COLUMBUS, Ohio — If you’ve watched an Ohio State game this season, you’ve probably noticed the unending stream of flags that has given officiating crews about as much air time as the players themselves.
The Buckeyes rank 116th nationally in fewest penalties per game, drawing 8.80 flags per contest on average. Given that there are only 128 teams in the FBS subdivision, it’s fair to say that the Buckeyes haven’t been so great in that department this season.
Try telling that to Urban Meyer, though.
The Ohio State head coach was asked about the Buckeyes’ penalty problems during his Monday press conference and seemed to be under the impression that his team was near the top of that category, which is perhaps true if you’re looking at which teams commit the most penalties.
“I didn’t know that,” he said. “Obviously I’m going to go check that right when we leave here. I just saw a stat we’re only like in the top five in penalties. Check your stats, brother.”
For the record, here is how the Buckeyes have fared from a penalty standpoint in the 2016 season. Their least-penalized game was against Rutgers, when they were still flagged six times for 64 yards.
Here’s the thing, though: None of it has mattered. Look at Ohio State’s worst showing of the year. Against Oklahoma on the road, the Buckeyes committed a staggering 11 penalties for 75 yards. It didn’t matter. Despite committing nearly a dozen penalties against a top-15 team — away from home, no less — the Buckeyes rolled the Sooners by 21 points. It was never close.
Against Indiana on Saturday, when the Buckeyes racked up their largest penalty yardage total, there were four offensive drives in which they were flagged for penalties. They scored on three of them.
With a roster like Ohio State’s does it even matter how many flags fly? On offense, in addition to J.T. Barrett at quarterback, the Buckeyes have Mike Weber at running back, Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson at H-back and Noah Brown at wide receiver. Those four skill-position players have each broken a play longer than 30 yards and have combined for 20 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Buckeyes’ starting lineup includes linebacker Jerome Baker, cornerback Marshon Lattimore and safety Malik Hooker, all of whom have scored touchdowns this season. That’s to say nothing of players like defensive ends Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes and linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who have combined to force four fumbles.
When it comes down to it, it’s hard to blame Meyer for not noticing something that hasn’t been a factor. For all the talent the Buckeyes have, those penalties might as well not exist. Their impact sure doesn’t.