COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Any questions that Urban Meyer had about a young Ohio State team with only six returning starters was quickly put to rest on Saturday.
With quarterback J.T. Barrett tying a school record by throwing six touchdown passes and rushing for one, and Curtis Samuel scoring three touchdowns, the sixth-ranked Buckeyes overwhelmed in-state opponent Bowling Green 77-10 in the season opener for both teams in Ohio Stadium.
Barrett was the catalyst. After he threw a pick-six on Ohio State's first series, the Buckeyes kicked their offense into high gear and raced to a 21-7 lead in the first quarter and extended it to 35-10 at halftime.
Three of Barrett's touchdown passes came in the opening 15 minutes.
The redshirt junior quarterback, who had a record-setting year for the Buckeyes as a freshman in 2014 and then took over for Cardale Jones as the starter midway through last season, completed 21 of 31 passes for a career-high 349 yards and added a rushing touchdown in a prolific 2016 debut that ended midway through the third quarter.
Barrett's other touchdown passes went to K.J. Hill, Dontre Wilson and Noah Brown.
"He's a cagey veteran," Meyer said after facing the school that gave his start as a head coach 15 years ago. "There's a lot of things happening in his football career already.
"Throwing an interception for touchdown, we don't like that. But rebound, let's go, and he went right back and said that's on me. And it was. So let's go back and attack them. So I thought J.T. played great."
With Ohio State returning only six total starters from a team that finished 12-1 a year ago, Meyer was eager to see how his young but talented roster would perform in the first game on the big stage of Ohio Stadium.
And they delivered.
Asked if he had some anxieties about the Buckeyes, Meyer said: "Sure. I had that after we threw that first pick for a touchdown. And I like our players. I've done this long enough, I can see a talented player when we have one, and we have a bunch of them.
"But I just wanted to see them perform in the arena."
Samuel, a junior who contributed sporadically the last two seasons, caught two of Barrett's touchdown passes and finished with nine receptions for 177 yards. He also rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Ohio State redshirt freshman Mike Weber, taking over at running back for first-round draft pick Ezekiel Elliott, made his debut as the starter with 136 yards rushing on 19 carries. Freshman running back Demario McCall added two late touchdowns.
Meyer talked in the preseason about Samuel being the team's biggest playmaker.
"Mike Weber had a very good day," Meyer said. "And Curtis Samuel, you know, if I get -- 177, almost 300 yards by himself which is -- he's a tremendous talent and it was great to see him have some success."
Despite returning only three starters on offense, the Buckeyes looked like a juggernaut with an array of young talent on display, racking up a school-record 776 yards of total offense that broke a record set in 1930.
"We mixed it up really well today," Ohio State center Pat Elflein said. "I think you guys asked me a week ago about the identity of the offense and I honestly still don't really know. We just have playmakers everywhere."
Barrett put an exclamation mark on the first half with a 9-yard touchdown run up the middle with 26 seconds to go before halftime that gave the Buckeyes a commanding 35-10 lead and capped a 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive.
The second half opened with more of the same as Barrett hooked up with Samuel for a 21-yard touchdown pass and a 42-10 lead just 1:15 into the third quarter.
Samuel scored again three minutes later on a 12-yard run and Barrett's last touchdown pass went to Wilson, an 11-yard strike for a 56-10 lead before the backups took over.
Ohio State's defense limited Bowling Green to 244 total yards. Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker had two interceptions and four tackles. Freshman Rodjay Burns capped the scoring with a 75-yard interception return.
"It's hard to take positives out of a butt-whooping like that," Bowling Green coach Mike Jinks said. "We'll go back and evaluate the video, and what I want to see is to make sure that kids keep playing hard, because at the end of the day that's all you can really ask for."
Bowling Green stunned Ohio State at the start when Brandon Harris intercepted Barrett's second pass of the game in the flat and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown that gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
But it was all downhill from there for the Buckeyes. Meyer tapped the brakes on making too much out of the blowout.
"Well, it's one game," he said. "Let's chat in about four weeks now see how we're doing. It's one game we have very good personnel. They played well. Let's go back. Let's not put the cart before the horse and start anointing anyone. They played pretty good."
Bowling Green quarterback James Knapke had two passes intercepted and completed 12 of 33 passes for 110 yards.
NOTES: Ohio State DT Tracy Sprinkle sustained a season-ending knee injury. ... Ohio State lost a former five-star recruit and prospect this week when WR Torrance Gibson was suspended for a non-football related matter. Coach Urban Meyer said he disagreed with the decision but had no recourse. Gibson was expected to be in the Buckeyes' wide receiver rotation. ... Bowling Green is the last Mid-American Conference opponent that Ohio State will face in the foreseeable future. With the Big Ten going to a nine-game conference schedule this year and the College Football Playoff system's emphasis on quality opponents, MAC teams that traditionally find a place on the Buckeyes' schedule will no longer be there. ... Saturday's game was the first as a head coach on any college level for Bowling Green's Mike Jinks. The former Texas Tech assistant was a high school coach in Texas before joining the Red Raiders and then landing the Falcons' job after last season when Dino Babers left for Syracuse. ... Ohio State hasn't lost to an in-state opponent since it was beaten by Oberlin in 1921.