The good news? The Buckeyes head into the 2012 season finale against longtime archrival Michigan with a perfect record through their first 11 games and still have hopes of winning a share of the national championship.
Now the not-so-good news: Ohio State is coming off its worst offensive performance of the year. The Buckeyes gained a season-low 236 yards – 211 before overtime – in a 21-14 victory last weekend at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
With another crucial showdown with the Wolverines looming, OSU first-year head coach Urban Meyer knows his offense needs to do better.
"It was bad," Meyer said Monday of the offensive effort in Wisconsin. "We didn't play very well, and we didn't coach very well. We could have done much better."
Wisconsin bottled up OSU's dynamic quarterback Braxton Miller, causing the sophomore to have his arguably worst performance of the season. Miller rushed for 48 yards on 23 carries and threw for a season-low 97 yards and no touchdowns. The deep passing threat was non-existent. Ohio State's longest completion was an 18-yard gain by Corey "Philly" Brown – one that came on a short pass that Brown turned into a bigger gain.
The rushing game had some better results, thanks in large part to the performance of junior tailback Carlos Hyde. He ran for 87 yards despite only 15 carries and also scored both of OSU's offensive touchdowns.
Senior right tackle Reid Fragel knows both sides of Ohio State's offensive coin will have to shine against the Wolverines.
"Any time you have a one-dimensional offense it doesn't really go too well for you," Fragel said. "You've got to be able to hit the deep ball. At the same time, you've got to pound the rock to move the ball.
"I think we'll be a ready to go this Saturday and improve on some things that we didn't do so well last week."
Fragel saw the offensive effort in Madison as not being all bad, either.
"I know as an offense we weren't satisfied, but playing in a tough environment like that I think we did some good things," he said. "One of those is finishing strong in overtime. I think we all went into (overtime) knowing what we could do and what we were going to do in overtime."
What the Buckeyes did was take the ball to start OT and score a quick touchdown. Ohio State needed only four plays to march 25 yards to the end zone. Hyde gave his team the winning points on a 2-yard run. The defense then did its job by halting UW on downs to end the game.
Michigan brings the 12th-ranked defense in the nation into the game. The Wolverines average 303.45 yards per game. In addition, U-M boasts the No. 1 pass defense in the nation, allowing 152.09 yards per contest. The Wolverines have yet to allow 200 yards through the air in a game this season.
In Big Ten play, Michigan is tops in the conference in scoring defense (15.3 points per game) and total defense (284.6 yards per game).
"They're good," Fragel said. "Their linebackers are very sound. I think they flow to the ball very well. … I just know up front we have to get it done. We'll be ready to go on Saturday."