By now, Ohio State fans have learned to be embarrassed along with their football team in marquee games.
In fact, embarrassment seems to be the norm for Ohio State these days. That happens when a team repeatedly loses in grand fashion on the big stage.
A 41-14 loss to Florida in the 2007 BCS Championship, followed by another championship loss to LSU in 2008 and a 35-3 pounding from USC on Sept. 13, have made Ohio State a national punch line.
Which begs the question: Is the rest of the nation correct to deem Ohio State overrated?
Aside from a 2006 win against then-No. 2 Texas in 2006 and a close win against then-No. 2 Michigan later that year, Ohio State has done little else to shake that stigma.
Excuses for the Buckeyes’ inability to win under the spotlight range from the play of quarterback Todd Boeckman to Jim Tressel’s coaching style. Fans might wonder if the pressure of playing a huge game in the opponent’s yard has an impact on Ohio State‘s mental focus.
Ohio State has played its three most recent marquee games in enemy territory. Still, that is no excuse, as good teams should be able to play sound football no matter the surroundings.
Ohio State’s debacle against USC was its own fault. Their execution was poor and the penalties the Buckeyes committed inside their own 20-yard line showed that Ohio State clearly beats itself when the pressure is high.
Still, many Buckeye fans continue to try and pinpoint what has caused the collapses that have led their team to be typecast as overrated.
Some fans point to the offensive line as one of Ohio State‘s main issues. The line allowed USC to get to Boeckman too often this past Saturday. The same thing happened against Florida in 2007, as Troy Smith was repeatedly pressured.
Foxsports.com’s Mark Kriegel cites Tressel’s willingness to play “20th-century football well into the 21st century” as a major reason for Ohio State’s recent embarrassments. According to Kriegel, consistency to the point of predictability might be Ohio State’s true problem.
The changes Ohio State needs to make to become more competitive won’t help it shake its negative public image until those changes translate into success on the field. These changes need to be displayed against a strong opponent instead of a team like Youngstown State.
Still, Buckeye fans continue to hope for the best. After all, college football is a cyclical beast.