Obviously, the news is a blow to an Ohio State team many expected to contend for a spot in the initial College Football Playoff and thus an eighth national championship in school history.
But is all lost? Or can the Buckeyes rebound from this news and salvage the season – at least until the chance that Miller comes back, pending a report about the severity of the news?
Let’s break it down.
Reasons To Be Positive
--J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones aren’t that bad. OK, they’re not Kenny Guiton. I mean, Kenny Guiton threw for 14 touchdowns in barely over 100 passes last year and set records for the longest play in OSU history and touchdown passes in one game. Guiton was the perfect backup for the Buckeyes, and he’s not walking through that door.
But there’s a lot to like with the team’s backups, especially Barrett, who Meyer and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman tabbed as the No. 2 QB on Saturday. Herman said he passed Jones this camp after entering clearly behind the Glenville glad simply because the offense moves the ball better when he’s on the field. Barrett’s arm strength isn’t his forte; instead, he’s a distributor with a good knowledge of the game.
Jones, meanwhile, has a cannon of an arm and can run with the best of them. Both are inexperienced and thus possibly prone to making mental mistakes, but there is still talent to work with.
--There’s a nice stable of weapons. Ezekiel Elliott. Roderick Smith. Curtis Samuel. Brionte Dunn. Warren Ball. Devin Smith. Evan Spencer. Corey Smith. Jeff Greene. Michael Thomas. James Clark. Johnnie Dixon. Noah Brown. Terry McLaurin. Jeff Heuerman. Nick Vannett. Marcus Baugh.
So yeah, there’s reason to be moderately excited here. Barrett is a distributor, a la Guiton, and there are some good people to distribute to. So yeah, the offense can still be pretty effective, as it turns out.
--OSU has survived worse. Think back to 2011. After a horrible scandal cost the team most of its best offensive talent for at least half the season, not to mention a wildly successful coach, Ohio State was a Big Ten contender in 2011 until the final weeks of the season. OK, that one ended pretty poorly with a 6-7 record, but the Buckeyes lost just about every game that season by a touchdown or less. With a few breaks going the other way, the Buckeyes could have put together a memorable campaign. And with a settled coaching staff and culture in place, the Buckeyes should be in better shape than they were then.
--Redshirt freshman quarterbacks aren’t so bad. Hey, they’ve won two Heismans in a row. And whereas Barrett was the No. 13 QB in the nation coming out of Wichita Falls (Texas) Rider, Johnny Manziel was rated No. 22 in the class of 2011. Crazier things have happened.
Reasons To Be Negative
--THE TWO-TIME DEFENDING BIG TEN MVP IS HURT. THIS IS A PANIC SITUATION.
--The quarterbacks are young. Ahem. Well, there’s no denying that neither Barrett nor Jones has ever taken a meaningful snap at Ohio State. In fact, Barrett hasn’t taken one since before he tore his ACL in the middle of the 2012 campaign, while Jones is likely even rustier after a year in prep school, a redshirt year at OSU and a year in which he was used sparingly last year. There’s going to be both rust and inexperience there, so the offense could really struggle in the early going.
--The schedule isn’t as easy as last year. People would feel better if Buffalo, San Diego State, Cal and Florida A&M were on the docket. Instead, OSU opens with Navy basically on the road before returning to play Virginia Tech. Both teams are receiving votes in the early polls, so neither is a gimme. After a game with Kent State and an open week, a Cincinnati team with a fair bit of talent and a solid quarterback comes to town. That’s another challenge.
--There isn’t much experience or leadership elsewhere. The losses have been well documented. The leading rusher and receiver are gone. Four starters from perhaps the best offensive line in history are out the door. Two first-round picks are gone on defense, not to mention the entire safety crew. That’s a lot, so losing the star QB and two-time league MVP would not lend itself to an easy replacement.
But here’s another place the Buckeyes could use Miller on the field – in the leadership realm. There are just 13 scholarship seniors on the roster, and some of them are stepping into much bigger roles in 2014. It’s a young team in a lot of ways, so having a leader like Miller on the field would be a huge benefit.
So is the glass half full of half empty? I guess we won’t know for sure until the MRI results are in.