COLUMBUS — Ohio State couldn’t dodge, dip, dive — or defend.
The Buckeyes may not be ruled out of the College Football Playoff race with just one loss, particularly given their dominance in the Big Ten. But Ohio State just lost all margin for error, and it left plenty of reasons to doubt whether it has the kind of complete team needed to claim the national-title win that eluded it last season.
The final damage on Saturday at the Horseshoe was Oregon 35, Ohio State 28. But it felt much worse than that for the Buckeyes, and a season loaded with so much promise now looks far shakier.
There is no question that a star-studded scoring attack will power the Buckeyes to plenty of wins, and it will remain the odds-on favorite to defend its conference crown. But there are serious questions that need to be answered on the other side of the ball, and Ohio State no longer will have the benefit of doubt with an early, glaring blemish on the resumé.
Bottom line: Ohio State didn’t even come close to playing to its potential and could pay the price for it for the rest of the season.
That’s where the postgame coverage will start for Lettermen Row as Ohio State came up short against Oregon.
Ohio State still looks disorganized, confused on defense
Apparently the search for the best personnel wasn’t over after the opener at Minnesota. And the Buckeyes actually do know the top options defensively, it needs to abandon its free-wheeling, line-changing substitution patterns in a hurry. Ohio State is overthinking its personnel groupings, leading to undeniable confusion before the snap and potentially disrupting everything that happens after it. The problem came to a head in the first half with Ohio State sending too many men on the field coming out of a timeout, forcing Ryan Day to take a timeout of his own — and rip defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs on the sideline. The Buckeyes are too talented to look so out of sorts on that side of the ball.
Buckeyes need to find early killer instinct
Whether it was playing on the back foot on defense or failing to generate any kind of push up front even on a critical fourth-down rush, Ohio State wasn’t asserting its will much in the first half in digging a hole. And while Oregon is a top-25 program with impressive athletes as well, the talent level on paper simply didn’t match up with the assemblage of stars Ohio State brought into the matchup. So, it has to be somewhat alarming for Ryan Day to see the Buckeyes getting pushed around in the trenches or getting lackadaisical with drops and stumbles in the passing game. That could be somewhat justified in the opener against Minnesota, but in hindsight it was a red flag.
Ohio State offense came up short in too many key moments
The individual statistics are dazzling, and Ohio State once again looked capable of doing whatever it wanted offensively. But when it mattered most, the Buckeyes were stuffed on three different occasions trying to convert on fourth down. Maybe Ryan Day felt too much pressure to push the envelope considering what was happening to the Ohio State defense, but that’s no excuse for failing to execute with so many stars to work with offensively. When the Buckeyes had to make it happen, they didn’t get the job done — even with two late chances to send the game to overtime.