Ohio State didn’t have the opportunity to play for any titles last season, for better or for worse, the lack of expectations allowed the team to play loose, ultimately helping them rack up 12 wins in the process.
The rose-colored lens of an undefeated season often makes it hard to look back at a year objectively, but going over the season with a fine toothed comb reveals the aforementioned ability to “play loose” may have drifted into playing undisciplined at times, particularly in the first quarter.
Here’s a quick refresher. Remember this:
Believe it or not, the Buckeyes didn’t average a TD in the first quarter for all of 2012. Over the course of the season, the Scarlet and Gray mustered only 6.3 points during the opening 15 minutes. Even more shocking: the Buckeyes were losing or were tied after the first quarter in 5 of their 12 games (Miami, UAB, Nebraska, Purdue, and Penn State).
The slow starts certainly contributed to Coach Meyer’s early post-game soundbites,
This after UCF:
"We're not where I thought we'd be"
"It's time to play Ohio State defense and that wasn't Ohio State defense at all"
"You've got to think about where this team was, now. This is not a finely tuned machine right now, it hasn't been for a while. Obviously, there's some growing pains and it's not as easy. I thought we'd be further ahead."
The team turned a corner against Michigan State, but that didn’t mean they abandoned their slow starts. Just a week later against Nebraska, the team was losing 14-7 to start the second quarter. The lead would have been larger for the Cornhuskers if not for a Bradley Roby pick 6.
Luckily for the Buckeyes, Meyer is incredibly adept at in-game adjustments, constantly pushing buttons until he finds the right combination. In the second quarter the Scarlet and Gray scoring average went up to 12.4 points. Additionally in the five games that saw the Buckeyes tied or losing after the first quarter, OSU was able to muster 77 points to the opponents’ 23.
In fact, the only game the Buckeyes saw themselves outpaced in the second quarter was in the last game of the season against Michigan.
Unfortunately for OSU, this season will be far more pressure-packed in terms of expectations. Getting off to slow-starts last year was enough to make fans’ hearts drop. Slow starts in 2013 could mean heart-attacks.
With the team finally able to play for all the marbles, will lackluster beginnings spell doom for a team with a target on their back? The only way to never find out is for the Buckeyes to ditch the sluggish starts and come out swinging from the get-go in 2013.