The Buckeyes were 16 points better against Oklahoma than they were two games ago against Clemson, but do you feel 16 points better about it?
You shouldn’t, because losing 31-16 to Oklahoma is worse than losing 31-0 to Clemson. When the Buckeyes lost to Clemson, Urban Meyer knew what the problem was and he took action to fix it. Ed Warinner and Tim Beck explored other opportunities. Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day came in to bring in their own flourishes, with a specific goal of fixing the Ohio State passing game.
Two games in, however, and the passing game has had about two quarters of acceptable production and six quarters of disappointment.
Losing 31-16 to Oklahoma has confirmed Buckeye fans’ greatest fears — absolutely nothing has been resolved with the offense.
This loss was worse than the Clemson loss because the answers were supposed to be in place. Instead, the same questions remain, and now they are louder than ever.
After the game, J.T. Barrett said he needs to trust himself more and needs to trust his receivers more. Urban Meyer said there was no chance of Barrett being replaced, which means that Meyer trusts Barrett more than Barrett trusts himself.
That seems counter-productive.
So much of the passing game is about timing and Barrett’s habit of hesitating ruins that timing. That’s why you see receivers running out of room on out routes. That’s why you see a defender behind a receiver step in front of a pass and intercept it.
And yet you can argue that Barrett’s receivers aren’t doing enough to consistently help him. Austin Mack completely sold out for a catch inside the 10-yard line, which was an incredible play, but once again a deep shot went through a receiver’s hands in the end zone. That’s not exactly going to build trust between a quarterback and his receiver.
The second half of the Indiana game saw Barrett pass for over 200 yards and mask some of the issues at hand, but the first half of that game looked exactly like the worst of 2016. The game against Oklahoma was that first half for all 60 minutes.
Throwing the ball just isn’t that difficult — the Ohio State defense is proof of that.
So if the coaches have changed, but the players and the results haven’t, what do you do?
Everybody not on the Ohio State sideline — and maybe even some of them on the sideline — can see the issues and struggles with the passing game. In all of our years of watching football, when there are struggles like this, the finger is pointed at the quarterback and the questions arise about whether it is time to make a change.
That is a standard football thing to do and just because Barrett is a four-year starter and a three-time captain does not make him immune to the same questions.
When a passing game struggles, either you put a new quarterback in or you learn to live with your shortcomings.
The playcalling on the Ohio State offense doesn’t seem to recognize such shortcomings, however, because Barrett accounted for 53 of OSU’s 69 plays, leaving running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber with just 16 carries between them.
Urban Meyer went and got two new offensive coaches because he didn’t ever want his offense to be shut out again. He made two major moves, but for minimal results.
Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day were supposed to be the answers — and they very well may yet be, but plenty of questions still remain.
The major question — can J.T. Barrett lead this team to a championship — has seemingly been answered. Many fans will tell you that it was answered a long time ago.
Meyer didn’t want to point too much blame in any one area after the game. He offered up no answers, other than he wanted to watch the film first.
He has now seen the film, but when he speaks with the media on Monday, don’t expect him to provide any type of substantive answer. He will likely say that Oklahoma’s defense did some things that gave them trouble and they just need to work on things in practice and get things fixed.
He won’t be wrong, but it won’t instill any kind of confidence in a fan base that has already made their decision.
Tickets could be bought on the secondary market for the Oklahoma game for 32 dollars. There will be thousands of empty seats for Army and UNLV. Any semblance of an uptick against future opponents will be meaningless.
Things were supposed to be different this year, but nothing has changed. And on Monday, no real solutions will be provided.