Season Report Card: Ohio State Buckeyes
With some of college football’s best offensive players returning to the field—including dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller and beastly running back Carlos Hyde—Ohio State earned a preseason ranking of No. 2 in the nation behind the defending national champion, Alabama.
The Buckeyes were sitting pretty at 12-0 entering the Big Ten Conference Championship, riding a 24-game winning streak and needing one final win to reach the BCS National Championship.
But it did not end up that way.
Ohio State was stifled against the eventual Rose Bowl winners, as Michigan State ripped the Buckeyes’ secondary into shreds, leaving the offense nearly helpless on the side line for a good portion of the second half.
Sparty won 34-24, sending tOSU to the Orange Bowl—not a bad consolation prize—where it failed to stop Tajh Boyd and the Clemson Tigers, losing 40-35 in what was an exciting punch-for-punch matchup.
All-in-all, it was a solid campaign for Ohio State. But when expectations exceed results, there will always be something missing. Here are its grades for the 2013 season:
Ohio State’s offense was slowed down in its final two games, putting 59 points on the board but suffering on third down (just 3-for-23) and getting no help from the passing game. Miller was great through the first 12 weeks, but his throwing abilities are once again being questioned after back-to-back poor performances to end the season. Still, the running game was basically unstoppable, averaging 308.6 yards per game (5th in the nation) behind Meyer’s first 1,000-yard rusher in Hyde (who finished with 1,521 and 15 touchdowns). The Buckeyes were the country’s third-highest scoring team (45.5), and only scored less than 40 points in four of 14 opportunities.
Although most stats won’t tell you so, it was an absolute trainwreck on the defensive side of things for Ohio State. Cornerback Bradley Roby stayed another year to help improve his draft stock, but was horrendous in man coverage and could contend for one of college football’s biggest disappointments for the 2013 season. For a second straight year, the linebackers struggled to execute assignments and were unable to help in coverage—even All-American Ryan Shazier had his “what is he doing?!” moments. Although it could have been better, the defensive line was the lone bright spot for this unit. Freshman DL Joey Bosa showed us why he’s going to be a star, finishing second in the Big Ten with 8.0 sacks to go along with the well-established Noah Spence’s 7.5 sacks and 14.0 tackles for loss. But their efforts weren’t enough to make up for the back seven, as Ohio State allowed 164 points in its final five games of the season.
I’m a Meyer supporter, but Ohio State’s football program is known for being built on a defensive foundation. It’s been an embarrassing first two seasons for this Silver Bullet unit under his name, and year three must provide significant progress in the right direction. I’m not exactly sure how co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell still has his job—especially after his frustrating play-calling against Michigan—but the hiring of Chris Ash from Arkansas should make an immediate impact in the development of these younger players.
In just about any other case, 12 wins would be considered an outstanding year. But those 12 wins came before two losses, and Ohio State’s collapse at season’s end leaves a lot of questions heading into the first of the College Football Playoffs era. The Buckeyes have a lot of work to do this offseason.
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