Led by redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett and sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Ohio State football team has broken school records and dominated its opponents.
One cannot help but wonder, though, how does the Barrett-Elliott combination compare to last year’s two-headed monster that was Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde?
First, let’s compare Barrett to Miller.
In his first five starts under coach Urban Meyer in 2012, Miller totaled 933 yards through the air, tallying eight passing scores to go along with three interceptions.
Barrett’s stats have been even more impressive.
Despite being named the starting quarterback a month after being listed as third on the depth chart, Barrett has accumulated 1,354 yards through the air, including 17 touchdowns and five interceptions.
But Meyer said Miller will still be the starting quarterback once he returns from injury.
“Braxton is our quarterback,” Meyer said Sept. 29. “To be fair to Braxton, (he was) Big Ten Player of the Year. Good to know we’ve got both of them.”
Meanwhile, Elliott, who has improved in games against Cincinnati and Maryland, has not put up the Hyde-like numbers Buckeye fans are used to seeing.
After sitting out the first three games of 2013 because of suspension stemming from an incident at a local bar, and seeing little time against Florida A&M, Hyde exploded during the rest of his senior campaign. In his first five games (not including the game against the Rattlers) he amassed 660 yards on the ground to go along with seven scores.
Elliott, who has put up back-to-back 100-plus-yard rushing games for the first time in his career, has totaled 462 yards on the ground in his first five starts as a Buckeye, while adding three scores.
Co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner said Sept. 29 that while he is pleased with Elliott’s production, he is not the same running back Hyde was when he donned the scarlet and gray.
“He’s playing with very low pad level and so he plays with great energy. He’s explosive,” Warinner said of Elliott. “And he finishes runs with great pad level. And he doesn’t want to make direct contact. He did the job you would want a Carlos Hyde to do (against Cincinnati). But he’s a different runner than Carlos.”
While the Miller-Hyde combo led the Buckeyes to an undefeated regular season in 2013, the Barrett-Elliott connection is helping produce a more balanced offense.
Following the 2013 campaign, the Buckeyes ranked fifth nationally in rushing offense while finishing 90th in pass offense.
The 2014 season has produced much different results so far as the Buckeyes currently rank 19th in rush offense and sit 36th in the country in pass offense.
Meyer said the Buckeyes strive for balance on offense.
“What I think is going on best is the balance right now. When you start looking up at the scoreboard and you see 250 or 300 (yards) each that’s a good sign,” Meyer said Wednesday. “The last two years have been kind of run-dominated, and to win those big games, you can’t be 220 run and 68 pass. You’re going to lose that game.”
While the Buckeyes have in fact lost a game with Barrett and Elliott occupying the backfield, the improvements being made since the embarrassing loss to Virginia Tech seem to be giving Buckeye players, coaches and fans hope for the future.
Meyer said that he is particularly happy with the offense’s recognition of certain coverages.
“I have to watch the videotape, but I think I’m impressed with the fact that ever since the Virginia Tech game we are really getting that bear zero coverage,” Meyer said following Saturday’s game against Maryland. “You start to see the quarterbacks, receivers and coaching staff get really excited and start making more aggressive calls.”
OSU is scheduled for a bye week before taking on Rutgers on Oct. 18 at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.