This is usually where I’ll put the Woody Hayes quote about getting the hell kicked out of you being a great soul cleanser, but it feels like I’ve gone to that well too many times of late.
The fact that I even have to go to that well is a pretty glaring sign of where things stand for the Ohio State football program at the moment.
Losing to Iowa 55-24 does not end the Buckeyes’ season — there is still plenty to play for — but it does end the charade that Ohio State had any chance being one of the four teams chosen for the College Football Playoffs. And maybe that’s a good thing. It would be much worse to lose on a much larger stage to a much better (than Iowa) team.
At least now the Buckeyes can end their season with a win.
So what all did we learn from this baffling mess other than Iowa is a cold-blooded football monster? A bunch, and ain’t none of it pretty.
1. J.K. Dobbins disappears in big games.
Except J.K. Dobbins isn’t the one making it happen. Last week Urban Meyer and Kevin Wilson were both asked why Dobbins doesn’t play in the second (or fourth) quarters and they said that’s Tony Alford’s call. We all understand the need to throw the ball when you’re down big, but perhaps if you give the ball to your best player more often in the first half, you wouldn’t end up being down so big so often. Any other team in the nation is giving the ball to Dobbins 20 times a game. Meyer himself has said he wants to overwork Dobbins. In his first career game, Dobbins had 29 carries. Yesterday he had six, and against Penn State, just 13. He’s not a historic car that needs to be put away when the weather worsens. He wants to be out there joyriding. Let him.
2. There will be addition by subtraction.
Maybe this is just me watching too much Buckeye basketball the last few years, but when too many guys are around too long, it makes it difficult to move on from the groove (or rut) that they have created. When you look at the 2014 team, it was not a team heavy with fifth-year seniors. And it was a team led mostly by second and third-year players. The Buckeyes are going to lose a bunch of guys who have been around for ever, but that’s the circle of life in college football and it’s not a bad thing.
3. The linebackers have been a letdown.
There hasn’t been a single linebacker on the Ohio State roster who hasn’t looked lost at times this season, and that’s something that is pretty new this year under first-year linebackers coach Bill Davis. He inherited a veteran group and they are all playing worse than they did last year and well below expectations. Jerome Baker was supposed to be playing for an NFL contract this year — and he still may be, but he hasn’t helped his stock at all this season. Chris Worley gives thoughtful answers throughout the week with the media off the field, but on the field against Iowa, he had no answers for what the Hawkeyes were doing. If you want to be concerned about the future of a position group at Ohio State, it’s hard not to be most concerned about the regression of this position since last season.
4. J.T. Barrett’s Heisman candidacy took a hit.
How can a quarterback who looked so good one week ago look so bad this week? Iowa’s defense didn’t do anything that the Buckeyes didn’t expect, which makes this performance by J.T. Barrett so disappointing. It contradicts last week’s performance, and by its own sheer existence, proves that last week could be categorized as a fluke. This team was going to go as far as J.T. Barrett could take them, and that’s the fault of the coaches for putting that much on his back.
5. Ohio State is no different than any other (ordinary) program.
Every week you’ll see a team give up 50-odd points in a blowout and you’ll just shake your head and laugh. And now Ohio State is one of those programs where this can happen. Iowa is a good program, but if you’re going to make them look better than they are, then you’re doing it wrong. Ohio State has now joined the likes of any number of other programs who can look good from week to week, but then for whatever reason look absolutely pitiful out of the clear blue against an opponent that sometimes has a pulse. Urban Meyer said he had no clue that this was going to happen, which is the most frightening aspect of all of this. He was looking for clues and never saw them. Maybe he no longer knows how to find them — or fix them?
6. This wasn’t the Buckeyes losing the game.
Iowa beat Ohio State without much help from the Buckeyes. Last week, Ohio State tried to gift-wrap a win to Penn State, but the Nittany Lions couldn’t take care of business. This week, Iowa didn’t receive the same gifts — outside of the opening pick six right when Iowa stepped into the foyer. From that point on, however, Iowa took everything they wanted and the Buckeyes had no say in any of it.
7. It’s okay to just hand the ball off.
Not everything has to be a read and J.T. Barrett doesn’t have to find a numbers advantage on every snap. There is nothing wrong with simply handing the ball off and trying to succeed with your superior offensive line and running back talent. If you want to overwork J.K. Dobbins and you want to get Mike Weber involved, you can’t involve any read aspect because then you are simply allowing the defense to determine who runs the ball. That was fine when teams had to pick their poison between Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller, but when it is between Barrett and Dobbins or Barrett and Weber, there is no decision. The defense is going to choose Barrett to run the ball every time.
8. The season is not over.
If the Buckeyes win out, they will go to Indianapolis to play for the Big Ten Championship. And I know that right now you may not want to hear about it, but that is still something very much worth playing for. The playoff hopes are gone, and that is also maybe a good thing. Any season that ends with a conference title is a good thing, and this could still be one of those seasons. Remember the Rose Bowl win following the 2009 season? Of course you do. And how often do you think of the losses to USC and Purdue those years? Not very. This loss to Iowa was bad, and it will never be forgotten. This is also maybe a good thing.
9. The pass defense issues have not gone away.
Having trouble defending tight ends isn’t uncommon. Having no ability to defend them, however, is. And that’s not just on the linebackers, because the safeties were getting beaten as well. Based on this defensive performance against Iowa, it would appear that nothing has really changed with the pass defense of the linebackers and safeties. To add to that concern moving forward, the Buckeyes are going to see two more similar offenses in Michigan State next week and Michigan to end the season.
10. Don’t be surprised if you see some Buckeyes skip the bowl game.
Skipping bowl games was a popular topic during bowl season last year, but to a man, the Buckeyes all said they would never do that to their brothers. We’ll see how true that is this year. For a playoff game, you wouldn’t expect a player to sit out. For any other bowl game, however, all bets are off. We’ll see what happens when bowl season finally gets here, but don’t be shocked if the Buckeyes are a few men down this December or January.