COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nobody knows that September, nonconference losses aren’t deal breakers any better than Ohio State.
That isn’t going to lessen the sting for the Buckeyes any time soon, though. Especially not with the 31-16 defeat Saturday to Oklahoma coming so relatively shortly after the last time they were humbled against an elite opponent with the spotlight squarely on the program.
Losing to the Sooners isn’t the same as the upset defeat to Virginia Tech in 2014, despite some of the easy similarities with the venue, timing and the lack of stakes when it comes to the Big Ten race.
It probably isn’t going to be as painful as the 2015 shocker at the hands of Michigan State in the Horseshoe. That loss wound up keeping the most talented team in the nation from successfully defending the national title it won the previous season following that famous early loss to the Hokies.
And it certainly doesn’t qualify on the Clemson scale. This wasn’t a playoff game, and the offense actually did score a touchdown.
But the only action between that toothless Ohio State loss in the Fiesta Bowl and Oklahoma’s evening of revenge was the season-opening win at Indiana. That game revealed a couple of flaws on both sides of the ball that could have been chalked up to simply being the first week of the year, but they cost the Buckeyes against a higher-caliber opponent.
That’s a familiar refrain now, since problems with the passing attack were already apparent even in wins before the Buckeyes unraveled in the desert against Clemson last season. After an offseason of introspection, schematic “enhancements” and some new personnel both on the field and in the coaching box, this wasn’t supposed to happen to the Buckeyes. If nothing else, it was at least not supposed to happen so quickly.
The schedule didn’t do Ohio State any favors with two tough matchups right off the bat and no chances to work out any kinks. Oklahoma isn’t exactly a pushover, and it still hasn’t lost a game since the Buckeyes knocked off the Sooners last year in Norman. And it’s important to note that Ohio State is still more than capable of bouncing back and storming to a Big Ten title and a potential shot at the playoff.
None of that is really going to be much solace for Urban Meyer’s program. Ohio State let another shot at a marquee opponent slip away. There are justifiable questions about what has happened to the offense and issues with a young secondary that must be addressed.
The Buckeyes have plenty of time to tackle those problems, the schedule is about to ease up considerably and writing them off didn’t work out too well in 2014.
But Ohio State wasn’t able to erase the memory of 31-0 on Saturday night. In the process, the Sooners delivered a fresh wound that could linger for a while.
Now it’s up to the Buckeyes to follow that 2014 script. Otherwise, the next shot at a truly meaningful victory outside of the league won’t happen until next September rolls around.