You remember the stories. You read them. You talked about them. You believed them, because why else wouldn't you after what you saw from Ohio State at the end of last season?
The 2015 Buckeye offense was supposed to be borderline historic, a waterfall of points, yards and first downs that crippled any opposition's chance at beating Urban Meyer's defending Big Ten and national champions.
Not one, two, but three worthy and decorated quarterbacks were set to return to full health and have a bevy of offensive toys at their disposal. Ezekiel Elliott was a contender for the Heisman Trophy. Even when one of those quarterbacks, Braxton Miller, changed positions, it added another weapon — except this one had a pair of Silver Footballs in his trophy case. The unit looked on paper to be heaven, like a kid in a candy store for Meyer, Ed Warinner and Tim Beck.
The Buckeyes led the Big Ten in scoring through 10 games, but scoring outputs of 20, 28 and 28 points in three of the 10 victories left some scratching their head. There haven't been any 50-point outbursts this season — compared to five in the 2014 regular season alone — and the inconsistencies came to a point in a horrid 14-point, 132-yard, five-first down performance against Michigan State Saturday.
What's the deal?
"Wondering is probably not the correct word if you're the head coach. You should probably have a more firm answer," Meyer said Monday. "If it was something that firm or singular, you would fix it immediately."
The frustrating 17-14 loss perhaps showed us what the Buckeye offense was all along: Stunted in growth as an unsettled quarterback derby bled into November for multiple reasons, injuries to wide receivers Noah Brown and Corey Smith handicapping production on the outside, the absences of stalwarts like Jeff Heuerman and Evan Spencer handicapping it even more, questionable play calling after the departure of Tom Herman — you name it.
“I don’t know if there is any one solution, as a whole I think we all need to take ownership. Everyone that is on there or everyone that is out there playing just kind of has to reflect on themselves to see what they can do better and try and help the team.”– Jacoby Boren on the offense's struggles
It's not only Week 13 for the Buckeyes, but also rivalry week. The offense must shake off the dust and prepare to face a Michigan unit that ranks second nationally in total yards allowed per game with 263.1.
That's all that's on Meyer's mind.
"We're just not — we're not operating at maximum capacity, is the key word, and there — we're still 10-1," Meyer said. "So, what I'm doing right now, is every ounce of ability, every ounce of energy and focus is going on trying to win this game."
The Buckeyes still have a chance to earn a trip to the Big Ten Championship game as East Division champions, but must beat their arch-rival and hope the Spartans fall at home to Penn State.
The offense might need more than one week to right the ship completely, but time's running out on the season.
"We've played good at times, we've played bad at times. There's kind of been some ups and downs. As to why, I think if we knew why, we'd fix it," left tackle and senior captain Taylor Decker said. "That's kind of a tough question to answer because if I knew, Coach Warinner knew what was going on, we'd implement whatever it is and fix it."
Elliott lost his cool after the loss to Michigan State and ripped Meyer, Warinner and Beck's play calling effort. He said he lobbied for more than just the 12 carries he received Saturday afternoon, which only netted 33 yards as he ran right into the teeth of Michigan State's defense.
Elliott's since apologized, Meyer said the program's moved on from his outburst — for which he didn't entirely disagree with, at least its topic — and now is focusing on taking down a revitalized Michigan program under first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh.
"Got to move forward and get ready to play a very good team," Meyer said.
Excuses can be made for the offense's ineptitude Saturday against Michigan State, but it hasn't been operating on all cylinders consistently all season. The Buckeyes believed they'd get it figured out by season's end when it mattered, but failed miserably against a talented and disciplined Spartan front seven.
Saturday offers another opportunity, the final one in the regular season.
"I don’t know if there is any one solution, as a whole I think we all need to take ownership," center Jacoby Boren said. "Everyone that is on there or everyone that is out there playing just kind of has to reflect on themselves to see what they can do better and try and help the team."
The locker room is hurting after experiencing its first loss since September 2014. Questions loom everywhere about what's next for the nation's former No. 1 team, with the bulk of them concerning its once highly touted offense.
The old stories about the unit's potential are a memory. Now, it's about how it must experience a quick revival to take down the Wolverines and finish the regular season 11-1.
"There will be a time where, we didn't score in the first quarter five times. Don't worry, that will be flipped over upside-down, inside out," Meyer said. "Not now, as our focus is on this. And it's not as simple as one thing or two things, or we'd fix it."