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Ohio State has a path back to relevancy in 2017 — but it won’t be easy

Getting smacked by Iowa is never fun, but a return to the Big Ten Championship is still firmly in reach.

Ohio State v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

The takes have been rolling since Iowa’s 55-24 beatdown of the Buckeyes, with some suggesting Urban Meyer has lost his edge, and others (rightfully) pointing to another QB-centric rushing attack as the culprit behind the stagnant offense. Rather than pretending to have the answers that Meyer apparently doesn’t, let’s take a deep breath and keep things in perspective:

  • The Buckeyes have allowed an average of 22.3 points per game (PPG) this season. This is a total of 201 points, which is as many as the defense gave up all of last season and more than the 2015 group. Still, each of the 2012-2014 units allowed at least 22.0 PPG. Setbacks aren’t anticipated or desired, but the 2017 Buckeyes defense is far from the worst unit we’ve ever seen.
  • The Buckeyes’ National Championship hopes are over: Damn. Ohio State joins 100-plus other fan bases that have also been forced to face this cruel reality.

Back in February 27, 2002, Bill Simmons wrote an enlightening piece titled Rules for being a true fan. Simmons’ 12th rule called for your team getting a five-year grace period from any-and-all complaints following a championship. Of course, living by this creed was assuredly easier in a world without smart phones and instant access to platforms like Twitter — but we can still try to expand our opinion of Ohio State football past the previous 60 minutes of game time.

For example, take a look at the current Big Ten East standings:

Sure, it would’ve been nice to spend more than a week atop the division, but the Buckeyes are squarely in the Big Ten title race as one of only two teams in the East division without a divisional loss. It’s clear the Buckeyes don’t have the week-to-week consistency of a national champion, but there’s a clear path back to gaining some respect back.

Michigan State, Illinois, and at Michigan won’t be an easy sweep, but the Buckeyes face the prospect of playing spoiler in the Big Ten championship against a potentially top-four-undefeated Wisconsin Badgers squad OR get a rematch against the Hawkeyes. What lies after that is anyone’s guess, but I for one can think of worst ways to spend an afternoon than catching a Fiesta Bowl trilogy against Notre Dame or SEC showdown against the eventual loser of Georgia-Alabama.

2017 likely won’t stick out among the best Ohio State football seasons no matter what happens from here on out. Still, one of the worst losses of the Meyer era followed one of the better wins:

The Buckeyes essentially took five weeks off (sorry/not sorry Nebraska) between Oklahoma and Penn State, but the last 14 days have been an emotional rollercoaster of epic proportions for Ohio State fans. As LGHL Lifer Matt Brown noted, the Buckeyes control their own destiny in winning the Big Ten and going to a New Year’s Six bowl game — a pretty great season.

But the Buckeyes also hold their own destiny in potentially having another lackluster performance against Michigan State. The thought of a 2,173 day streak coming to an end doesn’t sound very good for the Ohio State #brand either. Buckeye fans should rest easy knowing the only person more upset than them about last Saturday’s loss is Meyer, and he still holds the keys to having his worst season with the Buckeyes be better than Jim Harbaugh’s best season with the Wolverines.