We are incredibly spoiled as Ohio State fans. Most fan bases would kill to have the run of success over the past couple of decades that the Buckeyes have had. While other fan bases would have been celebrating a Rose Bowl victory, or numerous playoff appearances, Ohio State fans are thinking about what could have been. What if the Buckeyes hadn’t lost to Michigan State in 2015? Had Marvin Harrison Jr. not gotten concussed last year against Georgia, Ohio State would have cruised to a national title. And let’s not forget about all the shenanigans that happened in the 2019 playoff game against Clemson or COVID cases against Alabama in 2020.
This year already feels like one of those seasons where we end up asking what could have been. Even though Ohio State has won both of its games by at least 20 points, they haven’t exactly been impressive. With this collection of talent, the Buckeyes shouldn’t be struggling as much as they have against Indiana and Youngstown State. The lackluster performances haven’t inspired much confidence for a trip to Notre Dame later this month, and games against Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan later in the season.
Kyle McCord & the Ohio State offense
Before diving into what has been irking me so far about this season, I will give some credit to a few players who did step up this week. Kyle McCord was a lot better in his third career start. Obviously, good things happen when you throw the football in the direction of Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka. The two receivers combined for 12 catches for 254 yards and three scores in the 35-7 victory.
Even though he only carried the football five times, TreVeyon Henderson looks a lot healthier than he did last season. Sharing the workload with Miyan Williams and Chip Trayanum helps take some of the wear and tear off of Henderson, leaving him fresher to break some of the big runs as we saw from him as a freshman. It will be interesting to see if Ohio State continues to split carries like they have in the first two games, or if they lean more on one running back as the season moves along.
Now that we have all the warm fuzzies out of the way, it’s time to look at what’s wrong with the Buckeyes. Right now it feels like the biggest problem is head coach Ryan Day. I wrote during the offseason that I thought Day had peaked as Ohio State head coach and everyone thought I was crazy. It unfortunately is starting to feel like Day’s program is trending toward the downhill slide of late-stage Urban Meyer teamsat Florida and Ohio State. Sure, his teams were winning, but at what cost?
Remember when Day promoted Brian Hartline to offensive coordinator and said the former Buckeye wide receiver was going to take over some of the play-calling duties? I can’t imagine any of that has happened so far. Day undoubtedly let all the praise from the great game he called against Georgia in the CFP go to his head, and just told everyone what they wanted to hear about Hartline getting more responsibilities this year. You can tell it’s all Day, especially when you see running plays towards the boundary on the short side of the field on 3rd and 1.
Also, can Day quit crying about the new clock rules? We know they suck. So far, Indiana and Youngstown State have done the equivalent of parking the bus in soccer. The goal of the Hoosiers and Penguins wasn’t to win the game, but just to not get embarrassed. It’s not like the new clock rules are only enforced in Buckeye games, though. It didn’t stop Oregon from putting up 81 on an FCS opponent last week. Deal with it.
Defensive line/Larry Johnson
I know it’s hard to find fault in a defense that has allowed 10 points in two games this year, however, the defensive line should be playing better. With so many great players on the line, they should be generating more pressure. We all know how great J.T. Tuimolaou was last year against Penn State. But what has he done since then? He has been largely invisible. I keep waiting to see more consistency from the junior defensive end, it just hasn’t happened yet.
Is the lack of consistent pressure due to teams getting rid of the ball quickly? Is it a fall-off in coaching from Larry Johnson? Is it getting near the time for the legendary defensive line coach to hang it up?
Or is it because of the defensive scheme of Jim Knowles? Do the coordinator and line coaches’ philosophies not mesh well? Tommy Eichenberg and some of the other linebackers didn’t look to be having too much trouble generating pressure.
The defensive line hasn’t had a true difference-maker since Chase Young left for the NFL. Sure, there have been some good defensive linemen since then, but nobody NFL teams are looking at and saying they need to have that guy on their team.
Who knows, maybe this team is just sandbagging for Notre Dame, or perhaps they put things together and turn into the title contender that we all think they can be. Even with me whining about how the first couple of games have gone, the Buckeyes are still 2-0. Even a loss to the Fighting Irish wouldn’t totally bury Ohio State when it comes to the College Football Playoff, but it certainly would give them no margin for error.
We all saw what happened in 2014 when everyone was declaring the Buckeyes dead after the loss to Virginia Tech; let’s hope that they don’t lose early (or at all) and can figure out how to reach their potential sooner rather than later.
Like I said at the beginning of my rambling, we are an incredibly spoiled fan base. While these first two games have been wins, they haven’t been fun watches. Then again, all that matters in the end is getting the win. Go Bucks.