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Buckeyes staking claim as nation’s best, most complete team

Jeff Okudah-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah helped the Buckeyes post another blowout victory. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

Buckeyes staking claim as nation’s best, most complete team

COLUMBUS — Find a more dominant player than Ohio State defensive end Chase Young.

Good luck on that front after the junior superstar took a wrecking ball to Wisconsin with one of the more ridiculous pass-rushing performances anybody will ever see.

Find a better tailback than J.K. Dobbins.

There might actually be a couple candidates who could be in an argument with the Buckeyes bell-cow rusher. But after decisively winning what amounted to a head-to-head battle with touted Wisconsin tailback Jonathan Taylor, at a minimum Dobbins is cemented as the best in the Big Ten.

Find a more athletic cornerback than Jeff Okudah. A dual-threat quarterback with the toughness, poise and arm of Justin Fields. A coaching staff with a better ability to make in-game adjustments. A program clicking on all cylinders from the strength staff all the way through the recruiting efforts and academic support.

Find a more complete team than Ohio State after the 38-7 thrashing of No. 13 Wisconsin on Saturday at the Horseshoe. At this point it’s hard to imagine that one actually exists, and the Buckeyes have done everything they possibly could heading into November to prove to any remaining skeptics that they should be the No. 1 team in the country.

“This just goes to show you the potential and how tough we can be,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “I think we’re athletic, I think we’re talented. But when you come into the game like this and play this hard against this kind of a defense, coming off a loss for them and in this type of environment — to win like we did, I think it goes to show you how tough we are.

Ryan Day-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State coach Ryan Day has the Buckeyes rolling into the November stretch run. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

“I think it shows our capability. … We have the capability to play with anybody in the country.”

The Buckeyes obviously have the high-end potential to beat anybody in the nation as well, and it’s looking increasingly likely that they’ll get the chance to prove it in the College Football Playoff again. The way they’re rolling right now, it would take a massive upset for anybody in the Big Ten to dethrone the two-time defending conference champions — and the talent at every position is making them a legitimate candidate to be favored against any opponent in the semifinals.

College football is a wild, unpredictable game, of course. Upsets happen every week, as Ohio State found out in costly letdowns in each of the last two seasons and Oklahoma was reminded of on Saturday. There’s also a lot of football left in November, although the Buckeyes will have the benefit of an off date next week followed by what should be walk-through tuneups against Maryland and Rutgers as they try to get fully healthy for the first time this season.

But the Buckeyes are a scary bunch right now, especially because they didn’t have either Jonathon Cooper or Tyler Friday on the defensive line on Saturday — and Chase Young made up for it single-handedly with an epic four-sack, two-forced fumble demolition of the vaunted Wisconsin offensive line.

Ohio State left tackle Thayer Munford was clearly still limited by an ankle injury and senior wide receiver Austin Mack didn’t play. That hardly bothered Fields or Dobbins, with the quarterback accounting for three more touchdowns and the tailback racking up 221 scrimmage yards and two scores of his own.

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Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins was a dangerous offensive weapon again for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Even the coaching staff has seemingly elevated its approach, with Day notably juiced before kickoff as he challenged Ohio State to make a point against the Badgers that again showed he’s a more fiery motivator than he typically gets credit for on the sideline.

“Yeah, I think maybe it [felt] a little different,” Day said. “They were No. 13 in the country coming in, but we knew they were a very good team and coming off a loss. And it was raining. It was all those things combined. And it was one of those games where you felt like it was getting set up where all of a sudden you’re in the fourth quarter and it’s going to be a hard game.

“We knew that. So, we talked to our team about it. We challenged them and big-time players step up in big-time games. And a lot of big-time players did.”

Across the board, there are very few programs that can match the level of talent of the front-line players at Ohio State. But it’s not just Young or Okudah, Dobbins or Fields doing the work for the Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes are deep, talented and clearly hungry after coming up short over the last couple years. If there’s another squad that wants to measure themselves against that, Ohio State would surely welcome the challenge after an eighth-consecutive blowout win.

“Of course, every time we play we want to make a statement,” Fields said. “Of course, the other teams hear that we’re tough, they hear that we’re good, but we want to prove it. We want to go out on the field and prove it to them. So, I think the team played well on defense, offense and also special teams.

“I think the team definitely has more confidence now, but we can’t get complacent at all. We have to keep working.”

Find a team that still isn’t satisfied after this start or that win.

Keep searching. Right now, nobody in the country checks off more boxes than Ohio State.

Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.