The Ohio State Buckeyes were served a cold dish of revenge by Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners this past Saturday night. The offense found the end zone just once. The defense gave up 28 points in the second half, including 21 unanswered which turned a three-point lead into a three-score deficit.
They were bottled up by a Big 12 defense and exposed by a playmaking quarterback, at home, under the lights, in front of a national audience. After the game, Mayfield decided to take a victory lap that ended with him planting the OU flag right in the middle of Ohio Stadium.
As a Michigan fan surrounded by Buckeye nuts at the time, I absolutely loved it. Really though, it’s not going to end up meaning much when it comes to the playoff picture. Sure, there will be an effect on the team. Of course, this will go a long way in molding them for the rest of the season. All of a sudden, the sense of urgency has skyrocketed. It will feel like every game could be, in essence, the last one that truly matters for this program that sets its bar so high.
Things will seem much different after suffering this crushing blow. In reality, however, this season started with that heightened sense of urgency for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. We know what happened last year. tOSU snuck into the final four despite not winning its conference (or even its division, for that matter). It was the first time in the College Football Playoff’s short history that had been done. Considering the way the Buckeyes rewarded the committee for that decision, it may very well be the last time it happens, too.
So, you come into the 2017 season, if you’re the Buckeyes, knowing that you must win your conference championship game to earn a spot in the top four. The definition of insanity is yadda, yadda, and you can’t expect the committee to give you the same chance when you squandered it so spectacularly the last go around. Still, win the Big Ten and you’re virtually guaranteed a spot in the dance.
Here’s the thing: losing to Oklahoma, even if it was by a wide margin, in your own barn, in primetime, in front of the whole country, doesn’t do a damn thing to harm your original goal of winning the Big Ten. In fact, I would argue that taking such a big L actually motivates, and ends up helping what is still a relatively young squad.
Ohio State fell all the way to number eight in this week’s updated AP Top 25. That’s still well within striking distance. Army, UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland, and Nebraska are the competition awaiting the Buckeyes the next five weeks. Then they have a bye week to prepare a little revenge of their own against Penn State. Please forgive me for not worrying about where their record will stand when they welcome in the Nittany Lions on October 28.
There are plenty of lessons to be learned from Saturday night’s failure. If there’s one man who’s going to teach his players how to correct their mistakes, it’s Urban Meyer. The man’s made a career out of paying special attention to the tiny details and making the necessary adjustments for his team. I have no doubt he will do the same here, and the Buckeyes will waltz through the next month and a half ahead of the showdown with Penn State.
Ohio State fans are upset. I get that. Nobody likes getting beat by two scores on their own turf, at night, with everyone else at home watching. And they’re really not used to getting bullied in the ‘Shoe. Still, I don’t see how dropping this game amounts to anything more than a bruised ego and an extra chip on the old shoulder.
Scheduling these massive early season clashes against other national championship contenders does nothing but help nowadays. Win and you’ve got an impressive, pearly white feather in your cap. The Buckeyes had just that last fall. Lose and, really, nothing happens. You only narrow your focus to what you set out to do anyway, taking home a conference championship.
The rest of the Big Ten had better watch out. Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners just pissed off the baddest dude on their playground.