No. 1 Ohio State sends loud message: Catch us if you can

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Ohio State sends loud message: Catch us if you can

No. 1 Ohio State sent a loud message to the rest of the nation Monday night: Catch us if you can.

[ MORE: Get Tom Dienhart’s Best of Week 1 | Ohio State gallery ]

After the Buckeyes’ complete road demolition of Virginia Tech, it’s difficult to envision many teams being able to stand shoulder to shoulder with them this season.

This 42-24 win avenges Ohio State’s 35-21 loss at home to Virginia Tech last season, the lone defeat for the Buckeyes during a run to the national championship that saw OSU win 13 in a row.

The Buckeyes dominated every phase of the game, out gaining Virginia Tech, 572-320. Most devastating: 360 yards rushing, gaining 9.7 yards per tote.

The winning streak is now 14. And there’s a good shot the Buckeyes could push it to 23 by starting 10-0 with Michigan State coming to Columbus on Nov. 21 for a potentially huge showdown.

Up next for Ohio State is a visit from Hawaii, followed by home games vs. Northern Illinois and Western Michigan. Then, Big Ten play begins with a trip to Indiana, visits from Maryland and Penn State, a trip to Rutgers, a home tilt vs. Minnesota and a game at Illinois before Michigan State comes to Columbus. And the season ends at Michigan, which will be Jim Harbaugh’s first crack at Ohio State with a shot to perhaps trash the Buckeyes’ perfect season. Interesting.

But, that’s weeks away. Let’s stay in this glorious moment and soak up the awesomeness that is Ohio State. This was a devastatingly impressive effort by the Buckeyes, who finally revealed their starting quarterback: Cardale Jones over J.T. Barrett.

And, Jones looked good, hitting 9-of-18 passes for 186 yards with two touchdowns and a pick. Jones also ran 13 times for 99 yards and a score before giving way late to Barrett, a redshirt freshman sensation in 2014 who started the first 12 games before injury ended his season and Jones took over to guide OSU to the summit in an improbable three-game run.

Ohio State was thought to be at a disadvantage coming to Blacksburg without four key players who were suspended: defensive end Joey Bosa, wideout Corey Smith and H-backs Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson. Laughable.

While things looked a bit dicey after Ohio State saw a 14-0 lead morph into a 17-14 deficit at halftime, the Buckeyes quickly regained control in the second half and never looked back.

The debut of ex-quarterback Braxton Miller at wideout/H-back was a major storyline and welcomed addition to help smooth over any personnel shortcomings Ohio State may have worried about tonight. The two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year was sensational. He ran six times for 62 yards and a score and caught two passes for 78 yards and a score. Miller’s 53-yard TD scamper in the third quarter was one for the ages, as he executed a gravity-defying 360 that caused a collective gasp in Lane Stadium. That play will be replayed at least 12,437 times this season on highlight shows. Get used to seeing it.

Wait until Marshall, Wilson and Smith are folded into tonight’s crop of wideouts/H-backs that was led by Miller and Michael Thomas. It’s a devastating array of weapons for Jones to throw to and hand off to.

And don’t forget about perhaps the best Buckeye of all: running back Ezekiel Elliott, the nation’s top Heisman contender who ran 303 times for 2,140 yards and 20 TDs last year. Tonight, Elliott carried 11 times for 122 yards, including an 80-yard TD sprint in the first half behind a monster offensive line.

Is there any way Ohio State won’t be in the four-team playoff? If it doesn’t happen, it will be a huge surprise. The Buckeyes look to be the closest thing to a sure thing in the nation and the clear front-runner to win it all once again.

The Buckeyes’ biggest obstacle may be fighting complacency and staying hungry while taking the best shot of every team each week.

Catch them if you can.

***

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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