Putrid defense costly for Buckeyes
It seems like a million years ago, but it was actually a little more than a month ago when Ohio State was undefeated and riding a 24-game winning streak. The Buckeyes had just hung on to beat Michigan in Ann Arbor, and for a brief moment, after Auburn beat Alabama, Ohio State was the second-ranked team in the country and all it needed was one win (over Michigan State) and a ticket could be punched to Pasadena.
Right after Auburn pulled off the miracle finish against the Crimson Tide, I sat back down at my computer in the Michigan press box. It was then I realized that Ohio State was going to jump to the No. 2 team in the land. After that epiphany, I just blurted out, “Does anyone in this room right now think that we just watched the number-two team in the country!?” Now mind you, that was after Ohio State gave up 603 yards to a struggling Wolverine offense.
I got a lot of funny looks. No one responded. I don’t know if it was because they thought I was a crazy, sleep deprived writer or if I was right, and no one else wanted to say it.
After the past two games (and two losses) by Ohio State, I now even more than I did that day stand behind that statement – Ohio State was not worthy of the BCS National Championship game.
Many analysts and Ohio State faithful were confident in an Ohio State win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl because Meyer had a month to prepare for the game. And going by history that thought process was completely warranted as Meyer was 4-0 in BCS bowl games. However, no one took into consideration that the Ohio State defense actually got worse in those four weeks.
The biggest loss was that Evan Spence was out of the game, serving his first of a three-game suspension for a rules violation. Bradley Roby also missed the game, though Roby hasn’t been the player Ohio State needed him to be all season. The biggest problem was that Roby’s replacement, Armani Reeves, had struggled all year, and that trend continued at the Orange Bowl.
By the numbers, it was a horrid performance. Tahj Boyd single-handedly beat Ohio State in the yardage category. The quarterback had 502 yards (127 rushing, 378 passing). As a team, the Buckeyes totaled 427 yards on Friday night.
In the last three games, Ohio State allowed 115 points and 1,617 yards (an average of 38.8 points and 539 yards per game). That’s not a defense that’s going to help a team win titles.
“We’re not a championship-caliber defense right now,” Meyer said after Friday night’s loss.
There’s a lot that needs to be changed in the offseason, which has to start with letting go of defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. Until the defensive issues are corrected, Ohio State will never be an elite team – or even the best team in the Big Ten. That title will belong to Michigan State.