Two days after a stunning loss at Iowa all but ended Ohio State’s hopes for a College Football Playoff berth, OSU coach Urban Meyer said his team still has much at stake the rest of the year.
A Big Ten title is still within the Buckeyes’ control, with Saturday’s game against visiting Michigan State that likely will decide the East Division representative in the Big Ten championship game.
“You look at the standings, and Ohio State and Michigan State are 1-2 in the Big Ten East,” Meyer said Monday at his news conference. “Everybody knows this game is usually a prize fight. The tougher team usually wins. We have to understand what we’re going to play against and have great respect for them and they’re playing well.”
First, however, came the matter of dissecting Iowa’s 55-24 rout of the Buckeyes. A week ago, Meyer raved about his team’s maturity, saying that was the reason it was able to rally against Penn State. Against Iowa, Ohio State (7-2) yielded 31 straight points after the score was tied at 17 in the second quarter.
Asked if he’d misjudged his team’s maturity level, Meyer said, “I think Iowa played well and we didn’t play well, and turnovers and not being able to get off the field on defense caused that game to turn out the way it did.”
With their national title hopes virtually gone, the rest of the season becomes a test of their culture.
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“That’s something we work on not (just) today,” Meyer said. “That’s something we’ve been working on all year. We try to get a very close team that cares about each other that plays really hard. It’s not going to be some speech I give to the team. It’s a process and a journey we’re on, and there are still plenty of great things ahead.”
Meyer addressed criticism about the lack of carries for star freshman running back J.K. Dobbins, who had only six attempts. He said he doesn’t micromanage the number of carries his runners get, but added that six wasn’t enough for Dobbins.
“J.K. deserves the ball,” Meyer said.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett threw four interceptions a week after probably his best performance.
“He’s been on a nice roll with efficiency, taking care of the football,” Meyer said. “That was not normal by him. We watched it closely. Obviously, today’s a big day to get going on the next game.
“I felt he forced it, especially (an interception) right before the half. That was a devastating one. We’re not a sling-it team. We’re highly efficient throwing team, and he’s been great up until this point.”
Iowa scored after that interception to make it a 31-17 at halftime, and it went downhill from there.
“I think they executed their offense very well,” Meyer said of the Hawkeyes. “It was 17-17 with the ball at midfield, and you feel you’re somewhat controlling the line of scrimmage on offense. (We had) high-end execution in the pass game, and then had a bunch of three-and-outs and we couldn’t get off the field (defensively). Then they start panicking on the offense, and that’s not good for anybody.”
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