Fixing Ohio State football in 2014

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

While the disappointment of losses in the Big Ten Championship and the Orange Bowl is still weighing heavy on the team's – and fans' – minds, the Buckeyes don't have a long way to go to fix things in 2014.

Maybe you recently read some anti-Urban Meyer/coaching staff hot takes, and they rubbed you the wrong way. It seems a little reactionary to suggest that Meyer isn't the right guy for the job after 24 consecutive wins, a trip to the conference championship, and a BCS bowl bid in 2013.

Or, maybe you read such criticism on social media and elsewhere and though longtime Buckeyes fan, who are just as frustrated as you are by the way the season ended, might not necessarily be in the right zip code, but just may be onto something being wrong. Ohio State's defense was indisputably terrible in 2013, and primarily succeeded against weaker opponents. Braxton Miller did make ill-timed mistakes, throughout the season, and the Miller-heavy game plan against Michigan State didn't always make the most sense. Nor did continuing to push it with Miller when he was obviously playing hurt against Clemson. Surely everyone agrees that the Buckeyes did, indeed, fail to show up when it mattered most this season.

Urban Meyer is best known for winning. He has one of the best career winning percentages in college football history, and the best winning percentage among all active NCAA football coaches. Look at sad Urban Meyer sadly eating pizza after the Big Ten Championship game. Meyer is not a man who tolerates losing well.

All of that said, the Buckeyes do need to address their weaknesses if they want to be in contention for a championship next season which is undoubtedly the goal for this program.

Ohio State's defense has to improve, despite the fact that key players like Bradley Roby and Ryan Shazier will enter the NFL Draft. Ohio State's defense didn't look too bad on paper. Their 42 sacks on the season placed them third among FBS schools, behind Stanford and Louisville. The Buckeyes had 56 pass deflections and just 16 interceptions. They really struggled more against the pass, giving up big plays consistently, which is an area in which they desperately need to approve in 2014. New blood coaching Ohio State's cornerbacks following Everett Withers' departure for JMU should help on that front.

Perhaps Meyer did rely too heavily on Braxton Miller in the last two games of the season. Perhaps the Orange Bowl in particular, with Miller visibly in pain after nearly every offensive snap, would have finished differently had Kenny Guiton spent more time on the field. It doesn't matter for 2014, because Guiton is graduating, and a backup quarterback of his caliber is exceedingly rare. Miller is the guy for 2014.

Miller really progressed as a passer in 2013, and it's reasonable to expect he will continue to hone his skills this offseason. He spent much of the last offseason in the film room, studying his technique and footwork, and that was key to his improvement in 2013. Miller's 2012 completion percentage was 58.3%, which improved to 63.5% in 2013. Continued improvement from Miller as a passer will help the Buckeyes in 2014.

Blowing a chance to earn respect for the program is perhaps the most painful thing about the way the season ended. The criticisms that abounded in 2013 about Ohio State's weak schedule aren't likely to go away in 2014. The only way the Buckeyes can overcome this issue is to win when it matters. This team has to play more consistent football on both sides of the ball next season.

Frustration with the team, with Meyer, with football in general is a pretty reasonable reaction to the way the season ended. Is Urban Meyer the right guy to turn things around? His career winning percentage, his skill for recruiting, and his intolerance for losing would suggest that he is. Looking at his record at Ohio State, 24-2 over the course of two seasons, what Meyer has accomplished with this program is remarkable.

After the Orange Bowl, center Corey Linsley pointed out that finishing the season 12-2 was just another season for Ohio State. This is not a team, or a head coach, that is content to go undefeated in the regular season, and blow it on the big stages. They Buckeyes have a lot of work to do for 2014, and a coach who is well prepared to make sure they address their weaknesses for next season.

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