It may be a new season for the Ohio State Buckeyes, but it sure has a familiar feel to it. The passing game was once again an issue, which was thought to be back on better footing.
The pass defense, meanwhile, had a 2013 feel to it, which should be a terrifying thought combined with the OSU passing game right now.
Ohio State now sits at 1-1 on the season and has horribly failed their only non-conference test. Every answer given now will be received with an eye roll and a dismissive nod from those outside of the football program.
The Buckeyes were outplayed, outcoached, and outdone in every facet on Saturday night.
Ohio State’s talent will allow them to respond well over the next four games, but they will eventually hit the meat of their conference schedule, and if these same issues haven’t been improved, then the Buckeyes could be looking at multiple losses in B1G play for the first time in Urban Meyer’s OSU tenure.
But that’s still a ways down the road, and there’s plenty to worry about in the meantime.
So what did we learn from Saturday night’s loss? Almost nothing good for the Buckeyes.
1. Now we know why the Ohio State passing game looked so good in practice.
The Buckeyes are dead last in the nation in pass defense after two weeks. That’s 130th place, if you’re keeping count. They are allowing 403 yards passing per game, and now we know why there was so much talk from players and coaches about the passing game looking good and making plays during spring and fall camp.
2. Kevin Wilson is not a magical elixir.
Over the first two games, Oklahoma and Indiana have shown how easy it can be to throw the ball, but the Buckeyes have shown us how difficult their reality is. I still believe Kevin Wilson is a good fit for the Ohio State offense, but it’s clear that the passing game is going to require more than simply a healthy sprinkling of his offensive pixie dust.
3. J.T. Barrett has trust issues.
After the game, J.T. Barrett said the issue with the passing game was that Oklahoma was dropping back into a zone and he needs to do a better job of trusting his throws and trusting that his receivers will be where they need to be. He said he could improve on not second guessing himself against the zone defense. My question to this is if the quarterback doesn’t trust himself, how much longer can the coach trust the quarterback, and should he even trust him at all?
4. Urban Meyer has trust issues.
Urban Meyer said after the game that he is not considering a quarterback change, which means that he doesn’t have the trust in anybody else to be a better option. Or maybe he has too much trust in J.T. Barrett? Regardless, the Buckeye offense will ride and die with Barrett at quarterback, and the fan base will be justifiably angry with any continued struggles on offense this season. There are also trust issues with the running backs. Meyer lamented the lack of carries for the running backs, but this issue has now spanned three offensive coordinators, four different starting running backs, and three starting quarterbacks. The common denominator is the head coach.
5. Everyone else has trust issues when it comes to Ohio State.
It is important to remember that this was just game two and the season is far from over. It was not that long ago when the Buckeyes lost the second game of the season in 2014 and went on to win a national title. The difference here, however, is that almost nobody outside the program expects a similar turnaround. The offensive coaching staff has changed, but we’ve seen this story before. Putting up another 600 yards against Army and UNLV and Maryland won’t mean anything. A win over Penn State would help, but the only thing that will fix the trust issues is a win over a national power outside of the Big Ten, and I’m not sure anybody sees that happening at this rate.
6. The Buckeyes have a punter.
When the one bright spot of a game is your punter, you have already lost. Still, redshirt freshman Drue Chrisman had four punts, averaging 45.8 yards with each kick, and putting all four punts inside the 20-yard line. He hasn’t been a surprise, but more of a pleasant confirmation of what was expected. He’s just way too busy right now, though.
7. The linebackers were exposed.
Man, that was a mess of a defensive effort in the passing game. Do people have more respect for Luke Fickell now? Lincoln Riley’s offense had the Ohio State linebackers looking like they were playing on ice. They were spun every which way. Passes were completed in front of them, but especially behind them. There were several plays where it looked like this was the first time they had ever experienced a play-action pass. Maybe this is why there is still a competition between Dante Booker and Malik Harrison. For being arguably the most athletic group of Ohio State linebackers ever, they defended the pass like a group of stiff run stoppers. We’ll find out down the road how much of the problem is scheme and coaching, and how much of the problem is the players. From the looks of last night, there is plenty of blame to go around.
8. This was a much bigger game for Oklahoma than Ohio State.
Lincoln Riley said as much after the game. They were focused on this game and they wanted payback for the way they lost last year. This was a challenge to their manhood and they responded. For Ohio State it was a big game as well, but they didn’t have the same reasons for wanting this game. I don’t know how much that impacted the game, because Ohio State could have wanted it more, but if they can’t defend the middle of the field, then nothing would have been any different. Credit the Sooners for putting the kind of weight that they did on this game. They prepared well and executed well. Just be happy they made as many mistakes as they did, or else this one could have been a four or five-touchdown difference.
9. There is no respect for J.T. Barrett’s passing from the opposition.
Indiana coach Tom Allen said their plan of attack was to take advantage of OSU’s inaccurate quarterback. Oklahoma, meanwhile, dropped in a zone and forced Barrett to fit the ball into windows. Allen ended up being surprised by Barrett’s accuracy in the second half. There was no such surprise for the Oklahoma defense. Then there were also the comments from Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and their defense leading up to, and following, the playoff game last year. Urban Meyer is confident in Barrett, while the opposition is confident that he can’t beat them. This is a disappointing situation to be in for a program that recruits as well as Ohio State and has as many proven coaches on offense as they do.
10. Greg Schiano is very concerned.
Ohio State gave up 420 yards passing to Indiana in the season opener. Many of those yards came from quick hitters on the outside that saw perfect placement and tremendous hands. The yards came in one-on-one coverage situations on the outside, which is very different than where the 386 yards came from against the Sooners. The middle of the field was a playground for the Oklahoma offense, and they did it without their best pass catcher, as tight end Mark Andrews missed much of the game with an injury. Schiano said the issue last night was mistakes and poor coaching. Problems like that can be corrected, which is good news. The pass defense will look much better in the immediate future against Army, UNLV, and Maryland, but it won’t make a difference until we see what they do against Nebraska and Penn State. There is plenty of time to fix the issues, but having this many issues is absolutely a concern.