Ohio State: Why the sky is not (necessarily) falling for Buckeyes
Perhaps the best news of the weekend for Ohio State fans is that early Sunday afternoon, the 24-hour rule went into effect.
The rule, which is really more of a strong suggestion, mandates that after any outcome — whether a glorious victory or a heart-breaking defeat — there’s a 24-hour period to celebrate or grieve. And with that finished, it’s time to get back to the business at hand.
Let’s be clear—the sky is not (necessarily) falling on the Buckeyes. Of the 28 previous CFP selections, only 11 didn’t lose a single game. The Big Ten champion has made the Playoff in 5 of the 7 final fours so far assembled. Losing a nonconference game in Week 2 — particularly one to a top ten team likely to contend for its own P5 conference title — isn’t exactly meaningless, but this isn’t the Purdue loss from 2018 that doomed the Buckeyes to be outside the CFP semifinals.
Why is OSU (probably) okay? Let us count the reasons.
1) OSU is still going to win the Big Ten
As of Sunday morning, Wisconsin is probably the second most likely team to win the Big Ten. The most recent check of listed odds has the Badgers at 13/2 to win the title. Iowa and Penn State are both listed at 8/1, and after that, nobody comes in better than 18/1 … except the Buckeyes, who are still a hefty favorite. OSU doesn’t play Iowa or Wisconsin in the regular season, and thus, could only face one or the other in the B1G title game. Meanwhile, Penn State will have to come to Columbus on Oct. 30, and that is probably the next time OSU will find itself in a competitive game.
2) The rest of the (potential) field is not so overwhelming
Alabama is almost certain to have a 12-0 season. Fair enough. Georgia looks fairly likely to do the same (although less so that Bama). If that happens, those 2 teams will fill half of the CFP field. In essence, then, Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State are likely competing for 2 spots. Clemson has an incredibly soft regular season slate — maybe so soft that State would get the advantage in a head-to-head of the two as 1-loss teams. Oklahoma has self-destructed so many times it’s safe to expect it until it doesn’t happen. The Buckeyes could even end up No. 2 in the field.
3) OSU has the pieces to fix the problems
Of all the problems for OSU to face, a subpar run defense is a surprising one. There are a few reasons that it’s not the worst problem in the world to have.
First, the Buckeyes have faced 2 of the toughest (if not the 2 toughest) running games they’ll see all season.
Second, OSU has players upon players, mostly of the 5-star variety, particularly in the front seven. Those players are just genuinely inexperienced. Watching Oregon get the corner on outside runs time after time didn’t bespeak a lack of OSU talent to stop them … it just said that the guys on the field lacked the experience to avoid getting sucked inside on crucial runs.
Third, Kerry Coombs has to have the tricks up his sleeve to improve on an incredibly vanilla defense. A month or so of non-competitive games will give Coombs the chance to get more comfortable with his young personnel groups, and to give them more weapons for the season’s late stretch.
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Saturday’s loss to Oregon is in the rear-view mirror of OSU football. It isn’t fatal — at least by itself, it isn’t. Ohio State has to renew its focus and do a better job putting players in position to win games. The good news is there’s plenty of reason to think they’ll do exactly that — starting now.