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The old blood is gone from Ohio State’s program. Is that enough to stop the blowout losses?

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While Urban Meyer only lost nine games as OSU’s head coach, far too many of them were outright embarrassing.

Graphic via Patrick Mayhorn
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Three years, four blowout losses, two of which came against underachieving Big Ten West foes to whom the Ohio State Buckeyes — in all reality — had no business losing. In the past three seasons, going back to the 2016 playoff loss to Clemson, Ohio State has been blown out four times. Once, by 31, to the Tigers back in that ill-fated semifinal matchup — OSU’s last trip the CFP under former head coach Urban Meyer.

The blowouts struck twice in 2017; one, to Oklahoma, though the final score (31-16) didn’t fully reflect the thrashing that Ohio State took from the Sooners. The other to Iowa, in an absolutely baffling 55-24 shellacking. In 2018 — not that you could likely forget — the Buckeyes were blasted by Purdue, 49-20.

Three years, four blowouts. In those final three years of Meyer’s tenure, the Buckeyes suffered only five total losses. One to Penn State, thanks to a late game collapse, and the four blowouts. Late in Meyer’s reign, if Ohio State was losing, it was probably getting embarrassed in the process.

Luckily, Meyer didn’t allow his Buckeye teams to lose very often. Ohio State was still in playoff contention even in a tumultuous final season under Meyer, and the blowouts never became a truly frequent occurrence; though you could seemingly mark down an annual blowout on each schedule, usually to whichever Big Ten West team Ohio State had to travel to that season.

If Meyer was still at the head of Ohio State’s program, there would be two games easily circled as potential blowouts on this 2019 schedule: Nebraska and Northwestern. Both are Big Ten West foes, on the road, and both offer a unique challenge for the Buckeyes. Nebraska has one of the more exciting spread offenses in the country, a system that has absolutely baffled Ohio State for several years now. Northwestern hosts the Buckeyes on a Friday night, and can make any game sloppy with their defense.

However, Meyer isn’t at the head of the program anymore. He stepped down in January. Ryan Day is now in charge, and with the change at the top came, quite a few other changes came down the board, including an almost completely new defensive staff. Is that enough to fix the kind of loss that has held Ohio State out of back-to-back playoffs, and created an absurd amount of anxiety for any matchup with a Big Ten West foe that seems to lose to Akron every year?

There’s no way to know for sure until the clock hits zero and Ohio State walks out of Memorial Stadium and Ryan Field with victories, rather than with crushing, stunning, explosive defeats. There’s no way to know for sure until Ohio State finds the same fate against Cincinnati, FAU, Indiana, Maryland, and any other “trap game” on their schedule.

From here, in August, it appears as though the changes that Ohio State has made should fix the letdowns. In the past, we’ve covered what caused those drop off games pretty extensively, and it seems like just about all of the causes are no longer in Columbus, and those that are still in Columbus have either been given a job in the athletic department, or a podcast where they yell into the void about fathers’ rights.

Greg Schiano is off with his family. Bill Davis is with the Cardinals, because the NFL never learns. Taver Johnson is with the Raiders, and Alex Grinch is in Oklahoma. You know the names and faces in their old spots, and despite whatever Greg Mattison says about how he loves everything about Tuf Borland, Day is running the ship, and doesn’t seem anywhere near as wedded to loyalty as Meyer was.

That should mean shorter ropes for struggling player and coaches, and it should mean no more repeat performances with a scheme that isn’t working, hoping for it to finally, magically fix itself, this time around. Ohio State wanted a flexible coach, and Day seems to have that as a top priority, and that may be enough to avoid the blowouts.

There is an upsetting hypothetical in there, however, a more existential one than most would like to even consider. What if, with all the changes, the new system, the new coaches, and even with new players, Ohio State goes to Nebraska on September 28th and gets housed? I’m talking 52-21 territory; just a complete blowout. What if the same thing happens at Northwestern, either along with a loss at Nebraska, or just on its own?

What if the changes don’t fix it, and Ohio State just continues to rattle off 12 wins every season, doomed to finish fifth nationally regardless of their wins, because they can’t stop losing to Jeff Brohm, Kirk Ferentz, Pat Fitzgerald, P.J. Fleck, or Scott Frost?

That’s much harder to answer than any questions Ohio State had this past season. Scheme can be fixed. If the scheme changes, the coaches change, and the players change, but heartbreaking losses continue, there’s a deeper issue there. That’s a problem that may go deeper than, “Well, the corner was in the wrong place all game because his coordinator hasn’t seen a spread offense in his entire life.”

Ohio State isn’t there, and I seriously doubt it gets there. The Buckeyes have seemingly done just about everything they needed to do to cut out the bizarre losses they took in years past, and if that means a slight sacrifice in the close games department that Meyer was so famous for dominating, then so be it. That should almost certainly lead to a season with wins over all of the teams that Ohio State should beat, and one or two understandable losses to top 25 teams.

If it doesn’t, however? Well, I suppose we’ll just have to cross that bridge if we get there.

Poll

Do you think the coaching changes fix OSU’s blowout issues?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Absolutely. Day’s staff is special.
    (137 votes)
  • 52%
    I sure hope so. I can’t take it if not.
    (187 votes)
  • 8%
    Nope. The problems go beyond coaching.
    (31 votes)
355 votes total Vote Now