Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
As Ohio State's defense continues its superb play this season, Buckeyes fans have turned their attention toward Terrelle Pryor and the offense.
|Gregory Shamus/Getty Images|
|Jim Tressel's offense remains a work in progress.|
Despite the loss to USC, the Buckeyes are playing like a BCS bowl champion in two of the three phases. But the third phase has been inconsistent for much of the season, as Ohio State ranks last in the Big Ten in passing and 10th in total offense.
What must the offense improve on during the second half of the season? I asked this of head coach Jim Tressel on Tuesday, and he cited two areas.
The first was no surprise, given Tressel's pillars for success. He wants Ohio State to cut down its turnovers. Though the Buckeyes have committed a league-low nine giveaways this year, they're already approaching their total for all of last season (13).
Tressel's second area for improvement was much more intriguing.
"We've got to do a little bit better job of adjusting to whatever it is our opponent's going to [use] that perhaps isn't exactly the way they played it on the film," he said. "Sometimes when you have a younger group and you're trying to train them off the film and then people don't come out and do exactly that, we have to learn on the run a little bit better so that we can have a little bit more consistency."
In other words, adjustments have been a challenge for an offense led by a sophomore quarterback and featuring only one senior starter (tight end Jake Ballard) and only two seniors (Ballard and wideout Ray Small) in the regular rotation.
It's not that Pryor and the offense aren't prepared for what an opponent has done in previous games. But when opponents shake things up, the Buckeyes haven't caught on fast enough.
"One of the sciences of learning how to use your film study is to not get set in your mind that, 'Hey, they're going to play it just this way and the things we've designed are going to be just like they were drawn on the chalk board. In fact, they can come out and play us this way or that way,'" Tressel said. "We've got to do a good job on the sideline in between series, saying, 'OK, here's what they've done so far. That doesn't mean they're going to keep doing it. ... They're allowed to have the next step and the next step as well.'
"It's not simply a quarterback issue. It's an issue for everyone involved."
Tressel's response speaks to the fact that the offense remains a work in progress, and getting the feel for the game isn't always there. But better adjustments from Pryor and the offense need to come quickly.
With this defense, Ohio State could have a special second half. But most teams don't win BCS bowl games without more consistency from the offensive side.