COLUMBUS — Coming off their first regular season loss since 2011, the 22nd-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes are hoping that the defeat to Virginia Tech is simply a pothole on the road toward a Big Ten title, and not a head dive into a dark abyss.
The Buckeyes (1-1) didn't appear to be prepared at all for the look Virginia Tech presented them on Saturday night, as the Hokies came out in full attack mode on Buckeyes freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said with no Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde or a veteran offensive line, the Hokies pinned their ears back and sold out in their attempt to make Barrett's life in the pocket a living hell.
"(The Hokies) felt good about (their game plan)," Meyer said Monday during his weekly media luncheon in Columbus. "I don't want to speak for them, but after watching the films a bunch of times, they felt their match ups at corner were better, and they had a freshman quarterback and new offensive line. Before we get a play started, we were going to be in the back field. Pretty gutsy, but I don't know if you do that against last year's team ...
"But a veteran offensive line coming back and a veteran quarterback (Miller), I'm not saying the outcome would have been different. I'm not saying that. But I think the Virginia Tech coaching staff made a gutsy decision, and they really did a nice job."
The reality is, Braxton Miller isn't coming back this season, and the offensive line certainly isn't playing anywhere near "veteran" levels. In fact, in 30 years of watching Ohio State football, I have never observed a worse performance from an offensive front in Columbus than the one I have witnessed during the first two contests of this season.
The blueprint on how to beat the Buckeyes has been published, now they must make major adjustments or more dire struggle is sure to follow.
As for Barrett, it seems he has the mental makeup to make it through these early season woes. While he does have more interceptions (4) than touchdown passes (3) through the first two weeks of his collegiate career, he has displayed the poise of a four-year veteran.
Meyer feels that attribute is something the team can rally around.
"(Barrett) missed half of his senior year (of high school) with an ACL, so he hasn't played a lot of football," Meyer said. "He had to get back and get healthy. He wasn't healthy when he first got here. We recruited him because first of all his ability level. You could see he can throw and he runs it well enough, but the real, which is probably as important as anything, is the character and maturity and what kind of human being he is.
"He'll rebound. I have all the confidence in the world, so does our offensive staff. That is his strength. You'll watch a young man that's really going to rebound this weekend."
The Buckeyes need to look at Saturday's tilt with in-state opponent, Kent State (0-2), as a glorified scrimmage. They must sharpen all facets of the game.
The offensive line must figure out how to dam the pass rush, the stable of running backs must find their stallion, the receivers on the edges must find a way to shed their shadows, and the defensive backfield must learn how to tackle and develop instinct.
Yes, that is a whole lot of "musts" the Buckeyes are facing this Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium.
This game isn't going to be about winning ... it's about righting what appears to be a sinking ship.
The Buckeyes "must" win in impressive fashion.
Lee's prediction: OSU 42-10