By Jim Naveau
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Ohio State coach Urban Meyer called the Buckeyes’ pursuit of last year’s college football national championship “The Chase.”
With that mission accomplished, he labeled the pursuit of a repeat championship this season “The Grind.”
Would it be too harsh to say for some people this season turned into The Second Guess?
Ohio State’s biggest problem in some unimpressive wins early in the season and in its one loss came on offense.
And after that loss, 17-14 against Michigan State, OSU seemed to find a combination that changed the offense for the better. Much better.
With J.T. Barrett installed as the undisputed starting quarterback and with offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Ed Warinner in the coach’s booth instead of on the sideline, Ohio State scored 86 points in the final eight quarters of the season in a 42-13 win over Michigan and on Friday in a 44-28 win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.
There are undoubtedly reasons why the move didn’t happen until the twelfth game of the season and questioning Urban Meyer’s football decisions isn’t a job for amateurs.
Maybe Warinner moving upstairs with Barrett as the quarterback was only a small part of the turnaround.
But the question of why it didn’t happen sooner will still linger out there because, like Meyer himself, Ohio State football fans aren’t very good at letting go of things.
The last two weeks of the season, Ohio State looked like one of the top four teams in the country. But until Warinner moved upstairs and presumably took on more of a role in the play calling, it often did not.
It says something about what the standards are at Ohio State and how they have become even higher during Meyer’s four years there that a team has to defend or explain a 12-1 season.
Senior offensive tackle Taylor Decker says, while the ultimate goal was not reached, this year’s team doesn’t need to make apologies.
“I’ve said it probably 10 times that just because we didn’t make the playoff doesn’t mean this season was a failure. This season was a huge success. I’m walking out of here 50-4 in my career. We’re arguably one of the best classes ever here,” Decker said after the Fiesta Bowl.
“I’m just happy we came back and responded after two tough losses and kind of made a statement that we are a really, really good football team. I think we had to go out there and make a statement.
“I think we wanted to make a statement, not because of how any of the other (bowl) games went, but because we shot ourselves in the foot. We still wanted to come out here and show we’re still a good football team and, more importantly, what this program is about. Just because things didn’t go our way doesn’t mean we’re just going to pack it up,” he said.
Safety Vonn Bell said, “You see the other (bowl) games. We know we could have been there, that we could have won. But that’s life. Everything happens for a reason. This is our destiny right here and we accomplished that destiny.”
It is a season and a destiny that will be talked about for a long time for many reasons.
And, of course, it will be second guessed.
Reach Jim Naveau at (567) 242-0414 or follow him on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.