Ohio State is undefeated. In fact, Ohio State hasn’t lost a game since last September. Ohio State has 10 wins in 10 tries this season and the No. 3 ranking in the College Football Playoff.
So why all the hate?
The Buckeyes rolled over Illinois on Saturday, crushing the Illini to the tune of 28-3. That kind of blowout is typically cause for celebration, and it probably was inside the Ohio State locker room. But on social media and in the opinions of pundits across the country, the nearly four-touchdown win earned nothing but criticism.
Expectations have caused problems for the Buckeyes this season. Every time Ohio State hasn’t been winning a game by 40, every time a drive stalls, every time a bad pass is thrown, many in the college football world deem the team to be broken, to be undeserving of its ranking and to be “not that good.”
And it’s true that, at times, the Buckeyes have certainly not played up to their potential. The ugly performance against Northern Illinois comes to mind.
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But the problem is the word “potential.” After defeating Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon in three straight postseason games last winter en route to a national-championship win, this team was predicted in the preseason to be one of the best in recent memory. With three star quarterbacks, a favorite running back, a great offensive line and a top-flight defense, this was expected to be one of college football’s super teams, a team that would bulldoze every challenger that got in its way, swatting the opposition away like a fly.
That isn’t exactly what’s happened. But it’s also not that far off.
No, Ohio State doesn’t put up the eye-popping point totals each week like Baylor does. But the Buckeyes still score an awful lot, 36.4 points per game, leading the Big Ten in scoring offense.
No, Ohio State doesn’t have far and away the country’s best defense. But it has one of the country’s best defenses, ranking second in the nation in scoring defense (13.8 points allowed a game) and ninth in total defense (298.4 yards allowed a game).
No, Ezekiel Elliott isn’t running away with the Heisman. But he’s certainly one of the frontrunners, ranking third in the FBS with 1,425 rushing yards. His 181 yards in Saturday’s win marked his 15th straight game with a triple-digit rushing total and moved him into third on Ohio State’s all-time rushing list.
That all seems pretty good.
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Then there’s the biggest marker by which folks seem to be directing their complaints. Ohio State isn’t dominating its opponents, they say. Well, actually, the Buckeyes have won their 10 games by an average of 22.6 points. That’s better than three touchdowns. A three-touchdown deficit is a pretty tough thing to overcome, and the Buckeyes are boasting that, on average, on a weekly basis. Ohio State has scored 34 points or more in seven of its 10 wins, scoring 28 in two others. Only two wins have come by fewer than two touchdowns.
It’s not dominating in the hyperbolic sense of the word, perhaps, and no one is arguing that Ohio State has been the most dominant team this season or that it’s a team without flaws. But one thing the Buckeyes don’t deserve is constant criticism for not living up to impossible expectations. No, it didn’t turn out to be one of the most eye-popping seasons in college football history, but it still has a very good chance of ending in a national championship, which would be a second straight for those scoring at home.
No, Ohio State doesn’t have one of college football’s hardest schedules. But most of the games Ohio State was supposed to win in blowout fashion, it has won in blowout fashion. Plus, the final two weeks of the regular season will pit the Buckeyes against two ranked teams in Michigan State and Michigan, and if they win both games, they’ll likely meet an undefeated Iowa team in the Big Ten title game. Win all three, and there might not exist a team that can boast a better resume.
The truth is that Ohio State has blown out opponents plenty this season. And just because the games aren’t over in the first five minutes doesn’t mean the Buckeyes are undeserving of their ranking. We’ll see in the coming weeks if Ohio State is capable of doing the same against higher-quality competition.
Until then, Ohio State is 10-0.