COLUMBUS — Who would have imagined following the first two games of the 2014 season that Ohio State would be right back in the college football playoff hunt a little more than a month later?
After stumbling out of the gates with a narrow (unimpressive) victory over Navy, and a loss to less-than-stellar Virginia Tech, the No. 13 Buckeyes (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) have been on a massacre, pummeling their opponents in the four weeks since by nearly 40 points per game.
The youthful Buckeyes have scored more that 50 points in each of the past four games, and are only getting better and more efficient every time out.
More importantly, according OSU head coach Urban Meyer, the young Bucks are believing in themselves. Their expectations as a team are to be great.
"I love coaching this team," Meyer said Monday, during his weekly media luncheon in Columbus. "When I look at our champions, I see Nick Vannett, J.T. Barrett, I want that mentality. If our expectations are higher than the players themselves, that's a problem. That happens a lot. But I love the responses (of the players).
"I enjoy coming to work every day when you have a team like that."
The Buckeyes are continuing to get incredible results out of freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, as he threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-17 romp of Rutgers last Saturday. He also added 107 yards and two scores on the ground in the win, including a remarkable 33-yard TD scamper in the second half, which was extremely Braxton Miller-like.
"A lot of times quarterbacks on a drop back pass, when it's not there, a lot of times you will scramble. That's kind of instinctive," Meyer said. "When a screen is not there, that's when you see guys twitch, panic. If you throw it down the field, it's a legal man down field. There's all kinds of issues. I credit (offensive coordinator) Tom Herman.
"That's not by accident. Those are well coached players that understand the game. That was an impressive play. They dropped eight guys into coverage right to the screen. (Barrett) put his foot in the ground and went north/south. That's good stuff."
Barrett and the Buckeyes may have their greatest challenge to date this Saturday night, when they travel to Happy Valley for a Big Ten showdown with Penn State (4-2, 1-2).
The Nittany Lions boast the sixth-ranked defense in the nation, and are especially stingy against the run, surrendering just 60.8 yards per game — tops in the FBS.
"Number one rush defense in the country," Meyer said of Penn State. "Very well coached up front. Good personnel up front. Tough guy (Mike) Hull, tight middle linebacker. Real active. I think he leads the team in tackles. They do a very nice job. Number one in America against the run."
Penn State is the best in the nation against the run, while the Buckeyes have rushed for 260 yards per game — 16th in FBS.
Something has got to give. And that "something" may be the multiple talents of Barrett.
Only nine players in the nation have averaged more in total offense per game than the Buckeyes' young signal caller — and none of which the Nittany Lions have faced this season.
Look for the Buckeyes' offense to overwhelm the Nittany Lions attack with an aerial and ground assault of the caliber which they have yet to see.
The Buckeyes extend their 50-point scoring mark to five games with a huge win over host Penn State.
Lee's Prediction: OSU 52-20