In its season-opening 42-0 win against the Akron Zips, everything that could have gone right for the Ohio State Buckeyes did.
From steady quarterback play to an efficient run game to junior tight end Jake Stoneburner’s three touchdown receptions to a shutout performance by the defense — the entire afternoon seemed too good to be true.
That’s probably because it was.
This past Saturday against the Toledo Rockets, the Buckeyes spent the afternoon on the ropes against an inferior opponent, ultimately avoiding an embarrassing loss, but not before the entire team — offense, defense, special teams and coaching staff — was served a dose of reality.
Following an off-season that saw OSU lose its head coach and several key players — both temporarily and permanently — one would be foolish to think that the Buckeyes could breeze through their remaining 11 games in the same way it overpowered the Zips on Sept. 3.
Thanks in part to the months of turmoil that the team has gone through, OSU players have adopted the motto “Shock the world” as their way of stating their plans to overcome the lowered expectations that have come with losing their accomplished, former coach, Jim Tressel, and three-year starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
What the Buckeyes need to realize is that beating Akron was far from shocking the world, no matter what the final score was. OSU came far closer to shocking the world for all the wrong reasons with its near-loss to Toledo.
Yet, if we’ve learned anything from the past two weeks, it’s that we shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions with this Buckeyes team. The truth is, they aren’t the team that looked unstoppable a week ago and they aren’t the team that was one blown defensive stance away from its first loss to an in-state opponent in 90 years.
They’re likely somewhere in-between.
And just because they almost lost to an inferior opponent, that doesn’t mean that positives can’t taken away from the game. The Buckeyes were going to get tested at some point this season, and perhaps the sooner it happened, the better it will serve the team in the long run.
If you need any reminder as to how adversity creates character, look no further than the Buckeyes’ next opponent.
OSU will travel to Miami, Fla., to take on fellow controversy-magnets, the Miami Hurricanes — the same program that OSU battled in the 2002 National Championship game.
It took two overtimes for the Buckeyes to finally emerge victorious in that contest. Ask any OSU fan what prepared the team for that close game on a big stage, and he or she will point to a season full of last-minute finishes that came against a variety of opponents, both quality and sub-par.
If OSU is really going to shock the world for the right reasons this year, the Toledo game won’t be its last test this season.
The near-loss to the Rockets shouldn’t be viewed as a disappointment, but instead as a wake-up call. This season won’t begin or end with blowout wins against MAC teams.
And that call should go to both the Buckeyes players and their fans.