It’s a word to be scared of and to not be associated with.
The bad news for Ohio State football: The word complacency describes the team’s play really well thus far in the season.
After topping Northern Illinois 20-13 at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, the Buckeyes are 3-0. Though a win’s a win, the way this team won its first three games of the season isn’t championship football.
“We are not the No. 1 team in the country. … We definitely have the potential to be, but not right now,” junior running back Ezekiel Elliott said.
Elliott is right. This team should not be the No. 1 team in the country. The motivation isn’t there. The panic should start.
The toughest opponent for coach Urban Meyer’s team is themselves. This is normal among championship teams. The hardest hurdle the year after a successful run is to not feel entitlement. This is poisonous in a locker room. And junior defensive end Joey Bosa’s tweet post-NIU might say it all.
Hey everyone we were 2-1 this time last year…. Relax.. This trains about to get rolling
— Joey Bosa (@jbbigbear) September 19, 2015
OSU does have the talent to potentially repeat as College Football Playoff National Champions once again this season. To do this, however, the offense needs to sync better.
After uncertainty of who should be under center coming into the season against Virginia Tech, redshirt junior Cardale Jones got the start in each of the first three games of the season.
All due respect to Jones, as talented as he is, Meyer likely handed him the starting position because he believes the position belongs to him. After all, he won the championship, though redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett appears to be the better quarterback with more experience.
Come Saturday against NIU, the inexperience showed. He was benched after two early interceptions, giving way for Barrett to take most of the second quarter and all of the second half.
“We felt like he gave us the best chance to move the ball down the field,” Meyer said of Barrett.
But when asked about the quarterback position, Meyer was unsure.
“I don’t know that right now,” he said. I haven’t had time to think about it.”
The quarterback position needs to be solidified before OSU football can return to the level of performance it’s accustomed to.
Meyer deciding on a starting quarterback to lead the team, and sticking with him, will give the players assurance. Having a familiar leader snap the ball consistently is key to minimize confusion and to rally a team. One voice is more transparent than multiple coming from all sides.
Regardless of who Meyer decides to have at the helm of the quarterback position, both Jones and Barrett are not playing up to par.
Jones has completed only 26 passes out of 46 for 334 yards with three interceptions in three games, and Barrett has completed 20 of 46 for 120 yards with one interception.
This has to be frustrating for Meyer. He’s known for his offense stemming from strong quarterback play from his time in Utah with Alex Smith and in Florida with Tim Tebow.
“I’m not OK with five turnovers and lacking execution and not being able to control the line of scrimmage,” Meyer said. “That’s a recipe for failure.”
The good news for this team is its defensive secondary, which has caused five interceptions and recovered two fumbles. And it has only allowed 357 yards passing through three games, an average of 119 yards per game.
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Darron Lee acknowledged the team’s defensive play this season on Saturday.
“When the offense needs a minute to find their rhythm we know we have to go out there and do our job,” Lee said.
The Buckeyes had doubters coming into the season, including Arkansas coach Bret Bielema who made what some call a “bold statement” a week ago about OSU having an easy schedule, and thus not earning its standing and prestige.
The teams on OSU’s schedule receiving votes in the Associated Press poll are Virginia Tech, which the Buckeyes beat 42-24 and has two votes in the poll, and No. 4 Michigan State, which is scheduled to meet OSU in Week 12.
Here’s the thing: If the Buckeyes are struggling this badly with non-conference games, Big Ten play will hurt even more.
So once again, someone please hit the panic button.