Saturday’s lackluster 29-15 win over the University of Alabama-Birmingham exposed just how far Ohio State is from returning to an elite level. The distance is little bit shocking.
The NCAA penalties keeping Ohio State from winning the Big Ten and participating in a bowl game might be a blessing in disguise. This team does not need to be concerned about competing for the conference or going to Florida in January. The Buckeyes need to spend the rest of the season finding the identity that is necessary to win championships.
Over the next eight games, here are the five areas that the team needs to address.
The Buckeye faithful have been spoiled over the last decade as Ohio State has routinely fielded a Top 10 defense. They may have to temper those hopes this season.
The expectations were high for the Silver Bullets with nine starters returning. They were supposed to carry the team until the offense found its rhythm. Amazingly, they look lost.
Over the last two weeks, the defense has allowed a staggering 915 yards. If they were playing Alabama and Oregon, that may be forgivable. Letting powder-puff teams like California and UAB do it to them is dreadful.
Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel were probably having Tim Biakabutuka flashbacks watching California running back Brendan Bigelow carve up their defense for 160 yards on just four carries two weeks ago.
A week of practice spent on tackling was supposed to take care of the problem. Whatever they practiced, it did not work.
The nightmare continued against UAB as the Blazers tore through the Buckeye defense for 403 yards.
There is no excuse for the defense to be playing this inadequately. Fix the scheme or coach up the talent. It is that simple.
Alabama is currently writing the textbook on how to play college football. Even though there are many components leading to their success, the trick is playing the game with the proper attitude.
It is pretty amazing to watch the Crimson Tide exact their will on opponents’ weaknesses like a vice grip. They refuse to let go until the opponent cries mercy.
This may seem a little over the top, but the picture is quite clear. Over their last 17 games, Alabama has outscored their opponents 545-127.
The Crimson Tide’s brand of football wins championships, and the Buckeyes should study it and make the necessary adjustments.
Play the Underclassmen
If the Buckeyes want to make a legitimate run at the title next year, the young guns need to be on the field gaining valuable experience. It is clear that Meyer agrees.
Many of the top players from the 2012 recruiting class, like Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt, are seeing significant playing time. This trend needs to continue, especially on defense where depth on the defensive line is imperative.
Penalties, special teams miscues, poor tackling, and mediocre execution have not cost the Buckeyes a game yet, but it will kill them in the Big Ten if these issues continue.
Meyer’s teams are known for having tremendous focus. Obviously, this team is lacking it, and fixing the problems should be priority number one.
Passing Game Improvement
Few expected Meyer’s spread offense to come out of the gate hitting on all cylinders. Everyone knew that he would need some time to tinker with his offensive scheme to get the right pieces in place.
The good news is the signs are indicating that the offense is ahead of schedule.
In four games, Miller has thrown for 754 yards with seven touchdowns. He only had 1159 yards in 13 games last year.
Wide receivers Devin Smith and Corey Brown are beginning to show their talent too. It is obvious that Miller’s confidence in them is growing. More reps are needed to work out the kinks.
Running the ball effectively may be the primary ingredient for winning the Big Ten, but developing the passing game will be vital for Ohio State to get back on top.
There is no need to press any panic button. 2012 is both a rebuilding and a re-branding year. The rest of the season is about laying the foundation for the next five years.
The road may be a little bumpy, but the payoff will be championships.
(All Statistics provided by NCAA.com)