The opening kickoff set the tone for an evening of frustration and disappointment for Ohio State fans who saw their 2010 National Championship hopes vanish Saturday night. Much of the anger and frustration over the past 12 hours has been directed at quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who was poor in his own right, but the Buckeyes were beaten in all phases last night.
The special teams lapse to start the game was a harbinger of a long night, which included a disastrous first half that put Wisconsin up 21-0 about 15 minutes into the contest. The defense had trouble stopping Wisconsin’s running game, led by massive John Clay who rushed for 104 yards and averaged 5 yards per carry. Clay’s efforts were supplemented by James White who went for 75 yards on 17 carries, including a 12 yard TD run in the fourth quarter to put Bucky back up by 10 and ice the game. The Badgers rushed for 184 yards total, leaving the OSU defense bruised and battered.
Despite the substandard performances from the OSU defense and special teams, much of the blame this morning is falling at the feet of Heisman hyped quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Pryor finished 14 of 28 for 156 yards and averaged just 5.6 yards per pass. He had one 22 yard run but was largely ineffective scrambling. He threw only one interception, which was thrown on the final drive in the mad scramble of a 2 minute offense. But he was inaccurate all night and his receivers did little to distinguish themselves and help him out , save for the really impressive effort put forth by Dane Sanzenbacher.
It was a demoralizing road loss. I think many Buckeye fans thought this would probably be the toughest test of the season with a possible loss. But the way this game went down was certainly unexpected. It’s extremely hard to go undefeated in college football regardless of your schedule or conference. Jim Tressel has had remarkable success in the Big Ten and now must get his team back on track with 5 conference games remaining.
The National Title chase is likely out the window, although what we have seen at the top of the rankings the past two weeks reinforces the volatility from week to week in college football. But the manner in which they lost likely erases any chance of a return to the top 2. The focus must now be on maintaining their dominant run of Big Ten championships.
Right now, that is out of their hands with Michigan State a surprising 7-0 and no matchup with OSU forthcoming. The Spartans play at Iowa in two weeks but have an otherwise soft remaining 5 games. Ohio State must go on the road to Iowa as well, but also has home dates with Penn State and Michigan. Wisconsin, who has the head to head tiebreaker with OSU, is also ahead of the Buckeyes in the Big Ten race, in addition to Iowa. The Badgers and Hawkeyes play next week.
The rankings should be out in a few hours and based on the margin of defeat, it could be ugly – they will almost certainly fall out of the top 10 altogether. If Buckeyes can win out, however, a date in a BCS bowl is likely with a good chance at sharing the conference crown once again. The schedule provides a good opportunity for the Buckeyes to lick their wounds and regroup as they finish the month of October against Purdue and Minnesota.