Yeah, that wasn't close at all.
The story of the Fiesta Bowl was that Clemson's defense brutalized Ohio State's offense, in part due to the Tigers' unit being very good and also because the Buckeye offense...we'll get to that. Once it was clear the Ohio State offense was - let's use our words here - comprehensively useless, the Silver Bullets lost their edge. Ballgame.
And it's not all that comforting to be told an 11-2 season is worth enjoying, nor is there any solace in hearing this was the youngest team in college football again. They were babies in August. By New Year's Eve they had been to Norman, Madison, State College, East Lansing and had grown the hell up. This team both overachived and peaked early.
Ohio State is going to ink another monster recruiting class in February and the expectations aren't going anywhere. The goals are the same as always - win the Big Ten (achievable) beat Michigan (not optional) and compete with programs like Clemson and Alabama that have proven they can both repeatedly make the College Football Playoff - and be competitive.
Here's my wish list for 2017. All of it is attainable.
- Get older. We'll know how successful this initiative is by Jan 16.
- Rediscover the rushing game that used to overwhelm opponents. The fact it was completely abandoned for the entire first half of the Fiesta Bowl (Mike Weber - one carry) means the coaching staff knows it doesn't have one.
- Find a kicker who can make a field goal. Throughout the season.
- Replace Cameron Johnston and maintain the punting efficiency Ohio State has enjoyed for all of his years.
- Upgrade the QB coach to one who can both recruit and solve basic things like proper footwork and the giant windup J.T. Barrett has that results in so many passes being batted down.
- Upgrade the offensive coordinator to one who can both recruit and call plays that are part of a coherent strategy and play off each other rather than an odd grab bag of Bollmanish bullshit that has seeped back into the game plan over the past two seasons.
- Upgrade the offensive line coach to one who can both recruit and develop offensive linemen who can both run and pass-block. It shouldn't be terribly difficult with all the bluechip recruits at his disposal.
Upgrade the wide receivers coach to one who can both recruit and develop wide receivers who can run routes and catch the football. It shouldn't be terribly difficult with all the bluechip recruits at his disposal.
- Maybe this coach is already on the staff. Maybe there's a better one elsewhere. Go get him.
Find a game-breaking complement to Curtis Samuel, or if Curtis Samuel goes pro - a couple of game-breakers. One guy who can bring back a vertical threat to this team. It shouldn't be terribly difficult with all the bluechip recruits at his disposal.
- One of these guys can be Demario McCall.
- On behalf of 11W, man we hope it is. <3 <3 <3
- Find or develop a tight end that demonstrates even a shred of passion for blocking even when he knows he's not getting the ball on that particular play.
- Maintain a championship-level defense in the absence of Luke Fickell, this team's biggest loss.
Still a wild, fun 2016 season - no matter how badly tonight sucked or how frustrating this list has been for the better part of two years now. Fortunately, there's one Ohio State football stakeholder who is far less patient than even you are. He is in charge of the program.
Happy 2017. Urban Meyer is now 61-6 at Ohio State. You'll get over this one. Go Bucks.