“Growing pains [are] part of the way it is. Every school in the country is dealing with it. I would say this, too, that it's very fragile. You just go home at night, sink into that chair and go, ‘Ooh, that team lost, that team lost.’ It happens. You've just got to keep swinging, one game at a time, one quarter at a time. Do I wish that we were [winning by] 56 points and all those kind of things? Sure, but we're a work in progress.”
It’s been said over and over again that Urban Meyer’s national championship teams have all had one loss and that Ohio State isn’t out of the College Football Playoff picture just yet. And that’s true, especially when you stop to consider that the 2014 version of Ohio State struggled during games and drew similar criticism from fans and media outlets alike that it didn’t have the look of a championship team. Those Buckeyes also had to fight through a Penn State team that took them to overtime and sluggishly handled Indiana at home before finally going on their way to a win over Michigan and then tearing through the postseason.
This version of Ohio State might not be as good as the one in 2014, but they don’t have to be. It’s a different season with different teams, and winning is the only thing that matters. As Meyer said above, sure, it’d be great to have this team blowing the competition out of the water, but with such a young team, perhaps that isn’t realistic. Regardless, the Buckeyes have a chance to make a statement on Saturday against Nebraska as they host the Cornhuskers in a prime time game.
“[Big Ten Awards] J.T. Barrett, Malik Hooker”
ESPN continues its weekly breakdown of the predicted finishes for the Big Ten awards race. As has been the case in the previous weeks, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett continues to dominate the votes for the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year with all five voters slotting Barrett in. Even though he didn’t have a touchdown against Northwestern, Barrett still leads the Big Ten in passing touchdowns with 17 and is second in completion percentage at 63.9 percent. Curtis Samuel is also on the list, ranked fourth.
Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker, meanwhile is in a tight race for first place for the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year with Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers. It’s almost hard to believe that Peppers won’t walk away with the award in hand by the end of the season, but that alone just speaks to how well Hooker has played this season. He’s tied for the Big Ten lead in interceptions as well, with four of his own. Hooker also led the way in tackles against Northwestern for the Ohio State defense and has been excellent for the Buckeyes all season.
“Last year, we were winning games, but we’d come in and talk to y’all and it was almost like we lost. Remember that? We don’t want to go back to that place. It’s hard to win games. All the work we put in during the offseason, to not enjoy a win is crazy. I’m not doing that, myself. I’m trying to express that to the team, as well.”
Ohio State fans aren’t the only ones that remembered how a lot of the games in 2015 didn’t seem to be all that fun, despite winning all of them (other than the Michigan State game). Barrett recalls it well, as you can see in the quote above. He feels just like everyone else does, he wants games to be fun when the Buckeyes win and not filled with question marks after Ohio State might sleepwalk or get in a dogfight with an opponent not expected to put up much of a fight. But the truth is, whenever the Buckeyes take the field, they’re going to get a team’s best shot.
And though Ohio State has dropped a game this season, the Buckeyes are still searching for that identity that can help take them to new heights. With Nebraska at hand, and Michigan State and Michigan looming in the distance, there’s still plenty of time for Ohio State to find itself and make that push towards the College Football Playoff.