Let us begin with the quarterback who is (kind of, sort of) no longer a quarterback, because what Braxton Miller did last night in the third quarter of Ohio State’s 42-24 victory over Virginia Tech is no doubt the GIF du jour (if not the GIF of the season), an apex of balletic athleticism that sent Kirk Herbstreit and thousands of tweeting hacks grasping to recall their go-to PlayStation buttons.
Miller was the player who broke open the game for the Buckeyes last night, after a first half during which they were outscored 17-14. And so it’s understandable that Miller, who wound up with 140 yards and two touchdowns on eight touches, is the talk of the moment, but the thing about Ohio State is exactly what we both feared and anticipated: They are potentially the most explosive and multifaceted college football offense we’ve seen in at least 20 years. I’m not screwing around with that proclamation: It is legitimately possible that the top three finishers in the Heisman Trophy race might all wind up playing on the same team.
The astounding thing is that Virginia Tech actually managed to play pretty solid defense against the Buckeyes for the better part of three quarters. The other astounding thing is that the Buckeyes were without a handful of suspended starters (including three wide receivers) on offense, and in the end it hardly mattered, because as soon as Virginia Tech lost starting quarterback Michael Brewer to a broken collarbone, the Buckeyes pounced. At halftime, there were desperate cries on my television screen insisting that the Buckeyes were not pounding the ball enough behind sculpted running back Ezekiel Elliott, and they needed to get the ball in Elliott’s hands, and yadda yadda yadda, but you know what? That was kind of dumb, because A) It’s pretty clear that Urban Meyer knows what the hell he’s doing at this point, and B) Ohio State does not need to do anything, because shit, Ohio State can do everything. (Oh, and Elliott did only wind up with 11 carries, but he still had 122 yards.)
I mean, is anyone really that surprised that Meyer chose to start Cardale Jones over J.T. Barrett? Respect to Barrett, who would start for pretty much any other team in the country, but Cardale Jones is a mythical creature, big and strong and fast and blessed with the sort of arm that demands a warning label, the kind of dude who makes mistakes sometimes but atones for them by doing things that overwhelm our notions of common sense. And so it was in the third quarter, when Jones, with two defenders closing on his face, managed to hurl a doggone jump pass 30 yards into the hands of a wide-open receiver. It was an insane throw, and it was a brilliant throw. How is that possible? This is Ohio State in 2015: Everything is possible. Against a very good defense, they averaged more than 10 yards per play.
Who’s left on the Buckeyes’ schedule? Who could throw a wrench into the works? This is thing: Probably no one. The Big Ten (with the possible exception of Michigan State) is not equipped to handle this; the Big Ten (as an overarching entity) has none of this explosiveness, none of this ability to engage with a Buckeye team that will put up prodigious amounts of points on a weekly basis. At this moment, Ohio State is toying with us, in the way that Meyer spent the entire offseason toying with our expectations, refusing to name a starting quarterback and managing to lure Braxton Miller back by promising that he would be yet another weapon for a team that has a handful of them.
Until the College Football Playoff commences, there are no opponents for Ohio State outside of Ohio State. There are Buckeyes all over the field, engaging in vigorous on-field absurdities, defying logic, morphing into pixels and haunting our hopes and dreams. Everything is possible, and nothing can make it stop.
Michael Weinreb is the author of Season of Saturdays: A History of College Football in 14 Games, now out in paperback. You can find him on Twitter @michaelweinreb