Cus Words Week 10: Train Kept A Rollin'

Ohio State smoked Purdue, a win that did not do anything for the strength of schedule but was decisive enough to help open the eyes of some pundits who felt the Buckeyes had just been getting by. Now they have a week off to see what happens around the country.

The Buckeyes are taking this week off… and I was tempted to do the same. Not because I don't love writing about college football but rather for lack of a real solid column idea.

What was the No. 1 takeaway from Ohio State's 56-0 shellacking of Purdue? Boy… that's hard to say.

I suppose I'll have to lead with the focus angle. The Buckeyes certainly did not overlook the Boilermakers. They made quick work of Purdue, handling everything thrown at them on each side of the ball.

The backups even came in sharp, producing a pair of scoring drives before the sun had set in West Lafayette, which at least looked nice with the leaves on the trees all around Ross-Ade Stadium showing the colors of autumn.

I thought this might be a letdown risk, and I also expected more from Purdue.

I still like Danny Etling's arm talent, but he has a long way to go and needs a lot more help before anyone will mistake this team for a Joe Tiller late 1990s/early 2000s vintage.

With the Buckeyes shredding another overmatched opponent, there is almost a sense of wondering what might have been.

They lost some ground in the perception battle in September by taking only "average" victories from their nonconference foes, and it appears that territory might be lost for good.

As it appeared a few weeks ago, there is not much the Buckeyes can do to help themselves get into the BCS National Championship Game other than avoid losing, and that in and of itself won't be enough the way things stand today.

I still think there is good reason to think one, two or all three of the teams ranked ahead of Ohio State will lose before the season is over, but close doesn't count. Someone has to finish the job, perhaps LSU or Stanford this week.

One thing winning two games by an aggregate score of 119-7 might have done was erase any thoughts Baylor could still catch Ohio State or that a one-loss team (other than maybe Alabama, which probably gets some added benefit of the doubt from voters for being the defending national champions) could end up ahead of the Buckeyes even if Urban Meyer's crew remains undefeated.

I don't think that was ever as much of a concern as some made it out to be (such as on College GameDay a few weeks ago), but it doesn't hurt to put away the idea completely if possible.

And fair or not, burying whoever is in front of you in a pile of points seems to be the most effective way of doing that.


What we can expect to learn this week: This week the Buckeyes could make some gains while not playing as Alabama and Oregon both have strong conference tests they must pass.

The past week brought into even clearer focus that Ohio State can only do so much to help itself, but Michigan State's shellacking of Michigan was more positive than the opposite outcome would have been.

As I have been saying for a while, the best way the Big Ten can help the Buckeyes this season is to send a one-loss Michigan State team to Indianapolis to face Ohio State.

The Spartans picked up five spots in the BCS standings this week, and their veritable offensive explosion counts as a bonus for the Buckeyes. It was reasonable to think Michigan would have a hard time moving the ball against Michigan State, but 29 points far outpaced the expected offensive outcome for the Spartans.

Fair or not, that probably got the attention of pollsters more than putting yet another team in Mark Dantonio's defensive vice.

As much as I have been beating the drum for Michigan State being underrated… I also see that it's possible the Spartans' numbers are inflated by the state of offense in the Big Ten these days. They will get a good test from a bonafide Nebraska offense next week, though, so that could put some of those doubts away.

One can never really know for sure given the whims of college minds, but I don't see a big concern of a letdown with this Ohio State crew. I think they are legitimately locked in and know what they must do to accomplish their goals.

While we sometimes forget that asking a coach to turn the tide when a group of college-age kids have their mind in the wrong place is probably not realistic, there is a lot of evidence that Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have figured out how to do that more regularly than most of their peers.

So even if I have had a hard time deriving much from the Buckeyes trip to West Lafayette, it stands to reason the Ohio State coaching staff did not.

And this weekend is shaping up to be a good one to stay home, rest up and watch what carnage might unfold elsewhere.



Twitter: @MarcusHartman

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