COLUMBUS, Ohio — Early within the third quarter of No. 3 Ohio State’s recreation Saturday towards No. 9 Indiana, I started penning this column. I wrote near 400 phrases, in actual fact.
On the sphere under me, the Buckeyes have been salting away what appeared like one other blowout convention victory, up 4 touchdowns with no actual issues defensively even when there have been some offensive hiccups.
I had calculated all of this analysis to indicate how large the hole has gotten between Ohio State and the remainder of the Big Ten, how they’ve received 19 straight league video games by a mean of 25 factors, how the Buckeyes have each out-played and out-recruited different league faculties within the type of dominance that can have them considerably simply cruising to a College Football Playoff spot.
And then all the things modified (and in 2020, that ought to shock nobody). The Buckeyes went from wanting like the category of the convention, head and shoulders above what may be the second-best workforce within the league, to a workforce with actual issues.
In a transfer that each sports activities author dreads, I highlighted these 400 phrases and deleted them.
Down on the sphere, issues saved getting worse for Ohio State. The Buckeyes finally survived, needing a last-minute defensive stand to grasp on for a 42–35 victory.
But the injury, in a approach, was achieved. The cracks within the armor obvious. The chips within the concrete apparent. The metal bent.
Indiana and coach Tom Allen uncovered Ohio State in a approach that we’ve seen not one of the different Big Four championship contenders (Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame) uncovered. Sure, Bama allowed 48 to Ole Miss, however the consequence by no means felt this doubtful. Yes, Clemson misplaced, however that was with out its star QB and at Notre Dame. The Irish struggled towards Louisville too, however this one simply felt completely different.
The Buckeyes secondary, filled with former four- and-five star prospects, was shredded for 491 passing yards, essentially the most since 1985, and gave up a whopping 4 completions of not less than 50 yards (OSU allowed one—one!—50-yard completion all of final season).
Star quarterback Justin Fields, one of many Heisman Trophy favorites, threw as many interceptions on this recreation (three) as he had in his complete profession thus far, displaying poor judgement, dangerous decision-making and indecisiveness.
Ohio State’s offensive line, in the meantime, didn’t maintain him clear. Against a blitz-heavy IU unit, the road typically caved. Fields was pressured on what appeared like each dropback and he was sacked 5 instances.
To prime issues off, Buckeyes coach Ryan Day made what many may discuss with as a blunder late within the fourth quarter. He handed on an opportunity to show a seven-point lead right into a two-score benefit, eschewing what would have been a 24-yard subject purpose and as an alternative trying a fourth-and-one that his workforce didn’t convert.
Day was rosy about his workforce’s efficiency afterward. Fields performed gutsy, he mentioned. The O-line was going through a workforce, he mentioned, that blitzed “actually each snap.” His secondary was “just a little inconsistent,” he conceded. His solely actual criticism was associated to yet one more second-half collapse.
“We’ve bought to determine a approach to shut out video games,” Day mentioned. “We haven’t been in a position to end. I used to be jacked up. I believed we have been going to run away with it.”
Thing is, this might have been worse. Much worse. The Hoosiers made a half-dozen self-destructive miscues that value them roughly 28 factors. They misplaced a fumble contained in the 5-yard line. They dropped a move on a crucial fourth-down try within the first half. They threw a pick-six within the third quarter whereas down 14. And they fumbled the ball on an interception return contained in the Ohio State 10-yard line.
What occurs in the event that they don’t make a kind of errors? What occurs in the event that they don’t lose these fumbles, convert that fourth down or don’t toss a pick-six?
Saturday felt like a day during which the Big Four playoff contenders changed into, perhaps, the Big Three. So sure that Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Ohio State have been destined for the College Football Playoff, perhaps we shouldn’t be so certain. Forget about the potential for a Trevor Lawrence-led Clemson beating Notre Dame badly sufficient within the ACC championship recreation to knock the Irish out. Maybe we ought to be asking if an 8–0 Ohio State, in a lackluster Big Ten, will get in.
The Buckeyes may conceivably end the common season having received one recreation (Indiana) over a workforce with a profitable document. In reality, because it presently stands, their opponents’ cumulative document is 10–20, a .333 profitable proportion.
But alas, everyone knows how tough it could be for the committee to depart out an unbeaten Big Ten champion. After all, who would they put in as an alternative? A 7–0 Oregon? A 9–1 Texas A&M? The Aggies’ present opponents’ profitable proportion is simply 37%. Oregon may very well be even decrease, and the Ducks, as of 5:30 ET, have been struggling towards UCLA. How a few potential two-loss SEC championship recreation loser like Florida? What a few one-loss Oklahoma State?
There’s sufficient soccer left to have this debate one other week.
Inside of an empty Ohio Stadium within the chilly drizzling rain, we witnessed a soccer powerhouse carved by way of by a basketball faculty. It was fairly stunning.
Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr., in actual fact, out-dueled Fields. He accomplished 27 of 51 passes for 5 touchdowns and had an opportunity on the finish to throw a sixth to tie it (or win it if IU would have gone for 2). The Hoosiers marched to their very own 38 because the seconds ticked off the clock earlier than Penix’s remaining heave fell incomplete, forcing them right into a futile lateral try. Indiana’s star wideout, Ty Fryfogle, had a whale of a recreation towards a college that touts itself as DBU: seven catches, 218 yards and three scores.
Is this actually a championship protection?
“Definitely,” Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade mentioned. “Just go from the primary half that was a championship protection. It’s not simply the protection. We must discover a approach to put factors on the board, discover a approach to cease lacking subject objectives and discover a approach to play higher protection.”
The Buckeyes missed a subject purpose, and their offense scored a single TD within the second half on seven drives. Fields conceded to creating “dangerous choices,” he mentioned. He attributed his first interception to studying protection mistaken. On his second decide, he was trying to throw away the ball, solely he tossed it into site visitors. The third interception “sailed” on him, he mentioned.
“We rise up on groups,” he mentioned. “We’ve simply bought to maintain our foot on the pedal.”
And on this weird season, with so few knowledge factors for the choice committee, hammering that pedal is extra vital than ever. On Saturday, Ohio State, cruising towards a straightforward win, let off the gasoline. The Buckeyes opened the door for doubt to creep in and allowed the story right here to alter: from the widening hole between them and the remainder of the Big Ten to the chasm that seems between them and different nationwide title contenders.