Buckeyes Have Shown Abiltty to Win Different Ways
By Patrick Murphy
Recent discussion locally and nationally surrounding the Ohio State Buckeyes has been whether or not this Big Ten team deserves to be in the conversation with Alabama, Oregon, Clemson, and other top-ranked teams.
The argument focuses on the Buckeyes’ weak schedule with no challenge in the non-conference and playing in a perceived down Big Ten.
Ohio State had the attention of the nation the last two weeks – playing in the primetime ABC broadcast – but did little to dispel this notion.
Against Wisconsin two weeks ago, OSU allowed a fourth-quarter 17-point lead to dwindle to seven.
Northwestern led the Buckeyes for much of the game – the first time they had trailed all season – before Ohio State was able to pull out a win in the final quarter.
The Buckeyes may not have validated their position from the national perspective, but they did show the ability to win games against legitimate opponents and do so in different ways.
The biggest question heading into the Badgers’ game was the Scarlet and Gray’s ability to stop Wisconsin’s power run game.
The Buckeyes showed the ability to stuff the run and make tackles in the open field. They were exposed in the passing game, but with so much of the defensive game plan focused on the run, the pass was bound to be open.
Maybe more importantly, they also showed was the ability to take care of a lead.
“The end of the day, you're up three scorers against a team that supposedly can't throw the ball as well as they did and we made a decision that the way we lose that game is turn the ball over,” Meyer said.
Many were disappointed that Ohio State didn’t attempt to put a stranglehold on the game by continuing to take shots down the field and increase the lead. They felt the Buckeyes reverted back to “Tressel-ball” of the previous regime.
As Meyer pointed out in his call-in show, Jim Tressel won a lot of games as the head coach of Ohio State playing the field-position game, something Meyer admitted to studying.
Fans may have been disappointed that there was not more scoring, but they wouldn’t have been happy with potential turnovers that could have amounted to a loss.
A week later, against Northwestern, OSU was facing a different animal. Not only are the Wildcats a spread team that use a two-quarterback system and a wide-open passing attack, the Buckeyes were taking to the road for the first time in conference.
Those who follow the Big Ten closely have more respect for the Purple and White than in past years and believed this would be a challenge for the Buckeyes.
They were correct.
Ohio State had yet to respond to on-field adversity, but Evanston gave them that chance and this game was quite different than the grind-it-out meeting with Wisconsin.
Braxton Miller’s passing game was not clicking as it was the week before and turnovers became an issue. The Buckeyes would have to come from behind for the first time all season.
“The offense with the turnovers just in short field, you can't do that,” Meyer said after the game.
"Usually you don't win those games, but in the second half the sign of a good team is where the offense picked up the slack when the defense was giving up some yards.”
The game with the Badgers required shots early and playing field position late; against the Wildcats, it was about doing whatever was necessary to get back in the game.
“You know we went for a fake punt,” Meyer said. “I felt like we needed to swing up the momentum at the end of the first half to try and get down there.”
The Buckeyes were unsuccessful on the fake attempt, but it showed the aggressive play calling the coaching staff used to help get the win.
You saw a team face a halftime deficit and not back down from the challenge that faced them. They showed a dramatic turnaround, relying on their senior running back Carlos Hyde.
There is a lot of talk about the diversity of Ohio State’s offense, about all the weapons that have emerged. OSU showed the last two weeks that it is the diversity of the team's ability to win the game however is necessary that might be most important.
They did not play one of the top ranked teams in the country – Northwestern was the highest ranked team they have faced during the 18-game win streak – but they continued to find a way to get the job done.
There will be talk about not doing enough to prove they deserve to be in nation title talk, but winning may be proof enough.
“I heard something style points,” Meyer said last week. “We're not really concerned about that, but we won the game.”