Charboneau: Questions on offense emerge for Buckeyes

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Odds are those pulling for Ohio State are spending some time today hoping they’ll see a repeat of 2014.

That season, of course, ended in a national championship for the Buckeyes. But what it also included was a non-conference loss in the second week of the season against Virginia Tech. That one came with a freshman quarterback at the helm, but saw the Buckeyes quickly turn things around and run the table right through the playoffs and end by hoisting a trophy.

Whether this version of the Buckeyes can pull off the same feat after getting worked over at home on Saturday night by No. 5 Oklahoma remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt the confidence is waning for the Buckeyes.

“It was awful, and we got beat by a good team, a very good team and a quarterback that was dynamic,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “I thought our defense hung in there against, like I said, a very good player.

“Offense was bad. So, we’re going to do what we do and that’s go back to work as hard as we possibly can, starting somewhat tonight and tomorrow and figure this thing out.”

There’s plenty to figure out. Sure, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was outstanding, throwing for 386 yards and three touchdowns. But as good as he was, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was that bad.

The same redshirt freshman that sparked Ohio State’s run to the national title four seasons ago was rarely on target when he needed to be against the Sooners, though it’s not like he got a lot of help from his receivers.

Barrett finished 19-for-35 for 183 yards and one interception. Afterward, as frustrated as Meyer was, he wasn’t putting all the blame on Barrett.

“Well, the starting quarterback and you lost,” Meyer said. “We didn’t play very well. A lot of it is going to be on him. But a lot of it, until I watch the tape, that’s just the nature of the beast.

“I’m never going to point a finger at a quarterback. I’m going to say he’s the head dog and he holds — he’s accountable. But without watching the film I have an idea that all three phases of the pass game need to improve, protection. … But I’m going to make it perfectly clear, there’s not a bull’s-eye on J.T. Barrett. It’s part of the system and a group that have to get better.”

Ohio State will have plenty of time to work out the kinks. Non-conference games await against Army and UNLV before conference play starts again with games against Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska before Penn State comes to town on Oct. 28.

The passing game better be figured out by that point, or the Nittany Lions could get their second straight win over the Buckeyes, and the season could spiral out of control. Meyer, however, insists that won’t happen easily.

“We feel the same pressure as everyone here to get very good at the pass game,” he said. “We’ve worked extremely hard at it. It wasn’t good tonight. We’ve got to get the damn thing fixed, and we will.

“I’ve got a team to go coach and we’ll be hard at work tomorrow. We lost a game. We lost a game to a good team. Didn’t play very well. Get back to work and get better.”

Potshot at Pitt?

There’s probably not too many people outside of State College, Pa., who would count themselves as members of the James Franklin fan club. And if there happened to be any in the Pittsburgh area, they might have all bailed out by Saturday night.

After Penn State avenged last season’s loss to rival Pittsburgh with a 33-14 victory over the Panthers, the Penn State coach seemed to take a shot at what most people would say is the Nittany Lions’ biggest rival.

“There are a lot of individual things I could talk about but most important is that were 1-0 this week and we were able to get a win,” Franklin said. “That’s what this was for us. I know last year for their win it was like the Super Bowl, but for us this was just like beating Akron.”

Penn State blew out Akron last week, and when asked to explain his comments, Franklin seemed to backtrack a bit.

“I’ve been saying for two years that each win is like the Super Bowl for us,” he said. “You can interpret it however you want. Last week, we beat Akron and it was a great win. This win, we beat Pittsburgh and it was a great win. This win is no more significant than last week. I’ve been saying it for three years — each win stands alone.”

In other words, Franklin’s not sold on the whole rivalry thing with Pittsburgh, acting as if it’s beneath his team. Not exactly the wisest approach.

Wonder if that quote ever comes up again?

Extra points

Some other quick thoughts from around the Big Ten:

■ Minnesota looked far from impressive in its win over Buffalo in the opener, but it bounced back to look dominant at Oregon State. No, the Beavers are far from the class of the Pac-12, but for a first-year coach P.J. Fleck to get his team to go on the road and bounce back with far more energy was impressive.

Keep an eye on how Fleck handles the quarterbacks moving forward. Conor Rhoda was effective, but only threw eight times, while Demry Croft had a 64-yard TD run. We’ll see if both continue to get time.

■ My decision to pick Northwestern to win the West doesn’t look good. A sluggish start in Week 1 followed by a blowout at Duke. Hard to say where the Wildcats stand now.

■ Nebraska’s defense is not good. The Huskers almost pulled off the comeback at Oregon, but 42 first-half points won’t get it done against any opponent.

■ So much for Rutgers’ good feelings after playing well against Washington. The Scarlet Knights followed that up with a home loss to Eastern Michigan, which beat a Big Ten team for the first time in 39 games.