Ohio State has bigger concerns than the College Football Playoff rankings

The Ohio State Buckeyes are far more concerned about finding a way to rev up their ground game than they are about their No. 10 spot in Tuesday’s first College Football Playoff rankings.

Coach Urban Meyer spent his bye week trouble-shooting his team to fix multiple problems evident in a 49-20 upset loss to Purdue on Oct. 20.

“We’re making sure we have the right people in the right place to do the right things,” Meyer said Tuesday in the Big Ten Conference call.

New schemes. New attitudes. Maybe even a new regular, or two, when Ohio State (7-1, 4-1) hosts Nebraska on Saturday.

This has been an odd season for the Buckeyes, starting with Meyer being placed on administrative leave for preseason practice and suspended for the first three games because of his handling of events leading up to assistant coach Zach Smith’s firing.

The Buckeyes started strong, but their running game and defensive play, despite seven wins, haven’t been sharp. They won on Dwayne Haskins’ passing skill.

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But one motivation for Meyer aggressively repairing his team over the past week is that the Buckeyes have to know if they win the rest of their games, which would mean victories against Nebraska, Michigan State, Maryland, Michigan and in the Big Ten championship game, they can advance to the College Football Playoff.

This isn’t an easy task, but it’s not impossible for a team with Ohio State’s pedigree.

Although Ohio State’s strength of schedule is sub-par, mostly because TCU has badly stumbled and Michigan State is no longer ranked, it seems likely Ohio State would make the playoff field as a one-loss Power Five champion. History says that is true.

The Wolverines are playing well, but the OSU-Michigan game is in Columbus. Running the table is possible, particularly if the Buckeyes can get their running game going.

The Buckeyes had visions of having two 1,000-yard rushers this season in J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber. But the two talented backs have only had a pair of 100-yard rushing games between them.

“They are both frustrated as we all are, as the offensive line is,” Meyer said. “And there are times when you have to make your own hole and plow through it and get positive yards and we worked extremely hard on that in the bye week. They are prideful guys.”

The Buckeyes want more balance on their offense, although they clearly aren’t going to rush as much as they throw, not with Haskins completing 71.1 percent of his passes.

“You have to have to balance,” Meyer said. “Dwayne knows that. He’s a very smart guy. He understands the game. That has to happen.”

Work has also been done to tighten up defensive coverage. Meyer said the team’s issues against Purdue were missed tackles and penalties that kept drives alive. 

Right now, the Buckeyes aren’t looking any farther than Nebraska (2-6), but they have not forgotten Purdue. Meyer said the loss to Purdue has made his players want to be better: “There’s a sting and a bad taste.”

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