LINCOLN, Neb. -- Urban who? OK, maybe it's too soon. The legacy of Ohio State's most recently "retired" is set in cement. We know that. What we don't know is how the ceiling is for his replacement.

Yes, Ryan Day is winning with the players Urban Meyer recruited. Thing is … he's winning rather impressively, precisely and continually.

And with absolutely no drama, which should be a big deal for No. 5 Ohio State.

After a 48-7 beating of Nebraska, we're now seeing why Ohio State officials turned to a 39-year-old offensive coordinator with no head coaching experience last August when Meyer's conduct threatened to drive the program into a ditch.

Consider the words sacrilege, if you must, but … Ohio State seems better without Urban Meyer.

Yes, that assertion is based on a five-game sample, but it also reflects the reason why Day was elevated in the first place.

If a team reflects its coach, Ohio State just looks more … relaxed. A sense of calm has settled over the program. Forget learning on the job, Day is trying to win a national championship in his first season on the job.

Breaking news about the Buckeyes has been kept within the white lines, which is a welcome relief. That unexplained Big Ten roadie clunker against an outmanned opponent doesn't seem possible this season.

Winning with Meyer's players? Sure. You want to know the opposite of that?

"I still feel like people think it's not real yet," Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller said. "Maybe our fans don't feel like that. Maybe [the media doesn't] feel that way, but I know there's people out there that don't really believe the hype yet." 

Nebraska wasn't just throttled Saturday night, the result almost made Michigan feel better about itself for the thrashing it suffered last November in Columbus, Ohio.


If Meyer's Buckeyes were a Corvette, Day's Ohio State is a Maserati -- sleeker, faster, sexier.

They're already talking about edge rusher Chase Young being better than either of the Bosas. Running back J.K. Dobbins is on pace to rush for 1,700 yards. Oh, and quarterback Justin Fields might be the best player in America.

Day is a protégé of Chip Kelly, a down-to-earth New Hampshire guy who coached NFL quarterbacks before joining Meyer's staff. It shows.

Ohio State has won at Indiana and Nebraska in Big Ten play by a combined 99-17.

Fields is starting to look better than Dwayne Haskins -- if that's even possible. He accounted for four more touchdowns against Nebraska (three passing), giving him 23 total this season.

More than that, the defense that looked so schizophrenic under Greg Schiano has calmed its nerves. And wrecked the opposition. Ohio State has now given up just 43 points in its first five games.

"We try to keep it week to week," Fields said. "In recent years, as we all know, we definitely slipped up in the past. We're definitely not going to do that again this year."

That's a reference to those inexplicable losses to Iowa (2017) and Purdue (2018) that kept Ohio State out of the College Football Playoff.

"We had that in the back of our head a little bit but we tend to just forget about that," linebacker Malik Harrison said. "It's a new year. We're playing way better than we did last year."

But back to Fields. There was a moment in the third quarter that made you wonder whether Jake Fromm -- the talent that drove Fields from Georgia -- could have made the throw. Rocketing the ball across the field to the far corner of the end zone, Fields dropped a dime into the hands of receiver Garrett Wilson, who had a defender draped all over him.

The box score will say it was a 6-yard scoring pass. Before the dropped jaws on both sides of the ball once again closed, they told you Fields is something special.

That doesn't necessarily mean the Buckeyes will be in the College Football Playoff. It means, if anything, they're better with a rookie coach and a first-time starter at quarterback.

Co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is in the unique position of seeing this recent transformation up close. As Michigan's defensive line coach, the 69-year-old witnessed the Buckeyes' 62-39 evisceration of the Wolverines. Now he coaches against that Ohio State unit led by Fields every day in practice.

"When we go against them in practice, it's a war," Mattison said. 

Taking in Saturday's results, if Ohio State isn't No. 1 as September comes to a close, perhaps Auburn should be. Clemson came within a failed two-point conversion of losing to North Carolina. Alabama gives up too many points, though many of those come late with a strong lead. LSU and Georgia didn't play in Week 5.

"They came here to kind of send a message," Mattison said of the Buckeyes. 

A brief aside in regards to Nebraska. The defeat may have set back its rebuild. Remember, the Cornhuskers walked into Columbus, Ohio, last year and played the Buckeyes off their feet, losing by five. This time, Nebraska was never let up off the mat.

Never mind catching Ohio State for the moment. Frost said the first task was to win the Big Ten West. Wisconsin looks like it is ready to reclaim the division it dominated, playing in five of the first seven Big Ten Championship Games.

Frost looks like he's still trying to find his footing at Nebraska.

Day looks like he's already improved the championship-caliber program Meyer left behind.