Ohio State is still undefeated after beating Purdue, 29-22. That's a very good thing. And that's about the only good thing we can say about Ohio State on Saturday, considering how bad the Buckeyes looked in victory.
Purdue led for the vast majority of the game, taking a 6-0 lead on its first play from scrimmage and staying ahead for more than 55 minutes before giving up a game-tying touchdown with three seconds left.
The game-tying touchdown drive and the eventual game-winning touchdown drive in overtime were led by backup quarterback Kenny Guiton, who came in cold after a potentially ruinous injury to Braxton Miller on this play in the third quarter of Saturday's game:
More on that in a bit.
Overall, though, Ohio State's performance was evocative of its 31-16 snoozer with Central Florida in Week 2 and its 29-15 struggle with UAB two weeks later...which is to say, not very good at all. Although those games—like all the others Ohio State has played this year—ended in victory for the Buckeyes, one has to wonder if Ohio State is just a step below its fellow unbeaten BCS teams.
Obviously, Ohio State is better than Ohio. And although the Big East is still technically a BCS conference, it really shouldn't be, so we'll leave lightweights like Rutgers and Cincinnati out of this. Nobody would argue that Cincinnati is better than Ohio State.
But when it comes to the big boys, Ohio State is just not there. Alabama wouldn't beat Ohio State by as wide a margin as the 41-14 beat-down it hung on Michigan, but the Tide would still win comfortably.
One shudders to think what Oregon would do to the consistently inconsistent Buckeye defense. Heck, maybe it's good that Ohio State won't be going to the Rose Bowl this year, if Oregon's going to be waiting in Pasadena. We kid, we kid, but only sort of.
Notre Dame looks capable of shutting down the Ohio State rushing attack up front. It's not just about Manti Te'o, either—the Irish have talent all across the board in their dominant 3-4 defense.
There is no small amount of irony in the fact that the SEC—long the bane of Ohio State and the Big Ten—might have the only BCS-level unbeaten teams that Ohio State could still beat.
Mississippi State hasn't played a ranked team yet, and its toughest win came against, let's say, Tennessee. There's a three-week stretch coming up against Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU for the Bulldogs, and that's probably the last we'll hear from them.
Then there's Florida. While we're not about to argue that Florida is worse than Ohio State—the Gators' resume is much, much stronger than the Buckeyes'—it would still be a very competitive game. The Florida defense is for real, but the offense leaves a lot to be desired. With a healthy Braxton Miller on its side, Ohio State would have a real chance at coming away with a win.
But that's the thing; we don't yet know how long MIller will be out. The longer he stays out, the worse for Ohio State. He's definitely the Buckeyes' best player, and he's probably the Big Ten's best. His Heisman campaign is now probably delayed until 2013, but rest assured that Ohio State recognizes and appreciates Miller's value to the program, even if voters might forget over the next couple of weeks.
And without Miller, all bets are off. Yes, Guiton led the comeback after Miller was lost and he's plenty athletic himself, but he's a definite downgrade overall. And now we're going to find out just how much of a downgrade that is while Miller recovers from whatever happened to him. And that, more than how much better the other undefeated teams are, should be Ohio State's biggest concern right now.