Now with the Buckeyes a win over Iowa away from another Big Ten championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl, those fans' fears have been soothed. Blowout victories over Minnesota and New Mexico State as well as an impressive road victory at Penn State have the Buckeyes flying high down the stretch.
After falling 26-18 in West Lafayette, Ohio State has outscored its next three opponents 107-14. The Buckeyes' much-maligned offense appears to have turned a corner, averaging 473.6 yards of total offense after losing to the Boilermakers. The already impressive OSU defense has made life even more difficult for opposing offenses. The unit has allowed 183.0 yards per game after leaving northwest Indiana.
The Buckeyes ranked 91st nationally in total offense through the Purdue game with an average of 331.0 yards per game. That total is now up to 373.80, good for 62nd best nationally. The defense is currently sixth in total defense, allowing an average of 254.10 yards per game. They were 16th nationally through the Purdue game with an average of 284.57.
"That's the way you want to see your team," senior captain Kurt Coleman said. "You want your team to continue to build and build and build. Right now we're getting better and I think we're almost to our peak.
"I think defensively we're playing so well. Our defensive line is making things so much easier on the back end. That's what you want out of your defensive front. Offensively I think they're hitting their stride. Their gears are turning. I think this is exactly where we want to be in November."
The Buckeyes rebounded from their loss at Purdue Oct. 24 with a 38-7 rout of the Golden Gophers at Ohio Stadium. The game saw the Ohio State offense pile up 509 yards of total offense, led by quarterback Terrelle Pryor. The sophomore threw for 239 yards and rushed for 104. Meanwhile, the defense dominated and allowed only a touchdown in the final five minutes of the game.
A week later, New Mexico State provided little resistance as the Buckeye offense continued its turnaround. Ohio State outgained the Aggies 559-62 and did exactly what was expected against an overwhelmed opponent.
Then, in arguably the Buckeyes' best performance of the 2009 season, Ohio State went to Happy Valley and controlled play on both sides of the ball in a 24-7 victory. Pryor's return to Pennsylvania took the headlines, but the Buckeye defense harassed PSU quarterback Daryll Clark throughout the game and the much-maligned offensive line fared well in giving Pryor time to throw and providing holes for OSU's tailbacks.
"I think the Purdue game might have been the difference," Saine said. "Having that feeling of losing that game and knowing we don't want that again (motivated us).
"We lost against USC, and that was a tough hard-fought game. But I feel like we might have left something on the field against Purdue. I think that game itself has propelled us."
As for whether the Buckeyes are peaking during what Tressel has called a potential "November to remember," Saine isn't sure that's the case quite yet.
"We can still improve," Saine said. "No team is going to be perfect, but I think we're starting to mesh and get better at the right time."