Preview 2017: Ohio State … 31-0 Doesn’t Matter
After an embarrassing end to a great season, how will Ohio State bounce back?
Ohio State losing 31-0 doesn’t matter. Ohio State losing at all, does.
Of course it was embarrassing to lose to Clemson 31-0, and of course 31-0 soured what was a fantastic season by any reasonable standard. But still, if you’re Ohio State, and the goal under Urban Meyer is to win the national title every year – and not be crazy for thinking that way – losing 31-0 on one of college football’s biggest stages tends to overshadow everything else.
But there’s hardly any reason for a panic siren to go off.
No one wants to hear it – especially the Alabamas and Ohio States – and it’s obvious, but three teams have to lose in the new world of the CFP. It doesn’t really matter how they lose, either.
Ask Alabama fans – and I have – if they look back on the 2016 season as a 14-win SEC title campaign, or if they remember it for the soul-crushing, final-moments loss to Clemson.
Take a wild guess what most pick.
So Ohio State’s season ended in a shutout loss to the eventual national champ. Whether it was by one or 31, it’s still going to stink no matter what if Urban isn’t holding the CFP trophy at the end of the fun.
Perspective time: The CFP era is only three years old, and in that time Ohio State won it in the first season, missed out and finished 12-1 in the second, and got in on a whopper of a break and lost in the third …
The Buckeyes are 37-4 over the last three seasons with two of those losses coming to the eventual Big Ten champs – Michigan State in 2015 and Penn State last year – the Virginia Tech disaster early in 2014 that, ultimately, didn’t matter, and …
And, again, to try keeping focus on just how amazing this all is, Ohio State got to the CFP last season – and was a better, more consistent team – after losing 12 players to the NFL Draft and seven top 30 overall talents.
And all this over the last three years came after losing to Clemson to close out the 2013 season.
Of course, the 2014 Orange Bowl was a better game – Tajh Boyd and company won a 40-35 classic – but it didn’t really matter compared to the bigger fish Ohio State wants to fry. That wasn’t for the national title or a playoff game, and losing to Clemson was losing to Clemson. If you’re Ohio State, you either win or you don’t.
What happened to end last season doesn’t carry over, and what happened the last time Ohio State lost to Clemson? It won the national title a year later.
It’s a clean slate now. Seven players were drafted off of last year’s team, another loaded recruiting class should provide a little help, and several more young prospects are ready for their star turn.
Forget about how J.T. Barrett played over the last three games of the season. He’s a veteran quarterback who’s been through the wars, and he’s the exact type of Heisman-caliber leader and talent who can improve an O that averaged well over 40 points per game before the Glendale issues.
Mike Weber might not be Ezekiel Elliott, but he’s a terrific back working behind a line that might just turn out to be better than last year’s after a few games to gel.
The receiving corps is the slight issue, but it’s all relative. This is a very big, very explosive group that just needs time and reps.
The nation’s No. 6 defense might have to replace even more high-end talent in the secondary than it did last year, but there’s more where Malik Hooker, Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore came from.
Overall, eight of the top 11 tacklers return, highlighted by an unfairly talented group of defensive ends with an NFL-caliber rotation on both sides.
The team is more than good enough in all phases to make amends for 31-0, and make it three trips to the big show in four years – and to do a better job.
Of course, if 2017 Ohio State stinks it up, 31-0 will be seen as the moment when things started to unravel, but that’s doubtful.
Instead, if anything, 31-0 might be a motivating factor.
As if this program isn’t scary enough without an extra push.