1. With the 17-14 loss last night, Ohio State's overall record against Michigan State is now 29-15-0 (.659 winning percentage).
2. The loss marks the fifth time that a Michigan State team has ruined a perfect season (at least 7-0-0 start) for Ohio State: 1972; 1974; 1998; 2013; 2015.
3. What we can kiss goodbye after last night's loss:
a. A perfect season
b. A national championship
c. A Big Ten championship
d. Ezekiel Elliott's Heisman Trophy (12 carries, 33 yards)
e. Joey Bosa's Lombardi Award (3 offsides penalties, 0 TFLs)
f. Cameron Johnston's Ray Guy Award (5-yard punt)
Silver lining: With the loss, Urban Meyer is now in contention for the Big Ten Coach of the Year Award.
4. This loss had been brewing all year. We all noticed that something just wasn't right with the offense, and we blamed the play calling, the offensive line, the erratic quarterback play. In reality, I believe that the problem went much deeper, namely that the coaching staff never developed a comprehensive strategy for this offense. Or an identity, if you prefer that term. The Buckeyes never emphasized what they were good at, and never used their strengths to impose their will on their opponents. All year long, it seems that the philosophy (if you will) has been: "Call a play, let the athletes make something happen." In other words: Win with tactics, not strategy. That might work against MAC teams and Big Ten bottom feeders, but other good teams with other great athletes will shut you down if you don't have a strategy and can't impose your will by implementing that strategy.
5. You've probably heard the saying: "If you have two quarterbacks, you really have none." That old saw is just as valid if you have two championship caliber quarterbacks or two bums. Urban Meyer's inability (or unwillingness) to pick a starting quarterback and stick with him through thick and thin was the root cause of the offense's inconsistency and lack of discernible strategy. Next season, Urban Meyer needs to pick a guy and go with him, whether that guy is Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett or Stephen Collier or Joe Burrow or even Torrance Gibson. Pick a guy, then formulate a strategy that suits his skill set, and finally fill out the rest of the offense with players who can operate successfully within that strategy.
6. The two quarterback problem was really a three quarterback problem, as the spectre of Braxton Miller was always hanging over the team. It must be difficult to tell a two-time Big Ten MVP that his days as a quarterback are over, but Meyer compounded his difficulties by promising Braxton a special role in the offense - it was sort of a golden parachute for past contributions to the team. While Meyer's intentions may have been honorable, the results were not good. Outside of that one spectacular play in the season opener against Virginia Tech, the Braxton package (wildcats, jet sweeps, screens) never really took off. Not only did many of Braxton's plays result in no gains or negative yardage, but they also disrupted the flow of the offense even when they were somewhat successful. In retrospect, Braxton would have been much more valuable to the team if he could have taken over the Devin Smith role and given the Buckeyes a consistent deep threat in the passing attack.
7. Now some numbers from the game. The defense came in averaging 298.4 yards and 13.8 points allowed, and they played right to that level last night as Michigan State gained 294 yards and scored 17 points. However, the defense had a chance to send the game into overtime, but they simply couldn't stop Michigan State's offense on their final drive. The Spartans converted two third downs to keep their drive going and set up the game winning field goal. If the Buckeye defense holds on the first third down, then Michigan State has to punt and the Buckeye offense would have gotten the ball back for one final desperation drive. If the Buckeye defense holds on the second third down, then the field goal attempt is five or six yards longer. Spartan placekicker Michael Geiger barely made it from 41 yards out. Would he have missed from 46 yards? (He did miss from 43 yards earlier in the game). But it's probably a moot point. Even if the defense had forced overtime, could the offense really have won that game?
8. JaxBuck brings up some excellent points about the Buckeye defense yesterday, indicating that maybe they weren't as good as their stats would suggest:
So Michigan State had zero success running the ball against anyone (including just 141 yards against a putrid Maryland defense last week); they were without their starting QB, future NFL first rounder Connor Cook; and therefore they were forced to rely on their greatest weakness as their only chance to win. The result? The Spartans rushed for 203 yards and consistently stuffed the ball down the throat of a defense with NFL players at every level including a potential overall #1 draft pick (who played his guts out BTW).
- Coming into yesterday's game MSU was ranked 90th in YPC as a team at 3.9 YPC
- They were #78 in total rushing yards per game at 157.9
- FO advanced stats ranked their OL at #88 overall and #101 in standard down line yards
9. The Buckeye offense came in averaging 453.3 yards and 36.4 points per game. In the loss, the offense managed only 132 total yards, 2.9 yards per play, 5 first downs, 5/15 (33.3%) on third and fourth down conversions, and 21:50 time of possession. The 14 points were gifts from Sparty, as the Buckeyes scored their first touchdown on a 10-play, 32-yard drive after a fumble; and their second touchdown on a 1-play, 6-yard drive after a muffed punt.
10. Cameron Johnston had a 5-yard punt, but ended the day with a 39.9 yard average on 8 punts. The number of punts is alarming. Last season, Ohio State had 48 punts in 15 games (3.2 per game). This season, the Buckeyes already have 54 punts in 11 games (4.9 per game). That stat alone shows just how inconsistent the Buckeye offense has been all season long.
11. One final thought. Outside of Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington and Ezekiel Elliott, who always play with maximum effort, it seems that something has been missing from this team. Maybe it's a sense of swagger, or playing with reckless abandon, or going two steps past the whistle. I'm not saying that players are dogging it, or resting on their laurels, or reading their own press clippings. But let's face reality for a moment. These players are not at Ohio State to be student-athletes, or ambassadors for the university, or even to win football games for Buckeye Nation. Like almost everyone else who ever went to college, they are in school to further their own careers, in their cases as professional football players. With a lucrative career in the NFL mere months away, do some players alter their games or workout regimens to avoid injury? Do they freelance to impress scouts with highlight reel plays? Are they slowly tuning out their soon-to-be-former coaching staff? Are their minds drifting as family, friends, and outsiders try to influence their decisions about their futures? Is a collective case of senioritis infecting this team? We scoffed last year when Alabama's players claimed that NFL decisions distracted from their Sugar Bowl preparation, but I think that something similar has been distracting this Buckeye team all season long. I'm alright with that - going to college is all about getting a job and making money, the same for football players as it was for you and me. Just remember that factor when it seems like "your" team doesn't seem completely dedicated to "our honor defend, we will fight to the end for OHIO!"
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