Let me put it this way. The score was a bit surprising. Other than that, an Ohio State loss was hardly unexpected.
First, for reasons I can't fathom, we've never beaten a top five, non-conference team in the Horseshoe. Ever. That's ever. Not that this means anything, but it's worth pointing out.
Second, it's Ohio State. The same Ohio State that was demolished last year against Clemson. Remember that? We were skunked on the national stage. We scored nothing. And that after a dismal season where we barely squeaked by teams we should have beaten handily.
Which was a replay of the previous season, and the famous 'two quarterbacks equals nothing' bumbling that knocked a National Championship level team off of the top tiers. A team that had wowed the world a season earlier that looked second rate at best a year later.
That Ohio State. A team that, just last week, trailed Indiana for the first half of the game. There was nothing about this, except the degree of the loss, that was surprising.
Urban Meyer is quickly losing his luster, and many are beginning to wonder if he is a one-hit wonder. It's worth noting that the same was said of his time in Florida. Sure, he made impressive gains and posted excellent records. But much of his heyday came during the Tim Tebow years when, armed with a crack offensive coordinator and one of the best athletes ever to play college football (no hyperbole there, that's a fact), he couldn't do much less.
Once Tebow left and his staff was shaken up, Meyer began the descent. Eventually he retired, citing health issues. Those issues went away when the chance to coach Ohio State emerged. And for the first couple years, it was magic. We went undefeated (albeit, with a weak schedule), though were denied the chance for a national championship due to tattoo-gate.
The next season - the first under the new championship format - was the stuff of legend. Plagued with the loss of two consecutive starting quarterbacks, we nonetheless went all the way. We obliterated Wisconsin (leading to that coach's subsequent exist), we stunned Alabama, and we wrapped up Oregon for the first ever National Title under the new rules.
The following season, we returned with almost all of the talent from the previous season - except Tom Herman, who proved to be more crucial to the previous year than we imagined. Meyer never knew what to do with the quarterbacks. Nor did he seem interested in winning with the new superstar running back, Ezekiel Elliot. Oh, he used Elliot in a pinch. But it was clear he wanted to win with one of the two quarterbacks, neither of whom ended up reaching the heights of the previous season.
What happened? My son has a theory. He believes Meyer wants to relive the glory years of 'Meyer and Tebow: A love story.' He wants another dominating quarterback dynasty, where his name and his quarterback's name are spoken of in the same breath. When he came on board, he declared his eternal devotion to then starting quarterback Braxton Miller. As a quarterback, Miller made a great running back. But Meyer swore he would stand with Miller through thick and thick. Until, of course, Miller was injured.
That put J.T. Barrett in the spotlight. At first, Barret posted record breaking stats, becoming the best quarterback by the numbers in Ohio State history. But numbers, like all stats, can be deceiving. This was accomplished because Meyer, in answer to their stunning loss to Virginia Tech, let slip the dogs of war. It didn't matter if they were playing Uncle Bob's college football team, they played like it was a national championship. And they didn't pull punches. They played to the last like they needed every point, even when they were five touchdowns ahead. Some suggested that was sour grapes. Some argued it was bad sportsmanship. But it made Barrett a star.
But he was a star who began to struggle later in the season against more refined teams. In fact, some argue that his injury against Michigan did more to push Ohio State to the National title than anything. He was clearly beginning to decline even then, but injury took him out, and lit a fire under the rest of the team. Bosa's mauling of Michigan's quarterback in the next drive symbolized Ohio State's resolve not to let its second quarterback injury derail its hopes.
But the following season, it began to be clear: Barrott is an accomplished quarterback, even a good one. And at times, a very good one. Especially against lesser teams. But he's not great enough to offset his inconsistency or the other flaws of the offensive. Either as a passer, or, as last night showed, as a runner who clearly would prefer to avoid running at this point.
So why does Meyer continue to lead with him? Why, like last night, does he forgo using two crack running backs, including young Dobbins, who runs like some of the greatest running backs in the history of our program?
See my son's theory. He could be wrong. But it would make sense. Meyer has said that Ohio State - never known for its quarterback star power - must post 250/250. That's 250 yards in both rushing and passing. Whether or not we have the talent on both passing and rushing, that appears to be Meyer's goal.
Could it be he simply goes back to what worked all those years ago with Tebow? Does he want that relationship, that love story, and will strive for it against all evidence to the contrary that it's not there? Hard to say. Sports, especially tactical and strategic heavy football, always lead to armchair quarterbacking. Fans trying to make sense of what appears senseless; trying to figure out why coaches aren't doing what appears obvious to stop a bleeding wound in the program.
There could be other reasons. Reasons we don't know. But from the surface, Meyer definitely has entered into that phase of 'I'd rather lose my way than win another' appearances. And last night, we saw once again that same tendency as Ohio State almost purposefully avoided doing what worked, in order to lean on what was failing.
I realize that for a program to go with one or two losses and a guaranteed bowl game is hardly a losing proposition in most places. But at Ohio State, that won't get you far. Especially if the losses are in key games at crucial moments. That's when it might be time for the coach in question to begin examining his luggage.