Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The downside of a bye week is if a team loses, there are seven extra days to speculate on what went wrong. When it comes to idle Ohio State, it doesn't take a gridiron sleuth to spot the problem.
Ohio State's offense has struggled for most of the season, particularly in the passing game. Save for three games (Michigan State, Minnesota and Youngstown State), the unit has been plagued by inconsistency. After nine weeks, the Buckeyes rank 95th nationally in total offense (318.3 yards per game), 67th in scoring (24.6 points per game), 107th in passing (149.7 ypg) and 44th in rushing (168.7 ypg).
After extensive examination of quarterback Terrelle Pryor and Todd Boeckman, the offensive line and the wide receivers, head coach Jim Tressel now finds himself in the crosshairs. Columnist Rob Oller of The Columbus Dispatch writes that it might be time for Tressel to relinquish the play-calling duties.
Oller brings up several good points in the column, namely the fact that many head coaches, even purported play-calling geniuses, have given up play calling. I never thought Charlie Weis would do it, but it seems to be working well at Notre Dame. It's important to note that Ohio State's play calling is a collaborative effort between Tressel and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman, but Tressel gets the final say.
Oller's most compelling argument is this:
It wouldn't hurt to experiment. Statistics not being on his side, what's to lose in Tressel trying it a new way, at least for a few games if not a season? Under his play-calling, the Buckeyes' eight-year national ranking in total offense averages 68th and has never cracked the top 25 in any season. The current offense ranks 95th.
That's a pretty good sample size, and it seems clear Ohio State needs to do something different on offense going into 2009.
It might be a new coordinator (Walt Harris?) or a more defined scheme rather than the grab bag we've seen this fall. The Buckeyes will always be solid on defense and special teams under Tressel, but several Big Ten teams have bypassed the Buckeyes on the offensive side. And despite what you've seen in Ann Arbor this fall, Michigan's offense will be formidable pretty soon.
The Buckeyes need a different identity on offense. To find one, the head coach might have to back away.