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Ohio State’s loss has way worse playoff implications than we thought

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AKA Michigan...

NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

“Ohio State’s loss to Purdue was another reminder not to prematurely eliminate one-loss teams such as Oklahoma from the conversation--and Ohio State might not be the last undefeated team to fall.”

-Heather Dinich, ESPN

Perhaps the most brutal realization to come out of Saturday’s loss to Purdue was that, at this point in the season, Ohio State and Michigan are suddenly on equal footing for a spot as the Big Ten’s representative in the College Football Playoff. Nay, it gets worse. Michigan’s loss to Notre Dame in week one looks a heck of a lot better than the 49-20 loss to unranked (and three-loss) Purdue Ohio State endured Saturday. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but, given winning out the remainder of the season and a victory in the Big Ten Championship game, Michigan could end with a better playoff resume than Ohio State would under the same circumstances.

With Ohio State’s loss, other teams, previously written off, are emerging from the woodwork as playoff contenders themselves. Oklahoma has the most potential of this group, and with a win over TCU saturday (by a larger margin than that which the Buckeyes overcame the Horned Frogs by), the Sooners’ resume looks better and better, especially given that Texas looks to be more impressive each week. However, Oklahoma still has to go on the road to West Virginia and would have to play one of its previous opponents again in the Big 12 Championship Game, and one more loss would almost assuredly knock the Sooners out of contention entirely.

The fact that Oklahoma is still in the hunt should be of comfort to Ohio State. Last season, the Buckeyes had to make their case to the committee that a two-loss conference champion was a worthy playoff contender. Now, all Ohio State has to do is win out and, with victories over a likely top-five Michigan and a ranked opponent from the Big Ten West, the Buckeyes will still have one of the top resumes in the country.

Yes--easier said than done.

“That’s hard to do right now, to make drastic changes when you’re dealing with a banged-up football team.”

-Urban Meyer, via Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland.com

A loss before a bye week might not be so bad. Okay, it’s definitely worse than a win before a bye week which would maintain an undefeated season and give a team a clear path to the CFP. However, this loss could not have come soon enough for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes, because it finally allots time to fix issues which realistically have been plaguing the team for the duration of the season. Yes, serious adjustments are being demanded after an embarrassing blowout Saturday night, and some of those changes will probably be on display two weeks from now when Ohio State returns home to take on Nebraska.

Calls for changes in the defensive scheme have been strong, really, since the Buckeyes’ season opener versus Oregon State, when the Silver Bullets gave up a number of abhorrent big plays, but Ohio State had been getting by with mediocre coverage. Now, with a loss, the defense must face reality and make adjustments, like shifting linebackers back more into coverage instead of crowding the line. Yes, the defensive line is weakened without Nick Bosa, but it can still hold its own. Moving the linebackers back from the line of scrimmage means they will be better able to defend against the big play which has plagued for so much of the season. Similarly, the secondary has been playing Cover 2, but with two young defensive backs playing in Jeffrey Okudah and Kendall Sheffield, it would be worthwhile to consider a shift to Zone entirely.

On the offensive side of the ball, as much as fans called for an improved passing game before the season, no one really wanted passing to the exclusion of a strong rushing attack-- especially when that rushing attack features Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins. While a high-flying offense was great for a few games it was only successful because of the establishment of a solid running game.

“The only player on Ohio State’s entire team that graded above a 79 was fourth-year junior defensive end Dre’Mont Jones with an 84.5 (meaning he was by far OSU’s best player in West Lafayette). Yes, it was that kind of night.”

-Dave Biddle, 247Sports.com

With the 29-point loss Saturday, it is obvious that few players had individually good games. In fact, according to rankings from Pro Football Focus, only Dre’Mont Jones earned a “very good” rating of 84.5, according to the site, which goes to show that, even without Nick Bosa, the Ohio State defensive line is still performing at a very high level.

Back in coverage on the defense, however, things were a different story. Cornerback Jeffrey Okudah, who was starting in place of the injured Damon Arnette, who did not make the trip to West Lafayette, earned the lowest PFF grade on the team--a whopping 57.2 on 70 snaps. That mark qualified Okudah as “below average.” Earlier this season, Okudah earned praise from Urban Meyer for his ability in punt coverage, and he has shown spark from the corner spot despite some inconsistent play throughout the year. Basically, he has potential to be a lot better than what he showed Saturday.

Just as Okudah was put in a spot which he might not have been comfortable with (i.e., playing a full game in place of a more experienced defensive back), center Michael Jordan struggled Saturday at the center position, earning a grade of 56.6 on all 101 offensive snaps played for the Buckeyes. It has to be said that Jordan’s strength is at the guard spot, where he earned first-team All-Big Ten honors last season and Freshman All-American honors the year before. He followed in the footsteps of Billy Price and Pat Elflein this season, but the move may not have been what was best for the line as a whole. Last year, Jordan was an anchor at guard, and he likely would be the best player on the line this year if he moved back to his old spot.

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