The Ohio State football team braved the elements, turnovers and a powerful Minnesota running attack to come away with its second straight win on the road over a ranked opponent Saturday in Minneapolis.
The Buckeyes, who moved up one spot in the Associated Press poll to No. 7, will now return to Columbus to take on an Indiana team that boasts the third-best rushing offense in the Big Ten.
But before the Buckeyes take on the Hoosiers, The Lantern sports editors have come up with a list of five takeaways from the 31-24 win in Minneapolis.
1. Redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett is having unprecedented success
There’s little chance anyone expected Barrett to be even close to as successful as he’s been this season, and even less of a chance anyone expected him to break rushing records set by injured senior quarterback Braxton Miller.
Against Minnesota, Barrett broke two Miller rushing records and stormed past his single-season total touchdown mark set in 11 full games played last year. Barrett’s 86-yard touchdown run in the first quarter broke Miller’s previous OSU quarterback long of 81 and his 189 total rushing yards set another school mark for a signal caller.
When Miller went down with a torn labrum during fall camp, many expected the Buckeyes to fall off on offense. But with the success Barrett has had, not only has OSU continued to produce, but its offense has been even better than in years past.
If he continues on the same pace, Barrett will probably finish with by far the best statistical season in OSU history.
2. The Buckeyes have been lucky, but must cut down on mistakes
The Golden Gophers scored three touchdowns. Each touchdown came directly after an OSU turnover.
Redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall fumbled twice — once on a sure touchdown — and Barrett threw an interception. Without those three plays not only would OSU have won by a wider margin, but it’s possible the Buckeyes would have pitched a shutout.
The only three real breakdowns for the OSU defense came after those three turnovers as the unit was strong from start to finish. If the team cuts down on mistakes — especially turnovers — it could compete with any other program in the nation.
3. OSU’s pass defense has turned a corner
Minnesota redshirt-sophomore quarterback Mitch Leidner isn’t a great player, but he’s no slouch either. The Buckeyes still made him look like one.
Leidner finished the day just seven of 19 on pass attempts for 85 yards while he tossed two interceptions. The number could have been even higher as the Buckeyes had multiple clear shots at picks.
Part of the credit has to go to the OSU pass rush, which sacked Leidner three times, but senior cornerback Doran Grant, sophomore safety Vonn Bell and the rest of the Buckeyes’ secondary have proved themselves capable of shutting down opposing aerial attacks.
4. But the Buckeyes’ run defense will need to improve
Of Minnesota’s 303 total yards of offense, 218 came on the ground. The Buckeye defense let senior running back David Cobb rush for 145 yards and all three of the Golden Gopher touchdowns Saturday afternoon.
This does not bode well for the future, as the Buckeyes are scheduled to take on the Indiana Hoosiers next week in a game that features Indiana junior running back Tevin Coleman, who rushed for 307 yards in a loss to Rutgers.
In addition, Wisconsin redshirt-junior running back Melvin Gordon broke the NCAA FBS record for rushing yards against Nebraska on Saturday, as he rushed for 408 yards in just three quarters of play.
Assuming both the Buckeyes and Badgers win out, Gordon could be running against the OSU defense in the Big Ten title game Dec. 6 in Indianapolis.
5. The Big Ten title game is (almost) a lock
Urban Meyer’s goal for his team to be playing for championships in November is almost a reality for the Buckeyes.
With a Buckeye win, and/or a Michigan State loss, OSU will appear in its second straight Big Ten title game.
Last season, the Buckeyes lost, 34-24, to the Spartans, ending their hopes at a national championship.
This year, it appears the Buckeyes will be heading back to Indianapolis with just Indiana and Michigan remaining on the regular season schedule.
Both games will be in Columbus, and neither opponent currently has a winning record.
The goal is in sight for OSU — now it just needs to finish, something it could not do last season.
The Buckeyes are set to return to action Saturday at noon against the Hoosiers at Ohio Stadium.