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Column: Two potential paths for the 2018 Ohio State football team

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Will the Buckeyes take the red pill or the blue pill?

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Purdue Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Two roads diverged in a metaphoric wood in West Lafayette, Ind. on Saturday, as the Ohio State Buckeyes were embarrassed by the Purdue Boilermakers, 49-20, in their most devastating defeat since the Iowa Hawkeyes beat them 55-24 a little over 11 months ago; which was a little over 10 months after the Clemson Tigers beat them 31-0. In fact, apropos of nothing, those three defeats are the three largest in Urban Meyer’s entire head coaching career, and they’ve all come in a span of less than 22 months.

For better or for worse, this latest edition of embarrassing Buckeye football came as the team heads into a bye week, meaning that they have nearly two full weeks before they are able to take to the field and begin to rebuild what is left of their season.

Unlike last year when Ohio State was humiliated on national television by Iowa, this year’s squad only has one loss (in 2017, OSU had lost to Oklahoma as well), so, theoretically, they still likely control their own destiny in terms of the College Football Playoff. Now, after watching the Buckeyes flounder last night, I might not necessarily bet on them winning out, but with 13 days before they return to action against Nebraska, if changes are to be made in order to right this seemingly rudderless ship, now is the time.

So, while the multiverse holds an infinite number of possible ways that this season could play out, let’s take a look at the best case and status quo case scenarios for the rest of Ohio State’s 2018 football season.


Path 1: Coaches Make Adjustments to Firmly Held Philosophies

As we’ve been writing about for a while now here at Land-Grant Holy Land, there are a number of systemic issues within the Ohio State program that have been preventing the team from reaching its full potential for years.

There will be plenty of time to dive into what those problems are— and how the coaching staff should fix them— over the next two weeks, but in this thought exercise, we are going to assume that in following this path, Urban Meyer and his merry band of assistants figure out a way to correct the vast majority of the team’s problems.

Of course, there will be problems that are uncorrectable at this point, primarily revolving around talent deficiencies at certain position groups— thanks to attrition to the NFL, injuries, and misses in recruiting. No matter how much good work is done during the bye week, those problems aren’t getting solved; save players still on the roster getting healthier.

However, if the coaches can pry their cold, dead hands off of the schemes and philosophies that they have clung to for the majority of their careers— but no longer appear to be ideal for this group of players— the Buckeyes should still have at least an outside chance of achieving the remainder of their goals this season.

So, let’s take a look at the remaining pre-Bowl schedule for the Buckeyes if things go as well as humanly possible.

Best Case Scenario

Date Opponent Projected Outcome Notes
Date Opponent Projected Outcome Notes
Nov. 3 Nebraska W Despite the Huskers' first victory of the season, Scott Frost's team just doesn't have the talent to compete with OSU when they are firing on all cylinders.
Nov. 10 Michigan State W Mark Dantonio has his team playing better as of late, but if OSU gets its defensive issues even close to fixed, you can expect something similar to the offensive output that Sparty had against TTUN– though likely still not to that extreme.
Nov. 17 Maryland W For all of the positives that Matt Canada has brought to the Terps as the interm coach, they just aren't ready to compete with OSU when the Bucks are right.
Nov. 24 Michigan W The Wolverines have proven that they are the real deal following their Week 1 loss to Notre Dame. Their defense is as good as any in the country, and Shea Patterson and the offense are getting just enough done to be successful. But, if OSU figures out the running game, it will likely be too much for the UM defense to handle.
Dec. 1 B1G West Champ W The West is still wide open, so OSU could see Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin, or Purdue again. Northwestern has mostly beaten up on B1G also rans thus far, so let's count them out, and I think Wisconsin is a bit of a paper tiger this year. So, fittingly, the Buckeyes should have an opportunity to avenge one of its two recent, horrific losses. If that's the case in this rose-colored reality, then expect Ohio State to get it done.

If the Ohio State team and coaches get things turned around and things play out as well as possible, the Buckeyes should find themselves right back in the discussion for a playoff berth, and I would expect them to make college football’s final four this time around.


Path 2: Stick to the Status Quo

In this darker timeline, the Buckeye coaches say the right things about how they are taking a hard look at what is and isn’t getting the job done, and are working tirelessly to address the shortcomings before the team gets back to action against Nebraska. However, their adjustments will be mostly superficial as they fail to address the underlying root causes.

This scenario sees the Buckeyes still win a number of their remaining games, because the talent that they have is generally better than almost anyone that they’ll face, and despite the problems with the schemes and philosophies, the OSU coaches are actually still good coaches and intelligent enough to find ways to improve execution, even if they don’t make the wholesale changes that appear necessary at this point.

Now, keep in mind, this isn’t the worst case scenario, because that would involve players getting hurt, coaches giving up, and all kinds of further mishegas that I can’t allow my fragile mind to entertain at this time.

Status Quo Case Scenario

Date Opponent Projected Outcome Notes
Date Opponent Projected Outcome Notes
Nov. 3 Nebraska W In this status quo projection, this game would look very much like that against Minnesota– who the Huskers just beat yesterday. OSU would take a punch, but would be just too good to go down for the count.
Nov. 10 Michigan State L I think that if things remain unchanged for the Buckeyes, this game will be very close, and OSU just might win. The Spartans' offense was incredibly inept against UM yesterday, but their defense did look impressive at times. But, Brian Lewerke should have time to get healthy before the game against OSU, and that could be the difference for MSU to put up enough points to beat the Buckeyes.
Nov. 17 Maryland W In this timeline, the Terps provide a potent challenge to the Buckeyes– something akin to that of the Indiana game– but OSU pulls it out in the fourth quarter.
Nov. 24 Michigan L If the Buckeyes don't make major improvements between now and The Game, this has the potential to rival the 1946 beatdown that the Wolverines put on OSU, 58-6.
Dec. 1 B1G West Champ N/A lol

If things play out this way, that would put the Buckeyes at 9-3, and in line for a berth in something like the Outback, Citrus, or Taxslayer Gator Bowl; a far cry from where expectations for this team began, or have been, all season.


Fortunately, like with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Meyer and company may change these shadows we have shown you, by an altered approach to offensive and defensive game planning.

But will they? Only time will tell.

Poll

Of only these two paths, which do you think that this group of OSU players and coaches will take?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Best Case Scenario
    (239 votes)
  • 71%
    Status Quo Case Scenario
    (599 votes)
838 votes total Vote Now