Ohio State Football: Scare vs. Cal Is a Warning Sign for Buckeyes

Jessica MarieCorrespondent IISeptember 17, 2012

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 15:  Nathan Broussard #22 of the California Golden Bears pressures quarterback Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes causing Miller to throw the ball out of bounds in the second half at Ohio Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

In Week 3 of the college football schedule, we saw the first chinks in Ohio State's armor.

The Buckeyes escaped with a 35-28 win over California on Saturday, thanks more to the Bears' failure to come up big in a couple of clutch situations rather than their own proficiency.

Ohio State lucked out on Saturday. It lucked out that the Bears defense couldn't find a way to make sure they had a man—any man—on Devin Smith when he caught the game-winning 72-yard touchdown with just over three minutes left. They were lucky that the Bears missed three field goals, including two in the second half.

It isn't fair to go so far as to say that the game-sealing interception thrown by Zach Maynard was luck. That was a huge play on the part of Christian Bryant.

But any time you're relying on a last-drive pick to seal a win, you're in trouble.

As Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer said after the game, Ohio State did what it needed to do: It found a way to win. Meyer told the Associated Press (via ESPN.com):

Our guys found a way. I've been in games before I thought we were going to lose. I just kept waiting, I thought someone would make a play. I really did.

It doesn't matter how you get to the top of the conference standings, as long as you get there and stay there.

But it's still somewhat of a concern when your head coach is admittedly waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's a sign that something needs to change, that everyone needs to play better. Top teams can't rely on an opponent's mistakes in order to seal the victory.

The Buckeyes are still 3-0. An almost-loss isn't a loss, concerning as it may be. They are still in very good shape. Nevertheless, it is important for this team to realize that playing this way against a team like Michigan State or Nebraska—allowing 512 yards to the opposing offense, suffering 11 penalties for a total of 101 yards—isn't going to cut it.

The best teams in the nation know exactly how to capitalize on an opponent's mistakes, just like Ohio State knew how to capitalize on Cal's. And next time around, the Buckeyes may not get so lucky. Next time around, there may be no last-second pick, or missed field goals, or blown coverages.

On Saturday, the Buckeyes got the win, but it didn't necessarily outplay Cal. They know that, and they know that can't be the case when it comes time to face Michigan State and Nebraska back-to-back after Saturday's game against UAB.

At least the warning signs have revealed themselves before the Big Ten schedule starts. Now, it's time to fix them.