- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Lessons and developments from No. 2 Ohio State's 34-24 upset loss to No. 10 Michigan State in the Big Ten title game on Saturday night in Indianapolis.
The Spartans had the better plan: The Ohio State defense has had some rough patches at times, largely early in games, but more often than not it was able to adjust and tighten the screws when it counted. The offense had been starting to look pretty one-dimensional down the stretch, but the Buckeyes didn't seem to mind that, because they were so effective rushing the ball. But against the stout, assignment-sound Spartans, neither side of the ball for Ohio State was able to do what it had made look routine during another perfect run through the regular season. Injuries took a toll on the defense, and Braxton Miller at one point dragged the Buckeyes back into the lead, but in the end, Michigan State simply had the better game plan and more successful counters in earning the conference crown.
Miller needs to return: His physical skills are among the best in the country, and at some point his multipurpose skills are going to make him an appealing option for an NFL team looking for a quarterback. But if Miller was thinking about making the jump after his junior season, his rough passing performance with no weather impacting his accuracy might nudge him back for another year with the Buckeyes. His receivers didn't do him many favors, with a handful of costly drops, and the Spartans didn't make it easy with all the pressure they put on him, but going 8-for-21 for 101 yards and a touchdown on the biggest stage of the season isn't likely to do much for Miller's draft stock.
The season isn't over: The Buckeyes are still an appealing option for any organizer of a BCS game, and the Orange Bowl is likely going to snap them up in a hurry. That would give Ohio State one more chance at a marquee victory heading into Urban Meyer's third season, and a chance to start a new winning streak after its streak of 24 consecutive wins since he took over the program ended Saturday. It's clear the Buckeyes still need to add some depth in recruiting, particularly at linebacker, and Meyer wasn't hired just to compete for a championship in his second year. All things considered, the Buckeyes still have plenty to feel good about thus far in his tenure, and a win in a BCS game still could add to it.
3dDan Murphy and Austin Ward