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Ezekiel Elliott was right. Ohio State should have given him the dang ball

Ohio State's star running back nailed it. The Buckeyes saw a 20-plus game win streak end because they failed to use their strengths and failed to attack Michigan State's weaknesses.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Ezekiel Elliott absolutely blasted Ohio State's playcalling after the Buckeyes perfect season was lost Saturday night. The offense struggled mightily, and Elliott thought his oddly minimal role in their game plan had something to do with that.

Elliott apologized, but perhaps you think he was out of line to talk that way about his coaches. Perhaps you think he should be suspended. Perhaps you have left an Internet comment with the word "punk" or "thug" or "entitled" somewhere. Perhaps you think college football players should never say anything and the moment they step out of line they should be fired out of a cannon into the sun.

SB Nation presents: Ezekiel Elliott blasts coaches, announces he's leaving OSU

No matter what you think, you can't deny the truth of what Elliott said about Ohio State's abysmal game. Urban Meyer couldn't!

Neither could star defensive end Joey Bosa.

Ohio State's offense was absolutely gruesome. The Buckeyes' only touchdowns were the result of great field position due to fumbles. They gained 132 yards, less than any Urban Meyer team ever -- at OSU, Florida, Utah, Bowling Green, ever. They gained less yards than any game by Kansas or UCF or Purdue this season.

This happened in spite of the fact that Ohio State possesses some of the most incredible individual offensive talents ever assembled on one team. J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones, and Braxton Miller are all brilliant quarterbacks, each with their own unique skill set and gifts. Miller turned out to be a damn fine wide receiver, too. Michael Thomas is possibly a first-round draft pick at wide receiver. This team had a talented offensive line, with four of the starters from last year's national championship team and another possible first-round pick in left tackle Taylor Decker.

And then you have Elliott, as unstoppable as any running back in college football, the man who took over the first College Football Playoff. But we'll get to him later.

We're not guessing these are great players. We know they're great players. They weren't overrated by Rivals or Scout. They weren't merely great in the spring game. We saw them destroy football giants with our own eyes.

These aren't Revolutionary War guns you load with muzzles that fire teensy tiny lead buttons a few miles per hour. These are missiles you point somewhere in the vague direction of your enemy that lock in and destroy them.

Last year, Ohio State had the No. 1 offense in college football, according to S&P+. This year, with the majority of the same players -- in fact, more of them healthy than last year -- the Buckeyes have regressed to 24th. Still good, but with the talent at hand, disappointing.

There were signs of trouble when the Buckeyes couldn't figure out the Jones/Barrett situation. We joked in the offseason about how the Buckeye's three-headed QB monster was "a good problem to have!" and fantasized about ways the team could successfully use all three players, each one running plays set to utilize their skills.

Instead, the team hasn't really exploited the skills of any. Jones was the starter, but was deemed ineffective due to a few too many interceptions and an inability to work the read option with Elliott. Barrett was the backup, then became the red zone QB, a clunky thing nobody has ever really tried before, then the starter. Both options somehow looked worse this year after a full offseason preparing for big roles than last year when they were suddenly forced into play. And of course, Miller might genuinely be the best QB of the three -- and he's been a wide receiver.

But at least there was always Elliott. He ran for 100 yards in the Buckeyes' first 10 games, and they won all 10. He also got at least 19 carries in each.

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Against Michigan State, the coaching failures were even more apparent. Ohio State's coaches didn't put the Buckeyes in a position to do what they are best at, nor did they attempt to attack the Spartans at what they're worst at.

Michigan State's defense is strong, as always, but its propensity to give up explosive pass plays was a glaring weakness. The Spartans entered the game 86th in opposing passing yards allowed, and as our OSU blog Land Grant Holy Land pointed out before the game, they were even worse in advanced stats that track big plays.

And as LGHL pointed out after the game, OSU didn't manage a single explosive play against the Spartans. The Buckeyes basically refused to throw the ball deep, against a team whose main weakness was deep balls. They only attempted 16 passes, and only two of those were downfield shots. (Barrett missed on both.) The longest completion of the day was 16 yards on a ball that only went two yards past the line of scrimmage. The ball that traveled the longest in the air was a jump pass at the goal line.

And for the first time all year, Jones, whose thunderous arm and deep passing ability are perhaps unrivaled in college football, didn't attempt a single pass. If ever there was a game to air him out, it was this one.

But the most egregious problem was what Elliott complained about. Some of Elliott's gripes came down to specifics. He mentioned Ohio State was "gashing" MSU with gap scheme blocking, and then didn't use those plays later in the game.

Some of it just comes down to the fact that they had to give Ezekiel Elliott the dang ball. This man ran roughshod over Alabama. In college football, that's as close as you can get to god level. In two years, nobody had stopped Ezekiel Elliott. Even against MSU, he busted out 154 yards and two touchdowns in 2014.

Ohio State gave this man the ball twice in the second half. Twice. This man has ripped out the hearts of college football's staunchest defenses and eaten them, and he got the ball twice.

Maybe giving Elliott the ball wouldn't have worked. As Bill Connelly pointed out, Elliott wasn't particularly effective on his 12 carries. But nothing was working, and the Buckeyes ignored their go-to guy.

Everybody gets completely shut down from time to time. But it's a special brand of embarrassing to get completely rocked while refusing to use your best option. That's beating yourself.


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