You did this to yourself. It's not Ohio State's fault.
After spending eight straight months rewatching the Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon playoff triumphs you’ve lost your grasp on how ordinary college football contests normally transpire. What’s worse is you didn’t truly watch those games either. You just fast-forwarded to the awesome parts and then binge-watched them on repeat.
That’s sensory overload. It’s not healthy, man.
Cardale Jones correctly setting his feet and launching precision missiles to Devin Smith in three consecutive title games. Ezekiel Elliott rushing for 100 yards in all six halves. Joey Bosa and Steve Miller scoring exhilarating defensive touchdowns, on repeat. Underdogs exiting the field as convincing victors. Those aren't normal outcomes, let alone back-to-back-to-back.
But this has been your standard fantasy since January: Three Heisman finalists being tracked down, cleaned, salted and conveniently stored for your consumption during the cold offseason months. The tedious moments during those hunts have been long forgotten - you know, because they’re tedious. You've gotten fat feasting on fantasies.
What you've conveniently ignored are Corey Smith’s ejection, those long stretches of the Sugar Bowl where the Buckeyes couldn’t get out of their own way, six fumbles they couldn’t recover in Arlington, other turnovers, numerous 3-and-outs and special teams errors. Alabama and Oregon scored 55 points against Ohio State, but there’s no reason to remember those particulars.
Nineteen Buckeye drives in those three games produced either no points or turnovers, and that’s why fast-forwarding was invented - both on television and in your big brain. Ohio State's final drive of the Sugar Bowl was a 3-and-out for negative 10 yards. Reliving those 85 yards into the heart of the south is far more gratifying.
Your indulgence is not without consequences. You’re now desensitized to customary college football.
It didn’t help that Ohio State played Michigan, Wisconsin, Alabama, Oregon and Virginia Tech all in a row. Those were national opponents under program-defining circumstances. The most recent time the Buckeyes faced a regional speed bump during daylight hours it was coming from behind to beat 37-point underdog Indiana in the fourth quarter. At home.
And that brings us to Hawai'i as well as most of this season's schedule. You cannot fast-forward to the awesome parts. After the past eight months of indulgence this will take some getting used to.
Last week Hawai'i opened as a 38-point underdog. The Buckeyes won 38-0 and then spent the postgame trying to explain away what went wrong. Just like their fans - they've been desensitized too.
"We only had a couple days to prepare," Elliott said following the disappointing shutout win. "We just weren't ready to come out and play today.” By contrast they had a full week to prepare for Wisconsin, 24 days for Alabama, 11 for Oregon, 237 for Virginia Tech and the Buckeyes never stop preparing for Michigan.
The Buckeyes beat the Rainbows 38-0 AND then spent the postgame explaining what went wrong.
They still blanked the Rainbows and held them under 100 yards both rushing and passing. Zeke should not apologize for anything. We’re all become desensitized to what ordinary college football is supposed to feel like and the Buckeyes have shielded us from it since last November.
Complicating matters are that none of these players came to Ohio State to play in games where they're favored by five touchdowns, and those games aren't nearly as entertaining as the ones where the Buckeyes are underdogs and the winner gets a trophy.
Being a heavy favorite against literally every team is Ohio State's reality, and whining about things like 38-point shutout victories is a little obnoxious. Like billionaires complaining about the steep cost of yacht fuel.
Last year on the same weekend the Buckeyes blanked Kent State 66-0 in another game that was anything but program-defining. That game disappeared from DVRs shortly after it concluded, not unlike this Hawai’i game which precedes several more that likely have the same shelf life.
Bret Bielema might currently have both of his feet jammed in his mouth muffling his brand new fake southern accent, but he wasn’t wrong about Ohio State’s path into November. In the meantime, it’s time to come to grips with the consequences of having rendered Ohio State’s 2014 postseason run down into a neat, personal fantasy stash of highlights where every shot the Buckeyes delivered was a money shot. That was not normal. If it was, it wouldn't have been nearly as satisfying.
You’ve understandably forgotten what the vast majority of the vast majority of every college football game feels like, and Hawai'i graciously served as what is still a positively-skewed reminder of what happens when loaded teams face mediocre ones on four days rest. There’s more rehab for this condition coming, and it starts with two consecutive weeks of MACtion. Fortunately, Bielema deftly converted his own team into a very useful cautionary tale last weekend for the Buckeyes by losing at home to Toledo — and neither opponent will be taken lightly.
The unveiling of the 2014 championship banner as a permanent fixture in the stadium formally ended that movie, which means you can do what the team already did months ago from last season, and that’s move on. Don’t worry so much about the Buckeyes. You're capable of enjoying them in September and October. Fast-forward buttons are best left to the offseason.
This is what college football looks like when the tension is manufactured and the adversity is artificial. Embrace it and you might find yourself as pleasantly surprised as you were so easily discouraged last Saturday. Expecting Braxton Miller to do a flying 360 around a horde of defenders every time he touches the ball probably isn’t healthy either. You’ll just have to settle for garden variety excitement of an extraordinary roster beating up on lesser competition while the weather is still nice.
So stop itching for last winter's edited and looped climaxes to return. It's September, and we are blissfully stuck in real time. This is the healthiest indulgence.