes’ road opener in two weeks appears far less formidable.
Rabinowitz: Before the season, the game in East Lansing looked like a tough one. But the Spartans don't have much of an offense and their secondary is brutal. We're already looking past this week's game against Rutgers, which is understandable. The Scarlet Knights have never given the Buckeyes a scare and seem unlikely to this week. OSU is a 41-point favorite.
Kaufman: The quarterback situation at Rutgers is fairly dire at the moment. It was down to its third-string quarterback in Evan Simon last week. Simon was also its only available scholarship passer. If the Buckeyes are going to be in any jeopardy in the coming weeks, it’ll be because an opponent takes advantage of the back end of their secondary. Ohio State was without its top three cornerbacks against Wisconsin, and even when its secondary has been closer to full strength, it’s still been susceptible to the deep ball.
Rabinowitz: I wonder if Derek McCord — Kyle's dad — has any eligibility left at Rutgers. He was a quarterback there more than 30 years ago. I'm not sure any time would be a good time for Rutgers to be playing Ohio State, but now seems a particularly bad time. The Scarlet Knights' defense has been pretty decent so far and will have to be outstanding if this is to be at all competitive.
Kaufman: All that makes for a pretty ideal homecoming opponent for the Buckeyes, eh?
Rabinowitz: I assume Rutgers is always their opponents' homecoming game. I do think former Buckeye assistant Greg Schiano will get it going there, and the Scarlet Knights are 3-1. But they're not close to Ohio State's level.