Whatever vision coach Urban Meyer had for the Ohio State offense in 2015, suffice to say that Saturday against Michigan State was the antithesis, the microcosm of what has been a relatively disappointing season for the group.

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Whatever vision coach Urban Meyer had for the Ohio State offense in 2015, suffice to say that Saturday against Michigan State was the antithesis, the microcosm of what has been a relatively disappointing season for the group.

In fact, it was the Buckeyes' worst game in total yardage (132), first downs (five) and points (14) in four seasons under Meyer. More than that, it was about 400 yards fewer than the total offense they had against the Spartans last season.

Coming into the season, the Buckeyes seemingly were loaded with offensive talent. They had two stellar quarterbacks in J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, the third-leading rusher in Ohio State history in running back Ezekiel Elliott, the leading receiver last season in Michael Thomas, and an up-and-coming playmaker in Jalin Marshall. They had Braxton Miller, a two-time Big Ten MVP, moving from quarterback to hybrid back, and with four starters returning on the line, big numbers were expected.

Instead, being late to settle on Barrett as the starting quarterback, watching Miller trying to find his niche in the offense, seeing the line struggle at pass protection and, finally, hearing Elliott complain - some would say rightly - about getting just 12 carries against Michigan State, the offense has left most observers wondering.

Count Meyer on that list as he tried to put on blinders this week so he could concentrate on a game Saturday at Michigan.

"Wonderingis probably not the correct word if you're the head coach. You should probably have a more firm answer," Meyer said. "If it was something that firm or singular, you would fix it immediately."

In short, the problem against the Spartans was that "they beat us at the line of scrimmage, and we were unable to execute in the throw game," Meyer said.

Finding a way to get the running game back on track will be the initial effort this week.

"When you don't have a good run game, you can't pass like we like to pass, which is (off) play-action," Barrett said. "We don't really do a lot of drop-back passing."

Some have speculated it was the loss of offensive coordinator Tom Herman to become coach at Houston that spurred the drop-off, and that the meshing of Ed Warinner, promoted to coordinator, and quarterbacks coach and co-coordinator Tim Beck, who makes final play calls from the press box, has not worked as well as needed.

Barrett disagreed.

"Our offensive staff did a good job of preparing us (last week). I mean, we had a good week of practice," Barrett said. "We just came into the game and didn't execute the game plan. So I don't think that is a part of it. I love Coach Beck and what he does for us, and also the other coaches on our offensive staff. So I don't think that's the thing."

Meyer, deeply involved with the offense himself, said he will examine all elements of the design and mechanics of it after the season. He said the problem wasn't just play-calling, the players or the execution.

"There's a variety of things. We're just not operating at maximum capacity," he said. "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."

Michigan is second nationally in total defense and in the top six of almost every defensive statistic that matters. This should be a clash of an elite defense against a top offense. But for Ohio State, gaining a first down might be enough for polite applause, a building block back toward respectability.

"There will be a time" when the offense and its problems "will be flipped over upside-down, inside out," Meyer said. "Not now, as our focus is on this (Michigan game). And it's not as simple as one thing or two things, or we'd fix it."

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports