Ohio State football: Are the Silver Bullets ready to start flying again?

All week long, our Land of 10 reporters following the Buckeyes will address pressing questions on the mind of the Ohio State fan base with our new daily feature. To ask Austin Ward a question, follow along on Twitter and pass along a topic right here. Then check back Monday through Friday as we dive into the Ohio State Question of the Day. Go here to see all of our previous answers.

There’s no other way to put it: Last week was a complete debacle on defense for Ohio State, and it was absolutely shocking to witness. Arguably the most talented line in the nation was unable to impact the game, the linebackers looked lost against play-action passes and in coverage against tight ends, and the secondary simply has not lived up to the program’s high standard.

This isn’t even necessarily just one bad performance for the Buckeyes. There were similar issues in the loss to Oklahoma, albeit on a much smaller scale. So, did Iowa leave a blueprint for Michigan State, which certainly has a playbook that includes many of the same ways to attack a defense? Or will Ohio State have learned from those painful lessons and make adjustments, which annually has been one of the strengths of the coaching staff? If it’s not the latter, the Big Ten title race is going to be over for the Buckeyes, but I suspect defensive coordinator Greg Schiano will have a solid plan in place for the Spartans.

Beyond that, I think it’s simply a matter of playing with the kind of aggression the Silver Bullets have made famous. There were times players at all three levels of the defense last week didn’t appear to be operating at full speed, which is almost unthinkable for an Ohio State program that lives by the “4-to-6, A-to-B” mantra Urban Meyer has emphasized since he arrived. Mistakes can happen and wrong calls can be made by the staff, but the effort can never be questioned. After getting embarrassed at times at Iowa, it would be shocking if that lack of effort is a problem again when the Spartans arrive at the Horseshoe.

Michigan State’s misdirection schemes, play-action passes and flexibility to shift between airing the football out and operating a powerful rushing attack will provide a challenge for Schiano and the rest of the staff. And after last week, those guys are also being closely evaluated and know there’s no margin for error. The hunch here is both the players and coaches will respond to the challenge and deliver a performance that will live up to the tradition of the Silver Bullets.

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