An Ohio State counseling session following Saturday’s 31-16 loss to Oklahoma:

Therapist: Have a seat. You look troubled.

Client: I’m not sure why I’m here. I mean it’s only one game. Against an excellent opponent. There is an entire season left, and the next six weeks should be blowouts. Army, UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland and a mostly fraudulent Nebraska, followed by a bye week before Penn State. Plenty of time to get things fixed.

Therapist: So why are you here?

Client: Good question. It’s not like I don’t know what this feels like. It happened in 2014 when Virginia Tech beat us at the Horseshoe. The coaching staff came under fire then, too. We recovered pretty well from that one — 13 consecutive wins and a national championship. But this feels different.

Therapist: How so?

Client: This team is more experienced than that one. Take the quarterback, for instance. J.T. Barrett had started only one game before VT. Oklahoma was his 32nd.

Therapist: What do you feel when I mention Barrett’s name?

Client: Guilt. He is such a good guy. A true leader who cares deeply about this team. And he owns nearly every school passing and scoring record. And yet there is this voice in me that says, “Make a move. He’s not the answer.” Am I in denial? When does loyalty give way to the greater good?

Therapist: You must answer that yourself.

Client: I know, I know. It’s just that there is so much noise right now. On one hand, J.T.’s lack of arm strength is limiting the offense. But the wideouts also look lost. Is receivers coach Zach Smith to blame? The hue and cry is for backup QB Dwayne Haskins, but he has never taken a snap. Are we supposed to play him anyway, call it a rebuilding year and take our lumps? Yet I don’t see Barrett’s basic wiring changing much over the season.

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Therapist: I sense something deeper at work in you.

Client: Wow, you’re good. There is this — and it hurts even to admit it — but I worry about our head coach. He’s a fix-it guy. Come in, change the culture, win big, get out. He did it at Bowling Green and Utah. Two seasons apiece. Then six seasons with the Gators. But the last one was rough on both him and the program. This is his sixth season with the Buckeyes. He has lost his last two games to top-five teams by a combined score of 62-16.

(long pause)

There is more. His methods are so demanding and his system is so intense — it’s like a pro team — that sometimes I wonder if older players can’t wait to leave. A lot of Buckeyes have declared early for the NFL in recent years. A handful should have stayed, but why remain at OSU when the workouts are just as challenging as in the NFL, but without the big payoff of a national title.

Therapist: I want to reassure you that doubt is normal.

Client: Thank goodness. I thought I was losing my mind. So I shouldn’t feel bad for wondering if the success of 2014 was more about Zeke and Cardale than the coaching staff? I shouldn’t beat myself up for thinking, in my darker moments, that we probably would not have defeated Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon had J.T. not broken his leg against Michigan?

Therapist: We all wonder the same things at times. Well, our time is up. By the way, I didn’t catch your name.

Client: What would you say if I claimed to be Urban Meyer? Asking for a friend.


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