I came into the office today burning on the idea that I'd write 600 or so words on Ohio State's offensive line being the root of all its problems.
How does a line that had its way with some of the best defensive fronts college football has to offer suddenly struggle with the likes of Hawaii and Northern Illinois, particularly after (mostly) looking the part against a rather stout Virginia Tech Bear front?
Some had argued going into the season that Buckeye senior LT Taylor Decker was the best at his position in the country. Pat Elflein, Billy Price, Jacoby Boren, and even the only new starter, senior tackle Chase Farris, were all name-checked on draft-eligible prospect short lists as well.
Now, we sit with the Buckeyes' number of explosive plays declining from each week to the next. Neither quarterback seems capable of going through his progressions and making the best decision. And though the numbers don't entirely reflect it, would-be Heisman frontrunner Ezekiel Elliott seems neutered to an extent as well.
... And then Coach Meyer had to go and rain on that parade.
"It's not the QB, it's not the O-line. It's a variety of things," the Ohio State head coach said to the reporters gathered at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center early Monday afternoon.
Meyer was noncommittal in his postgame press conference in the wake of what was probably the single worst game of the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State (losses included). He understandably needed to watch the tape before he could comment on the frustrating, disappointing afternoon that 105,000 fans suffered through.
Between Saturday evening and now, he did. And the results were about what you could imagine.
On Saturday, Meyer seemed to paint Cardale Jones' two picks and J.T. Barrett's lone interception as justifiable mistakes. Monday afternoon? "Inexcusable."
Though Meyer was particularly restrained and did a great job of making sure the heat fell on the right places and in no sense threw his players under the bus, it was pretty clear from what he said -- and what he didn't say -- that the tenuous state of the offense is drawing the appropriate reaction.
I agree with Rivals' Ross Fulton that the subtext from Meyer's press conference was that the playcalling just isn't working. Lest we forget, many of those with the pitchforks out for Ed Warinner right now were similarly critical to Tom Herman at this time last year. But the current overly cute play calls and execution issues like running right at blitzes go hand-in-hand with the sudden inability for the line to do its most basic tasks.
Meyer talked Monday about revisiting structurally how the coaches are configured. At present, Warinner coaches from the sidelines to continue his duty as offensive line coach and Tim Beck, the quarterbacks coach/co-offensive coordinator, views things from the coaches booth. Though figuring out the alchemy to make the offense resemble even a shell of the one we saw tear through an elite Alabama defense at season's end probably isn't that simple, tinkering is necessary if not urgent.
Perhaps the most frustrating part is that Northern Illinois' defense isn't even built to run what the Huskies trotted out against the Buckeyes. After seeing what Hawaii was able to do with a 3-4 over look, NIU reconfigured to do the same, and despite not having the ideal personnel, was even *more* effective than the Rainbow Warriors had been.
Where the real problem lies -- besides the pair of uneven, far from reassuring showings against lesser non-conference foes -- is what things are going to look like when Michigan State goes multiple, not unlike their imitation of Virginia Tech's front last season.
To say nothing of what'll happen when/if the Buckeyes see it in the playoff: What if they see it from Michigan?
The Buckeyes' head man was adamant that they hadn't used a two-quarterback system to point, and the until this week, the job was very literally Cardale's. But that doesn't matter now.
Ohio State seemingly needs to pick a guy, stick with him, then figure out what buttons to push to get an extremely high-level offensive line looking like one again, and avoid the temptation to put a bunch of cutesy looks on tape to make the schools from That State Up North think about.
That certainly reads like no small task. And though reality almost assuredly would dictate otherwise, the onus is now on the coaches. Easy to mend or not, the growing sink hole underneath the Ohio State offense isn't getting any smaller. And if they keep waiting to fix it, sooner or later, it's going to be too late.