Kirk Herbstreit: Buckeyes seem distracted
ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit was on hand for Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State on Saturday. He got an up-close look at a Buckeye squad that fell for the first time since Week 2 of the 2014 season.
But to Herbstreit, the 2015 team looked far different than the one rattled off 12 straight wins to take home the first College Football Playoff with third-string quarterback Cardale Jones.
“A year ago right now, this team pulled together like all championship teams do,” Herbstreit said on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning. “They pulled around each other from the doubt people had about them because of the quarterback situation. They pulled around each other when they lost one of their teammates, which was just a devastating story. They pulled around that emotionally.
“There was no ‘I’ in ‘team.’ They weren’t worried about touches. It didn’t matter who got the headlines. It was all about, ‘let’s just win and prove everybody wrong.’ They were pulled in as one.”
In the last month, the Buckeyes were in the news for off-field incidences. From J.T. Barrett’s OVI arrest and Ezekiel Elliott’s critical postgame comments of the coaching staff, they dominated the headlines in the last four weeks.
On the field, Herbstreit said he hasn’t seen that same focus from the defending champs.
“They just seem to be somewhat distracted,” he said. “Like all championship teams that come back that following year, they don’t seem to have that same fire that the team had the previous year.”
Michigan State, on the other hand, showed Herbstreit plenty of fire. Ironically, the Spartans were the team without their starting quarterback on Saturday.
The “us-against-the-world” attitude was one he saw from Mark Dantonio’s squad.
“It was a combination of two different stories,” Herbstreit said. “Ohio State wasn’t as motivated and worried a little bit more about the individual status and Michigan State was out to prove everybody wrong. That’s why they went out and just beat Ohio State at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football.”
Herbstreit did go on to say that if Michigan State lost that chip on its shoulder against Penn State, it could find itself on the outside looking in. To get back to the B1G Championship, the Buckeyes would need a win at Michigan and an MSU loss to Penn State.
The Buckeyes and Wolverines will kick off at noon on Saturday in Ann Arbor.