Just when Jim Tressel and his offensive brain trust seemed to have settled upon a balanced pro-style attack with a healthy sprinkling of "spread" to keep teams honest, they slipped into the trap of trying to overfinesse things at Illinois for three quarters.
While I think on one hand there was too much made about the struggles of the power running game after three games, I was always in agreement with those who wanted to see more out of it as the season progressed.
Based on his comments immediately after the Ohio game, Jim Bollman felt that way, too, and that is why I am genuinely puzzled about their lack of trying to work on it for much of the past two games after the offensive coordinator said he wanted to see it improve.
Of course the fourth quarter ended up being almost nothing but runs, but a near catastrophe was required to bring about that change.
Ohio State ran 30 offensive plays before quarterback Terrelle Pryor was injured, and by my count 19 were from some sort of shotgun set.
Of the remaining 11, four involved the jumbo personnel with seven offensive linemen and a tight end, and another was their more familiar two-tight end, two-back set (although the second tight end was offensive lineman Andrew Miller).
That did not leave them a lot of wiggle room for creativity, a problem that used to plague them from the regular two-wide receiver I formation because they hardly did anything but run from it. In that case they were limited by their own ideas, not personnel, as was the case in Champaign.
As in their previous game against Northern Illinois, the Fighting Illini rarely changed personnel against the one-back, shotgun looks from the Buckeyes. That meant they were not conceding the run against the spread, as they did a year ago, but Ohio State's reaction was to try to run anyway.
To make matters worse, Illinois generally showed a two-deep safety look but had a safety sink down into the box at the snap to provide an extra hat against the run and defend passing routes across the middle.
That meant Ohio State was still outnumbered in the running game despite using three-receiver personnel groups.
My only guess about their lack of desire to throw the ball - based on how much success Pryor had the past two weeks - was concern about the effects of the high-gusting winds, but I still would have expected them to get out of those shotgun sets sooner if they just wanted to run the ball anyway.
Rather than tell the whole world he's going to run the ball, why not put Pryor under center and expand your options? There's always the faithful bootlegs Illinois used successfully a couple of times and the fake "power" play that gives Pryor the option to roll out and throw or run. Those have been effective for them in the past, so I don't know what happened to them in Champaign (while Pryor was healthy).
Of course, when they did tighten things up and go to the I, we learned another lesson despite the lack of a threat from Pryor: As they had promised for two weeks, the Buckeyes were able to run the ball the old-fashioned way when they had to to melt the clock and put a game away, and that proof came against a Big Ten team, almost as if Jim Tressel scripted it.
What we can expect to learn this week: Indiana bring prospects of multiple lessons, one of which would apply regardless of the opponent.
Will Pryor's injury force the Buckeyes remember (again) that power football is In their DNA?
That's what happened when he hurt his left knee last year, a fortuitous if unforeseen development considering the two best defenses they faced were on the schedule in the first two weeks of life with a half-speed super freak athlete quarterback. Despite facing two of the better front sevens in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes overpowered Penn State and then Iowa on their way to clinching a share of the Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth. Then came Michigan, just late enough to find a version of Pryor healthy enough to run on them when they sold out to stop the power rushing game.
Will we see a repeat this season with Pryor hobbled? Time will tell. This offensive line is older and supposedly more talented, and it had looked pretty strong through four weeks, but Illinois was another story, at least for three quarters.
No. 2: How is the secondary coming along? Indiana brings a bona fide passing threat into Ohio Stadium this weekend with a good (if immobile) quarterback and multiple dangerous receivers. Tandon Doss is the biggest name, but Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner are no joke either. While Michigan has a horrendous secondary, Indiana will cause a lot of teams problems. I happen to think Hoosier running back Darius Willis is a player to watch as well, but the Wolverines made me think the Hoosier offense's major offseason question mark - who will fill out that offensive line that lost stud left tackle Roger Saffold? - remains without a satisfactory answer.
Finally, will this be the week the Ohio State pass rush finally produce some sacks to provide statistical proof it can get to opposing quarterbacks if they hold the ball for more than three seconds? That would help out the back end plenty.
All-Buckeye Beater Nominees: Illinois erased any doubts if there would be enough candidates to fill out the defensive side of the ball. Defensive tackle Corey Liuget (four tackles, one for loss) terrorized the Buckeyes inside, and he got a good amount of help from Akeem Spence (seven tackles, 1/2 for loss). Middle linebacker Martez Wilson led the Illini with nine tackles, including two for loss and a sack, and safety Trulon Henry had a huge game with a pair of interceptions and four tackles.
DVR Directions: While the Buckeyes and Hoosiers tangle at high noon on ESPN, Ohio State's next opponent, Wisconsin, will be taking on Minnesota on the Big Ten Network, so you'll want to be sure to record that one to get the freshest look at the 20th-ranked Badgers.
For your viewing pleasure, I highly recommend No. 17 Michigan State at No. 18 Michigan at 3:30 on ABC in Big Ten country and ESPN elsewhere.
Big Ten Picks: Despite just a 2-2 record last week in the first edition of this feature, the Cus Words picks return.
Illinois proved against Ohio State it has the talent to scare a lot of teams, and Penn State was hard-pressed to do much of anything against Iowa, but I see the Nittany Lions getting the best of the Illini in Happy Valley this weekend. Illinois is due for a letdown, and Penn State is tough at home. Plus Rob Bolden is the better of the two freshmen quarterbacks who will run the offensive shows, although PSU's beleaguered offensive line does not get a break.
Then there is the big showdown in Ann Arbor between surprisingly ranked teams. I suspect this is the beginning of the end for the Wolverines. The Spartan defense will be the first to slow down Denard Robinson, and the MSU offense will help by running the ball and keeping it away from the Michigan star.
Cus Words Big Ten Power Poll (Week 5 ranking)
1. (same) Ohio State
2. (3) Michigan State
3. (4) Iowa
4. (2) Wisconsin
5. (6) Michigan
6. (5) Northwestern
7. (same) Penn State
8. (same) Indiana
9. (same) Illinois
10. (11) Minnesota
11. (10) Purdue
Marcus Hartman is a staff writer for BuckeyeSports.com and Buckeye Sports Bulletin. He can be reached for comment, cursing or questions via email at mhartman[at]buckeyesports[dot]com
For more from him, read his blog about Ohio State football and whatever else crosses his mind .