Can Ohio State make the College Football Playoffs after losing to Oklahoma last week? Absolutely. Will the Buckeyes win the national title? Absolutely not. This team is flawed and has trouble with one of the game's vital elements: passing.
Are you holding an Ohio State futures ticket to win the College Football Playoff? Our condolences. Let’s state the obvious: for the Buckeyes to even get invited for the third time in four years, it will have to win out and claim the Big Ten championship after their 31-16 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday. This will prove a very tough task considering what bettors have seen through the first two games of the season. Still, Ohio State’s schedule shows they can get there, but winning it all is out of the question.
This isn’t 2014. The Buckeyes claimed the national title that season after an embarrassing 35-21 Week 2 loss as 10.5-point chalk to Virginia Tech. In hindsight, that defeat seemed more predictable. Ohio State was very young. Head coach Urban Meyer loss nine starters on offense from the prior season, the defensive line in rebuild-mode, and J.T. Barrett, then a freshman, was thrust into the starting role for quarterback Braxton Miller. This team is more experienced and lacking in several areas, and that’s a problem.
Passing Defense? Where?
Wow. The defense has allowed 806 passing yards total. That’s the most ever in consecutive weeks for a Meyer-led unit. In fact, it has allowed more than 650 yards through the air just twice under his leadership. Get this, Ohio State tasted defeat in each follow-up effort: 34-24 to Michigan State in the 2013 Big Ten championship game and to Clemson 40-35 in the playoffs that same season. There’s no way Ohio State loses to Army as 30-point chalk at “The Shoe” this weekend, but the passing defense will need to get sorted out before making a serious run for the national title.
Offensive Identity Crisis
Who are the Buckeyes on offense? Meyer brought in former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson during the offseason to “upgrade” the attack, but his philosophy is nearly identical to that of last season: establish a strong physical running game that sets up a downfield passing attack. It’s a tough-nosed spread offense in essence that the current personnel didn’t excel in last year—at least against elite teams. Fact it: the unit can’t hang with even above-average passing teams. Clemson last season, and Oklahoma last week, ran away from them through the air. Also, it’s problematic when your quarterback has the second-most carries (31) on the team through the first two games in a “physical” rushing attack. Honestly, it feels like more of a downgrade at this point.
Barring a colossal upset, there are at least two trouble games ahead, not including a potential trip to the conference championship game: Penn State at home and Michigan at Ann Arbor in the regular-season finale. Oddsmakers posted the Buckeyes 8.5-point favorites versus the Nittany Lions and 8-point chalk at the Wolverines in advanced lines over the summer. The number against Oklahoma was also -8 in favor of Ohio State before sliding down to a touchdown by kickoff.
Meyer is 12-1 SU and 10-2-1 ATS against conference foes in a game with a single-digit line. Neither Penn State nor Michigan roll out a passing attack explosive enough to overpower the Buckeyes, which give Meyer’s group a strong edge headed into the games. But if Ohio State is asked to matchup with Oklahoma, USC, or some other elite passing team in the playoffs, it stands little chance at victory. Sorry future bettors.