Ohio State did what they were supposed to do against Nebraska - they opened the season with a convincing win at home, Justin Fields looked spectacular and the Buckeyes escaped the game largely in good health. It wasn't a perfect start to the season, but it sure was entertaining.
Before we turn all of our attention to the Penn State game this week, let's grade out how a few players and units performed on Saturday:
Why not start with the most obvious one here? Fields was fantastic. Frankly, its hard to remember a more efficient performance. He threw rockets all over the field, he completed all but one pass (and it wasn't his fault), he extended the pocket beautifully when he needed to and he didn't turn the ball over. He excelled in short, intermediate and deep ball routes. It was an outstanding performance.
I mentioned yesterday that I would prefer not to see him run the ball as often as he does, but it's out of fear of him getting injured. He's very clearly capable and his scrambling ability is one of his best attributes. I just don't want to see him take a cheap shot or get hurt and watch Ohio State's national championship hopes crumble.
All in all, I'm not sure what more you could have asked of him in Week 1. I'm not in the habit of giving out A+ very often, but this performance was worthy.
Ohio State Running Backs
I was a bit disappointed with Ohio State's rushing attack on Saturday. On the positive side, they didn't turn the ball over and I thought they were decent in pass protection when called upon. Ohio State rushed for 222 yards on 48 carries as a team, but if you eliminate Justin Fields from that group, Trey Sermon, Master Teague and Steele Chambers combined for 128 yards on 27 carries. Those aren't terrible numbers, averaging 4.74 yards per carry. In that group, I was most impressed with Chambers on his limited touches.
Admittedly, the run game got better as the afternoon moved along. But I was a bit concerned with the way the game started. It's the first game of the season and that group certainly wasn't a liability. I just want to see a lot more from them, considering the poor weather Ohio State could play in this season as the year progresses into late November and early December.
Ohio State thinks they have the best offensive line in the country, and at times on Saturday, it looked like it. But Nebraska gave them far more trouble than I anticipated. The 'Huskers defensive line was entirely new from last year and they made things much harder on Fields than I would've liked to see. I was glad to see them make adjustments at half time and pick up the stunts and blitz techniques that Nebraska was throwing at them.
Three sacks allowed is too many for my liking, especially when it was so difficult for the running game to get going. But I can't recall anyone having free runs at Fields on a terribly missed blocking assignment and they did eventually help the team to 498 yards of total offense on the day. I think they had a slightly above average performance and would like to see a real step forward on Saturday against a Penn State team that will literally be playing with its season on the line.
Honestly, I was thrilled with the way Tuf Borland, Pete Werner and Baron Browning played on Saturday. I thought they were terrific. This group has been touted as the strength of the defense and it really showed. The Buckeyes gave up a couple of big runs to Luke McCaffrey and Adrian Martinez, but those two runs accounted for 86 of Nebraska's 217 rushing yards and the rest of the game the 'Huskers only amassed 131 yards on 34 carries.
I also thought they were very solid in coverage. The defense rarely looked confused and their leadership was impressive.
Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave were uncoverable - especially Wilson in his first game replacing K.J. Hill in the slot. Those two are going to be a major problem all year for opposing defenses. But it didn't stop there. Julian Fleming looked good getting his feet wet in his first game and Jaxon Smith-Njigba had the play of the game on his ridiculous touchdown catch in the back of the end zone.
Brian Hartline's group is elite and they showcased it in a big way on Saturday.