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What’s the key ingredient to make Ohio State national champ again?

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Ohio State added two pieces of hardware to the trophy case last season. (Mark Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports)

Question Of The Day

What’s the key ingredient to make Ohio State national champ again?

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 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? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

First and foremost, there is absolutely no reason to panic at Ohio State. Obviously the expectations for the Buckeyes and their fanbase are always going to include competing for championships at the highest level, so it’s not surprising that even just a few years after winning the College Football Playoff that there are some folks getting antsy. As Urban Meyer might say: That’s life in the big city.

But there are some important things to keep in mind before looking for any fatal flaws that have tripped up Ohio State over the last couple seasons or that could be a problem for a loaded roster this year. That list starts with a fluky result in 2015 that it couldn’t control and wound up keeping the program out of the Big Ten title game thanks to the tiebreaker that went against it thanks to Michigan’s botched punt against Michigan State. And it continues with what was absolutely the wrong decision by the committee to leave out the champs of the nation’s best league last year.

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Ohio State capped off last season by winning the Cotton Bowl Classic. (Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports)

Now, obviously the Buckeyes can’t blame anybody but themselves for what happened on that miserable night in the Horseshoe against the Spartans or the complete meltdown at Iowa last season. This isn’t an attempt to justify those losses for Ohio State, just a reminder that the margin for error is exceedingly small — and impacted not only by other results, but also the puzzling work of a handful individuals in charge of the playoff invitations.

In terms of what Ohio State could have done differently or better to add to the trophy case, that’s arguably a matter of which season is being broken down. The Buckeyes have had times where the wide receivers weren’t meeting the standard to help the passing attack thrive. Ohio State had to deal with some limitations from the offensive line for a stretch. The linebacker depth hasn’t always been what the program expects, and last season the coaching staff struggled to put that unit in the proper positions. The over-reliance on the quarterback is perhaps the only complaint that has followed Ohio State consistently under Meyer — and truthfully, I don’t even think that counts as a weakness considering the games that Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett helped win thanks to their remarkable talents.

The real reason there isn’t any reason to worry about Meyer’s program is that he’s shown a willingness to tackle any problems head on to get them fixed. Of course, once upon a team, that included tackling itself when Chris Ash was hired to shore up that deficiency on defense. The Zone 6 unit took a major step forward last season. The linebackers have more flexibility than they’ve had in years this season. The offensive coaching staff has had an extra year to build chemistry, and the combination of Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson should inspire more confidence than the partnership they replaced. Now, will Dwayne Haskins be the guy who unlocks the right amount of quarterback rushes as he works with J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber in the backfield? That still remains to be seen.

But it’s not a stretch to think that Ohio State as a program has never been in better shape than it is right now. It will again be chasing a championship and has everything it needs to win one — but that doesn’t mean it will come easily.

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Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.

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