Hooley on the Fiesta Bowl

Ohio State fans don't get humbled very often, so maybe that explains why they don't handle it very well when it happens.

It will take awhile for the sting of Clemson's 31-0 victory over OSU in the College Football Playoff semifinals to vanish.

The Buckeyes were embarrassed in every phase. They couldn't stop Clemson on offense, couldn't move the ball themselves and missed two field goals when their special teams and defense set them up in good field position.

It was a thorough beating -- the kind OSU regularly administers to its overmatched Big Ten opponents, but almost never suffers itself.

The shutout was the Buckeyes' first since losing at Michigan, 28-0, in 1993. That's 23 years ago. And the shutout was Urban Meyer's first in 194 games as a head coach.

That tells you how rare a beat-down like Saturday's is, which explains why it sat so poorly with OSU's fans.

Twitter trolls went after OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett, kicker Tyler Durbin, assorted assistant coaches and

anyone who tried to introduce a little perspective that a playoff loss wasn't a bad finish for a team that returned just three starters on each side of the line of scrimmage.

ESPN Radio sideline reporter Ian Fitzsimmons said at halftime some OSU fans were heckling head coach Urban Meyer as he left the field for the locker room.

This, I do not get.

I understand being salty over spending thousands of dollars to follow the team to Phoenix and see it lay an egg, but that's on you, not Meyer.

Even with the loss, he's 61-6 at Ohio State in five seasons. His teams are a fixture in the national championship race every year. Oh, and he's 5-0 against Michigan.

Sometimes, the reason OSU loses is so obvious people miss it. Rather than the cause being Meyer failing to prepare his team, the play-calling being lousy or Barrett being overrated, the real reason is that Clemson was just the better team.

As I eye-balled the Clemson players all week in advance of kickoff, as I analyzed what the Tigers did well and what the Buckeyes did well during the regular season, the only

thing that I felt gave Ohio State an edge in the matchup was Meyer's coaching acumen.

After all, he'd never lost a game in five tries as the lower-ranked team in a game against another Top 5 opponent. But looking at Clemson's offensive skill players, their experience and their ability, I couldn't make any sense of Ohio State being a 3-point favorite.

Sure enough, most of the late money came in on the Tigers, moving the line at kickoff to Clemson, minus-1. The experts knew in advance what we were about to see...Clemson was simply the better team in every phase.

So what does this loss mean going forward?

"Ohio State is not used to this. I’m not used to this and we will not get used to this,” Meyer said afterward. “That’s not going to happen again. So we’ll get things worked out.”

That means a miserable off-season for an offensive line that Michigan State, Michigan and Clemson dominated the final 3 games of the season. And life won't be much easier for OSU's wide receivers.

It also might mean staff changes, as Meyer can't be

happy that Barrett hasn't progressed much, if at all, since his first season as a starter.

This Twitter poll shows how Buckeye fans have soured on Barrett, who as a graduate could transfer anywhere and play immediately next season, if he desires. 

Barrett threw for just 86 yards at MSU, 124 yards against Michigan and 127 yards against Clemson.

You're lucky to win two of those three games with such anemic production.

Meyer knows that, which is why he promised afterward to be a better passing team in 2017. How he'll accomplish that, I don't know.

But I'd trust Meyer's solution more than the knee-jerk reactions of irrational fans in the aftermath of a loss they have no frame of reference to handle.

 

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