Urban Meyer has been here before. His Ohio State Buckeyes are the nation’s first and, thus far, only 10-0 FBS team.
They beat Illinois definitively on Saturday 52-22, and there was talk after the game that the Bucks would likely sneak into the top five of the AP poll. Indeed, that became a reality on Sunday.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a couple of top-five teams,” Meyer said after the game. “And this [one] probably has more holes than those other ones.”
It probably does. But you might be surprised at which aspect Meyer chose to expound upon.
After endorsing quarterback Braxton Miller as a Heisman Trophy candidate earlier last week, Meyer chose this time to express dismay over his ability to deliver as a dropback passer.
The timing was curious. Miller had just enjoyed one of his better passing days — 12-of-20 for 226 yards, an average of 18.2 yards per completion, and two touchdowns. Add in his 73 net rushing yards and that’s 299 yards of total offense, a healthy chunk of OSU’s 567 against the woeful Illini.
“The area we’re not efficient enough is the dropback pass,” Meyer rambled. “And we have to … while he’s not a dropback passer, you have to be. It’s not acceptable.”
It is true that most of Miller’s best work as a passer comes as the result of play action — and why not, considering Miller’s own threat as a runner and the emergence of running back Carlos Hyde? — and in making plays while on the move.
As Meyer admitted, Miller is not a dropback passer. So … why the concern and the heavy-handed treatment?
I suspect this was Meyer’s version of publicly-traded motivation. He knows that the biggest hole in the Buckeyes’ top-five ranking is who they have beaten, and he knows what the final two weeks of the season will bring.
Games at Wisconsin on Nov. 17 and against visiting Michigan on Nov. 24 will pit OSU against two of the Big Ten’s top defensive teams and two of only four conference teams that have already managed bowl eligibility.
Ohio State’s 10 vanquished foes are a combined 43-49. Only two of them were ranked when they met the Buckeyes and only one, Nebraska, against which the Buckeyes produced by far their best effort of the season, remains in the AP Top 25 at No. 18.
The state of the Big Ten, as much as anything, harms the Buckeyes’ credibility as a top-five team. Including the order of the “others receiving votes,” the conference has four teams ranked among the top 32. The Mid-American Conference, headed by Toledo at No. 23, has four teams among the top 32.
That’s a dead heat with Little Brother — already with six bowl-eligible teams — that the Big Ten would just as soon ignore.
Of course, polls merely reflect human opinion based on trends as much as facts.
In OSU’s case, the only fact that matters is that perfect record. The Buckeyes have lined up 10 times, no matter the eeeeeeeeeeecompetition, and won 10 times. That includes good road wins at Michigan State and Penn State.
Two games remain in what will be a postseason-less campaign. Two wins and the Buckeyes can claim to be the Big Ten’s best of the regular season, Legends and Leaders alike, and in absentia would steal considerable thunder from the teams that play in the conference title game.
And Braxton Miller, dropback passer or not, would be smack in the middle of the Heisman discussion.
A team that is far from perfect, a team with holes, has a shot at perfection. Nobody would be asking how, just how many.
Wouldn’t that be something?
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.