Ohio State beat Central Florida in a game that was closer than its 31-16 score might indicate. It’s a game that tells you something about Ohio State, but also something about college football generally.
The Buckeyes clearly need work on offense and defense. Under new coach Urban Meyer, the offense is trying to become multi-dimensional. Braxton Miller has improved his passing technique and his accuracy — although his decision-making could use more maturity — and the receiving corps is better. The offense still seems one-dimensional, however, because it revolves so much around Miller’s arm and legs. He was the leading rusher, by far, carrying the ball 27 times. I don’t think that’s sustainable. With the injury to Carlos Hyde the lack of experienced depth in the backfield became painfully apparent. The offensive line didn’t have a great game, either. There were too many penalties, and Ohio State isn’t going to win many games in which it has three turnovers. Defensively, the Buckeyes still give up too many big plays for my taste, and the team has struggled, so far at least, to put consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback. In short, there is improvement to be made on both sides of the ball.
It’s also important to realize, however, is that there are a lot of good college football teams out there. Central Florida is one of them. Yesterday, many teams had closer-than-expected games with schools that aren’t traditional powers, and eighth-ranked Arkansas lost to Louisiana-Monroe. High schools are producing many talented athletes who are willing to go to smaller schools to play Division 1 football right away, rather than riding the bench at the bottom of the depth chart at a traditional powerhouse. Ohio State avoided an upset yesterday; many other top 25 teams didn’t. In this new parity-oriented world of college football, that’s an accomplishment.