The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics on Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about slow starts for the Buckeyes? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
Buckeyes have come out kinda flat in the first half the past few games, on defense and especially in the running game. Prognosis? Is it the O line? Is it fixable?
— TAZ (@Danakin_Earls) October 14, 2018
There is certainly a strong case to be made that Ohio State hasn’t been coming out and playing to its potential in the first half for much of the season. But pinning down an exact reason for that can be something of a challenge, mostly because there have been different issues and a variety of explanations — as well as interpretations.
Are the Buckeyes coming out sluggish, or are they just trying to weather a storm from opponents who have cooked up special games plans for the biggest matchup on their schedules? Is Ohio State relying too much on its ability to make halftime adjustments and playing with fire in the first two quarters? Maybe it’s just hard to generate a lot of excitement for a national-title contender when its kicking off at noon against an overmatched opponent. And when it comes to the unpredictable world of college football and dealing with young players, it’s also just not realistic to expect perfection every week.
So, somewhere in that blend of either excuses or justification depending on the perspective, there are still some common threads. The Buckeyes have given up too many big plays defensively, the short-yardage and red-zone offenses have been sloppy and they’ve perhaps left themselves more to do recently in the third and fourth quarters than might have been expected. Of course, it helps that the program has outscored opponents 140-53 after halftime, backing up the belief that few coaching staffs in the country can make better corrections in the locker room than Ohio State.
The question that keeps coming up: Why wait until then? That might be even more pressing this week in primetime against a Purdue team hungry for a signature win and more than capable of wreaking havoc on the Buckeyes if it can generate some early confidence.
The guess here is that Ohio State isn’t going to have any trouble getting up to play against the Boilermakers, which should address some of those questions about the way it has started games. The Buckeyes seemingly live for the bright lights and big stage of a nationally-broadcast night game. They know there’s an off date looming. And they’re probably tired of having a couple flaws picked apart despite being undefeated heading into their last game in October.
If Ohio State can’t come out charged up for this game, then there might actually be some legitimate questions about the championship prospects of this squad heading into the final month of the regular season. But odds are that won’t be a problem.
Maybe the slow starts are by a rope-a-dope design, or maybe it’s one the list of weaknesses that Urban Meyer has been trying to crack. Either way, Ohio State would be wise to get rolling early and stamp out any hopes of an upset from the Boilermakers.
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