Ohio State football has been, in a word, dominant this season.
The third-ranked Buckeyes won each of their first eight games by at least 24 points with an average margin of victory of 40.3 points.
They are outgaining foes 514.8 yards per game to 224.2 with an advantage of more than 100 yards through the air and more than 200 yards on the ground.
Ohio State is averaging twice as many yards per play as its opponents — 7.2 to 3.6 — and is plus-11 in turnovers.
The Buckeyes have allowed six touchdowns, the same number Ohio State scored against Florida Atlantic in the season-opener.
Ohio State is outscoring its opponents in every quarter, even the fourth (65-15) when its starters have had limited opportunities.
Simply put, there is not much left to prove, at least against the teams Ohio State has so far had a chance to prove anything.
Or is there?
“We talk to the guys all the time about how if you can do it one week, that means you can do it, but can you do it week in, week out?” coach Ryan Day said after the Buckeyes crushed then-No. 13 Wisconsin 38-7 Saturday. “That's what's really hard in college football.”
But if adversity and failure are the best teachers, what lessons are there to take from the way the season has gone so far?
“This just goes to show you the potential and how tough we can be,” Day said. “I think we're athletic, I think we're talented, but when you come into the game like this and play this hard against this kind of a defense… to win like we did, I think it goes to show you how tough we are, and that we have the capability to play with anybody in the country.”
In the first half of the year, selling the idea the Buckeyes had plenty to work on no matter the opponent and no matter the score was relatively easy.
Most of the lineup was new on the offensive side of the ball, and the defense was breaking in a new scheme.
But what about now?
How does Day continue to motivate his team, especially with Big Ten also-ran Maryland and cellar-dweller Rutgers up next on the schedule after another weekend off?
With talk the Buckeyes are not just College Football Playoff contenders but potentially the best team in the country with multiple Heisman Trophy candidates starting to mount, how does he keep them focused?
“I think these guys are competitive and they like challenges, and if you are as tough as you think you are or we're as good as we think we are, then we don't get distracted by anybody and we just get locked in one game at a time,” Day said. “One game at a time, one week at a time. And if we let all the noise get in our head, we can't do that.”
But what about every win being by such a comfortable margin?
Six of Ohio State’s foes have effectively been knocked out in the first half, and the two ranked teams on the schedule (Michigan State and Wisconsin) both wilted far before the final gun was ready to be fired.
Knowing one loss prevented the Buckeyes from making the CFP last season, Day compared this campaign to the NCAA basketball tournament.
“It's like March Madness — you can't lose a game. You're not allowed to,” Day said. “How do you go about doing that? And when you look at our schedule, we feel we have a good chance against anybody on the schedule, but when you put them all together, it becomes a little overwhelming because so many things come into play.
He cited distractions, injuries, lack of focus or lack of energy as examples.
“Whatever those reasons are, not taking care of the football — all it takes is one or two of those bad things and you can get yourself jammed up in this game,” Day said. “I think so far it's showing that we are playing with discipline and we're doing a good job week in, week out of preparing the same way.”
In another sign Day has a good handle on this job, he has his quarterback on the same page.
“Of course, every time we play we want to make a statement,” Justin Fields said Saturday. “Of course the teams hear that we’re tough, they hear that we're good, but we want to prove it and go out on the field and prove it to them.”
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