Prior to Monday night’s game, The Lantern sports editor and assistant sports editor Ryan Cooper and Kevin Stankiewicz gave their five things to look at during the matchup between Ohio State and Virginia Tech.
OSU would go on to win the game 42-24.
Here is a look back at the five things to watch for before the game and how the Buckeyes played out Monday night at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Who is going to win the battle on the outside?
Junior Michael Thomas, the Buckeyes’ top wide receiver, was victorious in the one-on-one battle against the Hokies’ top cornerback, junior Kendall Fuller.
Fuller — a preseason all-America selection — looked like he was keeping Thomas in check for most of the first half, allowing Thomas to make only one reception for 20 yards.
Unfortunately for Fuller, things began to unravel in the fourth quarter after he was flagged for pass interference near the goal line after Thomas blew past him on a fly route.
On the following offensive possession for the Buckeyes, Fuller surrendered a 26-yard touchdown from redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett — who was in the game after the starter, redshirt junior Cardale Jones, was pulled due to OSU’s large lead.
Fuller’s coverage of Thomas — like the rest of Virginia Tech’s play — was strong in the first half but deteriorated during the second half.
This matchup between two potential first-round picks in the 2016 NFL draft was won by the player donning scarlet and gray.
Without Bosa, what now?
With all-American junior defensive end Joey Bosa suspended for the season opener, coach Urban Meyer and the rest of his staff needed other players to step up.
The two players who took the majority of the reps at the vacated defensive end spot played well.
Sophomore Jalyn Holmes saw the field sparingly in 11 games for the Buckeyes in 2014. He made the most of his increased role on Labor Day night.
The Norfolk, Virginia, native did his best to minimize the effect of Bosa’s absence, as he finished the night with six total tackles and a crucial forced fumble.
Redshirt freshman Sam Hubbard split time with Holmes, and he was almost equally disruptive.
He finished the game with four tackles, including one sack for a five-yard loss.
The former high school safety-turned-defensive end put pressure on both of Virginia Tech’s quarterbacks all night.
Hubbard was pleased with his collegiate debut and the way he stepped up.
“It was definitely big for my confidence,” he said. “I was glad I was able to do my job.”
Braxton will get the ball. But how?
Redshirt senior Braxton Miller was nothing short of spectacular in his debut as an H-back.
He stuffed the stat sheet, ending the game with two receptions for 78 yards and one touchdown to go along with 62 more yards on the ground and another trip to the end zone.
Miller’s first trip to the end zone came by way of a 54 yard catch-and-run after Jones found him near the sideline early in the third quarter.
The former quarterback ran a lot of conventional pass routes — out of both the slot and outside the hashmarks — against the Hokies. Whether or not he was developed enough as a route runner was a question mark heading into the game.
Miller also lined up in the backfield to the side of the quarterback in a more conventional tailback position, as well as taking direct snaps in the wildcat formation.
It out was out of the wildcat that the former two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year found the end zone for a second time after a dazzling 53 yard run that included a tornado-like spin move to avoid two would-be tacklers.
After a yearlong absence from the field, Miller returned to make more of the plays that filled highlight reels during his first three seasons in Columbus.
His teammates are glad to have him back making those plays in a variety of ways.
“It’s really cool to have him back,” senior left tackle Taylor Decker said. “It’s been awhile since we’ve seen those ‘wow’ plays out of him and we are just excited to have B-Mill back.”
Farris joins the “Slobs”
With four of five starters from last year’s national championship offensive line unit back for another year, redshirt senior Chase Farris was the lone replacement on the line.
Farris — who stood in at the right tackle position formerly filled by now-Baltimore Raven Darryl Baldwin — earned rave reviews from one of the players he was blocking for.
“He did great,” junior running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “That’s a guy we never worried about, had a great spring and played a good amount last year. He held his own today, and he played really well.”
With the Elyria, Ohio, native’s help, OSU rushed for a whopping 360 yards and three touchdowns, including 124 yards from Elliott and 102 from Jones, and three rushing touchdowns.
Last season, Virginia Tech averaged just under 145 rushing yards allowed per game, 39th in the nation.
The Buckeyes were able to complete touchdown runs of 80 and 53 yards, with the latter receiving a direct contribution on a strong block from Farris allowing Miller to get past the line.
Last season, the Hokies sacked Barrett seven times. On Monday, Jones and Barrett were not sacked once.
How much will the home crowd play into things?
With the first No. 1 team to ever play in Lane Stadium in town, the Virginia Tech faithful did not disappoint.
Between the traditional playing of “Enter Sandman” reportedly registering on the Richter scale and the Hokies being willed back into the game by the crowd after a deflating start, the stadium was erupting for about two and a half quarters straight.
However, the Buckeyes would not be intimidated. In fact, when Jones ran out on the field for OSU’s first offensive series, he motioned to the crowd to get louder.
“It was a hostile environment, definitely one of the top environments I ever played in,” Jones said, though he added that he has only started four games.
Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis echoed his teammate’s thoughts that while the crowd was scary, OSU did not get rattled.
“We weren’t distracted at all,” Lewis said. “This is something we’ve all trained for … We had to do what we had to do.”