Saturday had a suddenness to it for both Ohio State and Houston. For the Buckeyes it was the moment that Penn State blocked a FG attempt, and ran it back for the go-ahead touchdown late in the 4th quarter. For Houston it was at the beginning of the game, seeing SMU (yes, THAT SMU) jump out to a 21-0 lead before the 1st quarter was over.
For Houston, the loss was devastating, for Ohio State not so much. Houston now finds itself outside of the National conversation looking in, with no hope of getting back into the mix this year. The Cougars are now 3-2 in their division and are likely looking at playing in a bowl well before New Year's Day. One of those "Capitol One Bowl Week" ESPN games with a low six-figure payout that are not watched by many. Give it to 'That private school in Dallas trying to get to 7 wins' they all but completed the gutting of the Houston program that the Big XII started earlier in the week.
For Ohio State the loss was less damaging. Yes, it's hard to fathom how a team so talented couldn't put away the Nitany Lions, or why the Buckeyes are not Alabama North for that matter. But they still would most likely get into the playoff if they ran the table, and won in the B1G championship game. Such is the power in the "Power 5", where even two-loss Wisconsin is given an eyelash of a chance to still squeak into the 4-team soiree.
Despite playing out in different manners the two teams are remarkably similar when it comes to the issues they're trying to address. Both teams possess shockingly bad offensive lines, and neither team's special teams are all that special.
For Ohio State, I think this is probably fixable. The team is talented and the players are as well. For Houston I think the situation is more troublesome. For the Cougars I believe the issue is level of talent and that can't be fixed except through recruiting, and that takes time. It also might be cause for Power 5 teams to pump the brakes on the Herman enthusiasm, let's see if he can fix this mess long-term before giving him a set of $5 Million dollar keys to a $100+ Million dollar car that is a big-time college athletic program.
The history of college football is littered with the losing records of coaches who were given huge jobs, and huge paydays, based on crafting a winning record by using the previous administration's recruits. We just saw one get fired from Purdue in Hazell, who had one winning season at Kent State then couldn't replicate that success at a Purdue program where the cupboard was bare. Worse off, he couldn't recruit the fix either.
For Herman that might not be a problem, he's shown the ability to bring in big-name recruits and one would think he'd do an even better job at a school with Power 5 resources. At Texas, for example, you can probably gain a 5-star or three just by sitting down on the sofa and pointing to the Longhorn on your shirt. That's a powerful advantage.
Since I live in Houston, I selfishly hope that Herman stays with the Cougars for another year, if only to see what his team looks like, and if they can address the obvious talent holes that exist through recruiting. I have a sneaking suspicion however that UT-Austin is going to back up the Brinks truck since it appears that Charlie Strong is all but gone.
Lest we forget, a few years ago Charlie Strong was the Tom Herman of his day. An up and coming coach who won at a non-power 5 level and was a shoo-in to succeed in his new post.
How times have changed.