As painful as the USC 35-3 loss is, I remember a few quick things as it relates to relatively recent Ohio State history:
- The last time Ohio State scored as few points was in 1993, when it blew a chance at the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl in losing to Michigan, 28-0.
- This was the worst defeat for Ohio State since Penn State absolutely crushed them in Happy Valley in 1994, 63-14. (Yes, SEC fans—Ohio State was defeated even worse by a Big Ten opponent, and it was not for the BCS Championship.)
OK, we have those cathartic statements out of the way. Let's get down to what Ohio State can do in the immediate future, and long-term, to prevent these types of further embarassments on the national stage.
As an Ohio State fan, I would rank this loss to USC the most embarassing in terms of the national focus or stage, considering Ohio State was never in this game. The Florida loss in the 2007 BCS championship game ranks second, then last year's loss to LSU ranks third. But, again, I am only one Ohio State fan, and I am sure there are differing opinions.
Short Term: Involve Terrelle Pryor more and more with the Starting Offense
While Todd Boeckman may have the best knowledge and understanding of the offense, the reality of the situation is that Ohio State coaches, players, and fans have now seen what Todd Boeckman can and cannot do, talent-wise.
Terrelle Pryor needs a lot of work with his passing motion and check-offs in the passing game, but his athletic skills are obvious and can truly help to spark the team. It would be in the team's best interests to see how well Pryor can do against upcoming opponents Troy and Minnesota before the next big game on the schedule, at Wisconsin at night on Oct. 4. Focus on preparing for the future now, rather than later.
Short Term: Focus On Winning the Outright Big Ten Championship
While many members of the media focused on how many of the Ohio State seniors returned to contend for the national championship this year, the reality even prior to this shellacking by USC was that the BCS championship game was an event largely outside of the Ohio State senior players' control; in a championship environment, that is determined by a vote. Who can say who will play for the title, even if someone winds up undefeated?
But I digress. What is still within the control of this team is to win the Big Ten as the outright champion for the third consecutive year. No team in Big Ten history has ever won the Big Ten as an outright champion for three years in a row. This challenge falls exclusively on the senior leadership of this team.
Ohio State cannot play for the BCS championship this year, but there is no reason why Ohio State cannot do everything from here on out to win the Big Ten's berth to the Rose Bowl.
Intermediate to Long Term: Adjust the Scheduling Philosophy
I have addressed this issue extensively before, and I can only hope that others are slowly but surely coming to my side of this argument. No more cupcakes like Youngstown State, Ohio University, Kent State, etc., on the schedule. While I understand why Ohio State wants/needs to have as many home games as possible, the team needs to play tough opponents prior to The Big Ten schedule for reasons that the entire nation witnessed tonight.
Ohio State should be scheduling teams such as West Virginia, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame (for geographic purposes), one MAC team (and ONLY ONE MAC team), one "tough" non-conference team (such as USC, or, in future years, Miami (FL), California, Oklahoma, etc.), and another Big Ten team.
Intermediate to Long Term: Bring In an Offensive Coordinator
Offensive line coach Jim Bollman also serves as the offensive coordinator, with coach Jim Tressel serving as the unofficial play-caller on game days.
It would be in the program's best long-term interests to bring back Walt Harris as the offensive coordinator, as Ohio State's offensive formations, attack, and general approach are just completely devoid of any creativity or aggressive tendencies. At worst, Harris could develop the passing game philosophies, with Bollman and Tressel focused on the running game philosophies.
Intermediate to Long Term: Consider a New Defensive Coordinator
I would contend a major piece of the puzzle that has been missing to Ohio State's success is coach Mark Dantonio, who was the defensive coordinator for the first three years in coach Tressel's tenure and is now leading Michigan State.
Coach Dantonio's defenses did not consistently apply pressure, but could pressure and force turnovers much more frequently since he left for the Cincinnati job back after the 2003 season.
While he just arrived at Notre Dame, a welcome return would be for coach Jon Tenuta as the defensive coordinator. Tenuta's aggressive blitzing styles that have served him well at Georgia Tech and now at Notre Dame would be comparable to what Ohio State offenses have seen by blitzing defenses such as Florida, LSU, and now USC.
While it would be understandable for Ohio State fans to wallow in self-pity after being demolished by USC, this game only serves as one loss. Troy will be in Columbus next weekend with little-to-no concern about the mental state of Ohio State coaches, players, or fans. It will be interesting to see how coach Tressel, his assistants, and the senior captains regroup after this big loss as Ohio State prepares for the Big Ten, starting with Minnesota on Sept. 27.