Lions and Tigers, oh my

Staff Writer
Buckeye Xtra
Meyer heads onto the field to face Northwestern on Oct. 29, 2016, the last of three close games for Ohio State after an overtime win over Wisconsin and a three-point loss to unranked Penn State. The Buckeyes defeated the Wildcats, but it was 24-20. [Kyle Robertson/Dispatch]

Record: 11-2 overall, 8-1 in Big Ten (tied for first in East Division)

Postseason: Third in final College Football Playoff rankings; played Clemson in semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl

Final poll ranking: Sixth


Sept. 3: No. 6 OSU 77, Bowling Green 10

Sept. 10: No. 4 OSU 48, Tulsa 3

Sept. 17: No. 3 OSU 45, No. 14 Oklahoma 24

Oct. 1: No. 2 OSU 58, Rutgers 0

Oct. 8: No. 2 OSU 38, Indiana 17

Oct. 15: No. 2 OSU 30, No. 8 Wisconsin 23 (OT)

Oct. 22: Penn State 24, No. 2 OSU 21

Oct. 29: No. 6 OSU 24, Northwestern 20

Nov. 5: No. 6 OSU 62, No. 9 Nebraska 3

Nov. 12: No. 5 OSU 62, Maryland 3

Nov. 19: No. 2 OSU 17, Michigan State 16

Nov. 26: No. 2 OSU 30, No. 3 Michigan 27 (2 OT)

Dec. 31: No. 3 Clemson 31, No. 2 OSU 0

Season in brief

The skinny: The Buckeyes overcame one fluky regular-season loss to make the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years, but they were exposed as not-quite-ready against Clemson. Ohio State had lost much of its core from the team that had won the 2014 national title but showed with an impressive win at Oklahoma that it remained a national championship contender. Special-teams errors doomed the Buckeyes against Penn State, but they survived an epic game against Michigan to make the playoff despite not qualifying for the Big Ten title game (Penn State represented the East). But the offensive futility against Clemson left a sour taste in the mouths of Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes and OSU fans.

High points: The Oklahoma and Michigan games, but for different reasons. Noah Brown had a career game against the Sooners with four touchdown catches and the defense kept Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma’s explosive offense in check. After the Penn State loss, Ohio State needed to beat Michigan to have a chance for a playoff spot. For most of the game, the Wolverines dominated. But the Buckeyes came alive late to send the game to overtime, the first in the rivalry. After a controversial spot on a J.T. Barrett fourth-down keeper — Jim Harbaugh’s “this far apart” hand gesture became part of OSU-UM lore — Curtis Samuel floated into the end zone for the winning touchdown.

Turning point: There were too many to count. The Oklahoma game showed OSU’s potential. The overtime victory at Camp Randall Stadium against Wisconsin showed the Buckeyes’ mettle. But other games revealed serious flaws. Ohio State let the Penn State game slip away on special-teams blunders and OSU struggled against Northwestern and a bad Michigan State team. The offensive struggles against Michigan foreshadowed the clubbing the Buckeyes would take against Clemson.

Low point: It’s hard to do worse than a 31-point loss, especially when it marked the first shutout loss in Meyer’s career. Ohio State’s offensive line was overmatched and its playmakers failed to make a difference. The defense hung in for a while until it collapsed under the weight of having to compensate for the offense and deal with the wizardry of Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Afterward, Meyer vowed to make changes. Soon after, Kevin Wilson and, more importantly, Ryan Day were hired to give the offense a boost.

Quotable: “I’m going to take a hard look at some things when we get back. Obviously, there were some great things this year. I go back to Norman, Oklahoma, and some other great things. But anytime you struggle a little bit, you always take a hard look (at changes).” — Meyer, after the loss to Clemson

— Bill Rabinowitz


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