GLENDALE, Ariz. — When Urban Meyer got to the podium at University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday night, he only confirmed what Ohio State fans must have already known.
Changes are coming to Ohio State, one way or another. There is no other response to a humbling, faith-shaking 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. The Tigers dismissed the Buckeyes from the College Football Playoff with ease, making them look nothing like a championship contender.
At Ohio State, that will never be enough.
In 2013, back-to-back losses brought Chris Ash to reshape the defense. In 2015, a season-ruining defeat to Michigan State brought changes to the play-calling structure and later to the offensive staff. And now, after the first shutout of Meyer’s career — and the first at OSU since 1993 — there will be more adjustments.
“Ohio State is not used to this,” Meyer said. “I’m not used to this, and we will not get used to this. That’s not going to happen again. So we’ll get things worked out.”
The Buckeyes won’t clean house. It’s neither practical nor prudent to start over from scratch on offense. But after the Fiesta Bowl and the season as a whole, no offensive assistant — save for running backs coach Tony Alford, perhaps — should feel completely safe right now. The passing game struggled. The wide receivers never improved past average play. The offensive line suffered maulings by every good pass rush it faced. Quarterback J.T. Barrett’s accuracy dropped for the second season in a row. The play calling was too often not only mystifying, but also ineffective.
Against Wisconsin, Michigan State and Michigan, the defense was brilliant enough to give the offense a low enough bar to scrape by with wins. The national semifinal, on the other hand, was an outright embarrassment for the program. Every mistake that went unaddressed as the Buckeyes limped to the finish flared up in Arizona.
In the locker room after the game, reporters asked quarterbacks coach Tim Beck, a particular target of fan angst and anger, whether he’d be back at Ohio State. His contract expires April 30, and a termination or non-renewal wouldn’t be expensive.
“I don’t know. That’s Coach Meyer’s decision,” Beck said. “I thought I worked really hard and feel good about it this season. We didn’t finish the way we wanted to, obviously. We didn’t play a very good game all the way around offensively. I’m a big part of that.
“I’m one of the leaders of the offense. So with that being said, bullets get shot at me and I’ve got to do a better job. That’s kind of where it is, and I understand that.”
Whether Meyer goes with realignment or outright changes to the staff remains to be seen. But he made it perfectly clear after the game that the results will be different. The implication throughout the 20-minute presser was that the process and the participants must undergo at least some changes.
“I’m going to take a hard look at some things when we get back,” Meyer said. “Obviously there were some great things this year, some great things. But anytime you struggle a little bit, you always take a hard look.”
Changes are coming to Ohio State. It’s just a question of what form they’ll take.