There were high expectations for the Ohio State football team coming into the 2014 season, but after star quarterback Braxton Miller was lost for the year after suffering a shoulder injury in fall camp, the Buckeyes' college football playoff hopes took a serious hit.
Those hopes took a potentially fatal blow in Week 2, when the Virginia Tech Hokies upset Ohio State 35-21 in Columbus.
But a trio of consecutive blowouts have the Buckeyes back on track heading into their second and final bye week of the season.
Here are three notable statistics after Ohio State's first five games.
J.T. Barrett's Video Game Numbers
When Miller went down for the season, it was redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett who emerged over Cardale Jones for the Buckeyes' starting quarterback spot.
Through five games, Barrett has been sensational—completing 66.2 percent of his passes for 1,354 yards and 17 touchdowns against five interceptions. He also has 276 rushing yards—which ranks second on the team behind Ezekiel Elliott—with another two scores on the ground.
But Barrett's strength is in the passing game. Not only is he leading the Big Ten in passing touchdowns, but he also currently ranks No. 4 in the country in overall passing efficiency. That's a remarkable accomplishment for the first-year signal-caller, especially after his abysmal performance against Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes were blasted by the Hokies, and Barrett completed just 31 percent of his passes and threw three picks in the game.
He has bounced back nicely, though, and he has the Buckeyes playing at a high level.
Michael Thomas' Team-Leading Receiving Numbers
Without Carlos Hyde and four multi-year senior starters along the offensive line, Urban Meyer wanted the Buckeyes to shift their offensive philosophy to take advantage of an abundance of talent on the perimeter.
With player such as Dontre Wilson, Devin Smith and longtime contributor Evan Spencer, Barrett has plenty of options when he drops back to pass.
His best option so for has been Michael Thomas.
The redshirt sophomore out of Los Angeles, California has been the breakout star for the Buckeyes. Thomas currently leads the team in receptions (17) and receiving yards (322) and is tied for the team lead with Devin Smith in touchdown receptions (five).
His sudden emergence was a welcome development for Meyer, who watched as Thomas' career got off to a slow start.
"He was a mistake guy," Meyer said of Thomas, according to Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch. "Every third play he’d screw up. That’s why last year he wasn’t ready to play. That was really hard for him last year.”
Those struggles appear to be behind Thomas, and Ohio State is much better because of it.
Ohio State's Lack of Sacks
After Meyer told Doug Lesmerises of the Northeast Ohio Media Group that Ohio State's defensive line had the potential to be as good as his one at Florida in 2006—which dismantled the Buckeyes in the '07 title game—the hype surrounding the unit peaked.
Stocked with three potential first-round NFL draft picks, Ohio State's defensive line was supposed to help a rebuilt secondary by getting after the quarterback. Before the season kicked off, the group was touted as one of the best—if not the best—defensive lines in the country.
But through five games, the Buckeyes are averaging just 2.4 sacks per game, which is tied for 47th in the country.
The Buckeyes are certainly missing Noah Spence—a star defensive end who was suspended indefinitely after testing positive for his second drug test in September.
Joey Bosa has been a consistent presence in the backfield of Ohio State's opponents, piling up 3.5 sacks on the season, according to Ohio State's official website. But no other defensive lineman has recorded more than one sack through five games, as the team has just 12 total on the year.
There's still time for the unit to turn things around, but it's definitely off to a slower start than most had anticipated.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats via NCAA.com.
David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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Week 6 was one for the ages in college football as a number of upsets created a major shakeup in the latest Amway Coaches Poll.
Starting with Oregon's loss on Thursday, the weekend featured 11 losses by ranked teams, including five squads among the top eight. Meanwhile, the teams that pulled off these upsets, like Ole Miss and Mississippi State, shot up near the top of the polls for the upcoming week.
While this is going to cause a change in expectations for the College Football Playoff, there are still a bunch of overlooked teams through this point in the season. These squads have proven themselves on the field but are still not getting the credit they deserve in the latest polls.
No. 6 Mississippi State
After last weekend's fireworks, there are only nine remaining undefeated teams in college football. Three of those teams come from the SEC West, which makes it no surprise the division still has five teams ranked in the top 15.
However, the question remains why Mississippi State comes into Week 7 ranked sixth. Obviously, someone has to be the odd man out with so many quality teams at the top, but it should not be the Bulldogs after what they have shown this season.
Mississippi State has won all five of its games this year by an average of 23.2 points per game. Over the last two weeks, the squad has won at LSU and home against Texas A&M, both of which came in convincing fashion. The team was up at least three touchdowns in each contest before late touchdowns made the games close.
Dan Wolken of USA Today believes the latest ranking was way too low for the SEC squad:
Besides Notre Dame, you can question the merit of putting Baylor at No. 3 despite not facing a single ranked opponent this season.
Obviously, Mississippi State is not used to complaining about being too low and is usually happy to be ranked at all. Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press notes this is the highest the school has ever been in the polls:
Still, this team has proven to be one of the best in the nation and deserves to be ranked as such. With a home game against No. 2 Auburn coming up, the squad will have a chance to move up even more next week.
No. 11 Oregon
Oregon was certainly disappointed to drop a game to a conference opponent at home, but head coach Mark Helfrich remained upbeat the day after the loss:
The biggest thing is the spirit of the team and the guys they have the willingness to do something about it and they did. Everyone was in good spirits this morning, as good as could be expected in the situation. Again have to give Arizona a ton of credit but there was a lot of stuff in this game that makes it that much more of a bitter pill to swallow in terms of self-inflicted wounds and some of the mistakes we made.
Between two lost fumbles and a 4-of-14 mark on third downs, there was certainly a lot to be upset about. However, this is still one of the best teams in the nation with arguably college football's top player in Marcus Mariota.
After seeing many other top teams lose on Saturday, the Ducks had to feel better about remaining in the playoff hunt. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case after dropping from No. 4 to No. 11 in the rankings.
Oregon is currently behind four other one-loss teams in the Coaches Poll, two of which do not have a win over a ranked team all season. Another one, Michigan State, lost directly to the Ducks 46-27. Putting the Spartans three spots ahead of a team with the same record that they lost to does not make much sense.
While the Ducks might have had a disappointing loss, it came against a quality opponent in Arizona (which is still undefeated). Considering they also have the best win among the one-loss teams, they should be ranked higher than they are.
The Pac-12 is going to be a fight all season long, but Oregon remains a national title contender and should get that chance by winning out.
No. 16 Kansas State
While seemingly every team in the nation dealt with its own craziness on Saturday, Kansas State avoided trouble, as noted by CBS Sports:
Jake Waters posted another incredible performance against Texas Tech, throwing four touchdown passes on 290 yards while also adding 105 and a score on the ground. The quarterback has turned himself into a Heisman candidate with his dual-threat ability while turning Kansas State into one of the best offenses in the country.
Although this team does have one loss, that came against now-No. 2 Auburn by just a six-point margin. A few late turnovers ruined the Wildcats' chances for pulling off an upset.
The good news is this team will get more chances to show what it can do. After a bye in Week 7, Kansas State will go on the road to take on Oklahoma. Big 12 matchups against Oklahoma State, TCU and Baylor also loom later in the schedule.
With loads of talent everywhere on the field, this squad has a chance to be a top contender for the conference title.
Kansas State is only being punished for making a tough non-conference schedule and taking on one of the best teams in the league. In reality, the Wildcats should be higher on the list and a legitimate contender for the College Football Playoff.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.
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There probably aren’t many who thought Michigan would be sitting at 2-4 after six games.
But it’s true: Team 135, for lack of a better term, just isn’t that good. At this point, discussing potential and who needs to “step up” are wastes of time. Now halfway through the season, Michigan should know what it is.
The rest of college football does.
But how did it come to this?
Sure, this past Saturday’s 26-24 loss to Rutgers was bad, but it wasn’t as bad as the setbacks to Notre Dame, Utah and Minnesota. Michigan, particularly its offense, teased its fans with a positive step or two in New Jersey, only to fall three steps behind the next play.
For the first time since 1967, the Wolverines are 0-2 in the Big Ten. Things aren’t going to get any easier, as Penn State comes to town this weekend—then it’s on to Michigan State on Oct. 25, which looks like it’ll be a miserable encounter for coach Brady Hoke, whose job status seems to get iffier and iffier by the week.
Giving Away Games
Efficient drives end in points. Needless to say, the inability to string together possessions continues to overshadow Michigan, which averages just 19 first downs and converts just 41.6 percent of its third downs (both marks rank No. 8 in the Big Ten).
On average, the Wolverines gift 2.17 turnovers to the other side each Saturday. Their 15 turnovers (five fumbles, 10 picks) are the most in the league. Turnovers happen from time to time, even to the best of teams. However, Michigan has trouble making up for them, ranking last in the league with a minus-13 margin.
Running Backs in No Rush
Evidently, sophomore bruisers Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith aren’t enough. They are on paper. But on the field?
No, they are not.
Despite having one of his better games in a maize and blue uniform, Green, who carried 12 times for 74 yards versus Rutgers, is long overdue (and behind) in the production department. His team-leading 488 yards and average of 5.7 yards per touch are deceiving.
Part of that is on Green, who just can’t seem to get his wheels turning, and part of that is on the O-line. When it comes to gauging him, glasses are either half-full or half-empty. He’s either doing well with what’s available, or he’s simply the beneficiary of a few defensive mishaps on the part of the opposition.
Neither answer is wrong.
Smith is another story all together. Like most running backs by Week 6, he’s had a handful of great runs. He ran hard against Rutgers, too. On top of that, he picks up six yards per carry.
But he only contributes 47 yards each Saturday. And he’s spent as much time running into his own linemen as he’s spent running over the other guys.
Secondary is a Primary Concern
It doesn’t take an expert to see that Blake Countess is frustrated. Of course, he doesn’t say so during press conferences, but, put it this way: The redshirt junior doesn’t have the best poker face.
The 5’10”, 180-pound corner insists that his position group will come to form. It has to, because—and here’s that phrase again—on paper, Michigan’s too deep at defensive back to fail. Prior to the season, Countess was in consideration for the Jim Thorpe Award.
After watching a trio of touchdowns sail by Saturday, it’s safe to say that he’s no longer in the discussion.
Want another deceiving stat? Good. Here’s one: The Wolverines have the No. 3-ranked pass defense in the Big Ten. But that means nothing when chunk plays are the norm for a group of guys who often find their backs to the ball.
Offensive Line Isn’t Carrying Its Weight
Once again, Devin Gardner is a moving target with a gigantic bullseye on his chest and back. In 2013, he was sacked 34 times, the third most in FBS. This season, he’s been sacked 13 times, putting him at No. 20 in that regard, per ESPN.
Running for his life, Gardner, a fifth-year senior quarterback, was sacked twice by Rutgers, which now leads the nation with 24.
Points Are at a Premium
Team 135’s scoring offense ranks dead last in the Big Ten. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was supposed to bring a new energy to the befuddled scoring attack; but instead, his position group musters just 22.3 points per game, per BigTen.org. As a whole, Michigan has the No. 12-ranked total offense, averaging 354 yards per outing.
Granted, things looked better this past Saturday in New Jersey, but the fact remains this offense is far too inconsistent to compete, let alone win. It’s a stat that won’t go away and for good reason: The Wolverines have been held out of their opponents’ red zone in two of six games.
Despite converting three of three (three rushing touchdowns) red-zone attempts versus Rutgers, Nussmeier’s personnel have miles to go before they’re up to par.
In a perfect world, Michigan would be 5-1 or 6-0. However, its reality is much different. And sadly, there isn’t a rewind button in college football, not even for a team that was thought to be destined for much better.
However, Wolverines fans probably wouldn’t mind a fast-forward button, as their hopes and dreams are now reserved for 2015.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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