COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer wants to get a roll started, and the Ohio State coach is almost certainly going to get his way.
Considering the upcoming slate of opponents, the wins are about to pile up, the momentum will start building and the Buckeyes are going to find themselves right back in a top-five spot in the polls.
The hard part will be figuring out exactly how good this team is by the last weekend in October — precisely because of that upcoming slate of opponents.
No disrespect to the courageous warriors at Army, but it is incapable of providing a test for Ohio State’s revamped secondary on Saturday. With a triple-option attack, the Black Knights aren’t even likely to bother throwing on a team that has been one of the worst in the country defending the pass over the first two weeks of the season.
Sorry if this hurts UNLV’s feelings, but no team that loses at home to Howard is coming to the Horseshoe and providing a challenge for a team with as much elite talent as the Buckeyes. Ohio State could use Army’s playbook and beat the Rebels without bothering to throw a pass.
Poor Rutgers. Chris Ash did a marvelous job co-coordinating the defense at Ohio State, but why he chose the Herculean task of trying to rebuild the Scarlet Knights in the most loaded division in college football has always been hard to understand. Losing to Eastern Michigan isn’t great preparation for an Ohio State team that will have a chip on its shoulder when it returns to Big Ten play.
Maryland is a team on the rise, no question about it. But in what has become a familiar refrain, the Terps have already lost their starting quarterback for the season and don’t really have an answer for Ohio State’s ridiculous defensive line.
Oh, Nebraska? That visit to take on the Huskers looked like it could be a really solid measuring stick and possible preview of the Big Ten title game in the offseason. Now it looks like it could be replay of last year’s lopsided Ohio State blowout.
That’s five games that on paper look like smooth sailing for the Buckeyes, with a bye week tacked on for good measure. Maybe it would have been preferable for Meyer to have those games at the top of the order this fall instead of battling an unexpectedly feisty Indiana squad on the road and then following that up with a traditional powerhouse like Oklahoma, but there’s nothing that can be done about that now.
Instead, all Ohio State can do now is handle what is ahead of it. It has to make sure it’s in position for another run at the College Football Playoff by handling its business against the teams it should beat without much trouble and have all the kinks worked out when Penn State rolls into Columbus on Oct. 28.
That’s not to suggest that anybody should just wish for a fast-forward button to the end of next month. For starters, the season is too short to take any opportunity to watch football for granted. But more importantly, Meyer has some issues that clearly need to be addressed to make another run at the national title — and some invaluable opportunities to tweak, tinker, experiment and find answers.
J.T. Barrett is struggling right now to lead the passing attack. It’s not all his fault, and it’s definitely safer to assume that he’s going to remain the starter considering his impressive track record of success. But these matchups should afford Meyer a chance to evaluate his options with Dwayne Haskins and Joe Burrow just in case.
Army isn’t likely to scrap its game plan to try to throw on the Buckeyes, but everybody else paying attention can see what’s worked and test their luck through the air. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs haven’t forgotten how to do their jobs, and there is more than enough talent to work with both in the starting lineup and on the bench to get the secondary back on track.
By the time the Nittany Lions arrive, new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, quarterbacks coach Ryan Day and Meyer will have worked together five more times. That experience should ensure everybody is on the same page by then, working to avoid any more outings where J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber somehow combine to have fewer carries than Barrett by himself.
The Buckeyes have been in this situation before, and the story of their ensuing run after losing to Virginia Tech in 2014 is well known to everybody inside and outside the program. This current version of Ohio State is every bit as talented and more than capable of bouncing back the same way and chasing down some hardware.
It’s just going to require a bit of patience for now, though. The Buckeyes are about to go on a roll, but the jury will be out on how good they are until a verdict arrives on Oct. 28.