BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The goal for Ohio State was to win a football game, not send a message.
But the Buckeyes could obviously do both at the same time. And it’s hard to ignore the statement it was making as it blitzed through the Big Ten opener with such ease on the road.
Ohio State wanted to prove its toughness, and it bullied Indiana in the trenches on both sides of the ball. It wanted to see how a new starting quarterback would handle life away from the Horseshoe, and he racked up four more touchdowns. The Buckeyes have been stressing a killer instinct, and they never let up in a 51-10 win they led from start to finish at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
“I think we showed dominance today,” Ohio State captain Chase Young said. “We just set the tone for Big Ten play coming up.”
There will be stiffer competition in conference play down the road for the two-time defending champs. But handling a division opponent like the Buckeyes did with such authority certainly puts the Big Ten on notice that the reigning kings aren’t going anywhere, and that’s just one lesson Lettermen Row learned from the trip to Indiana.
Chris Olave is do-it-all weapon for Ohio State
The emergence as a wide receiver was always expected for Chris Olave, and the hype for him started building a year ago during his first training camp at Ohio State. But where the sophomore has really become invaluable for the Buckeyes is on special teams, and that’s earning him the coveted comparisons to former glue guys like Evan Spencer and Terry McLaurin who would do anything to help the program. For the second time in his career, Olave unleashed his speed, timing and willingness to push himself on special teams to block a punt, following up on his famous play against Michigan last season by deflecting a kick at Indiana that resulted in a safety. Olave is only getting better, but he’s already one of the most important contributors for Ohio State.
Young Rushmen are ready to help Buckeyes
At some point, Ohio State is going to want to see what a full-strength defensive line actually looks like. But until Jonathon Cooper gets back in the lineup and Tyreke Smith is able to stay there, the Buckeyes are reaping the benefits of turning loose some young pass-rushers and getting them valuable experience to bolster the depth. True freshman Zach Harrison is arriving ahead of schedule, playing in key situations and getting his first career sack against the Hoosiers. Javontae Jean-Baptiste is growing into a role at defensive end along with Tyler Friday, and both of them chipped in sacks as well. It helps that Ohio State can build around Chase Young, obviously. But even with a couple key guys out of the lineup, Ohio State isn’t missing a beat.
Master Teague has big-play potential at Ohio State
The first year in the program was clearly a developmental period for Master Teague, and it has hard to tell during that stretch exactly what the Buckeyes had in him. With his size, strength and an affinity for contact, it seemed like he would be able to carve out a role as a short-yardage back heading into this season. But especially after an injury in training camp set him back, projecting much more required some imagination. But Teague is healthy now, and he’s proving that he put that time in the weight room, class room and practice field to good use. Teague looks more than capable of being the top complement to J.K. Dobbins off the bench, and Ohio State would be crazy not to use him for around 10 carries or so like it did against the Hoosiers. Maybe he won’t always turn them into 106 yards with a touchdown. But Teague has more big-play potential than he gets credit for, and he will absolutely help the Buckeyes moving forward.
Justin Fields has prolific off day for Buckeyes
A first-year starter is allowed to go through growing pains, especially on the road. But if that’s as rough as it gets when Justin Fields doesn’t have his best stuff, the rest of the Big Ten is in big trouble. Fields rushed a couple throws, seemed to be late on others and wasn’t happy with his footwork after missing on a handful of throws that could have made the made the final margin of victory even larger. But Fields still accounted for four touchdowns, still flashed his jaw-dropping athleticism running away from defenders and made it almost impossible for the Hoosiers to settle on a way to defend the Buckeyes. Can Fields play better? Absolutely, and that’s the good news for Ohio State.
Ohio State will be watching Blake Haubeil
There is plenty of faith at Ohio State that Blake Haubeil can be the kind of reliable kicker the program needs, even after a bad miss on Saturday. At the moment, it might not help him that he’s been getting relatively infrequent work on field goals in game settings. But when the competition inevitably gets tighter for a team with national-title aspirations, the Buckeyes are going to need to know they can count on him to connect from 32 yards. If there’s anything that happened against the Hoosiers that might stick in the back of Day’s mind as a negative as he prepares for the rest of the season, that missed kick might linger for him until he sees him string together a few made field goals in a row.