Ohio State vs. Michigan State: Did the Buckeyes' Defense Just Take a Big Step?

T.J. McaloonContributorSeptember 29, 2012

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 29: Orhian Johnson #19 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates with teammates after a 17-16 win over the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on September 29, 2012 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Today, Ohio State’s run defense annihilated what was a dominating Michigan State rushing attack. However, even with their great performance, did it prove to its fans and the college football nation that they can contend with the top-tiered teams in the nation?

Coming into the Michigan State game, the Ohio State Buckeyes were scrambling to find answers as to why their defense got picked apart by California and UAB the previous two weeks. 

From Cleveland.com's Doug Lesmerises, Coach Meyer was optimistic about his team, saying: 

One thing about this team, when it's time to go win a game, to date they've gone and won a game. But we are what we are right now, and that's just a workman like team that has to get better.

With the way that the Buckeyes stopped Michigan State’s leading rusher, Le'Veon Bell, it proved that they listened to their coach with an amazing workman-like performance today. 

The Buckeyes did an amazing job stopping the Big Ten’s leading rusher, Bell. Before today’s game, Bell averaged 5.2 yards per carry; while Ohio State held him to only 2.6 yards per carry with only 45 yards on 17 carries. 

However, all of this positive momentum can and will be lost if the Buckeyes lay an egg next week against Nebraska. 

Against the Cornhuskers, this Buckeye team will face another punishing running attack led by Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead. 

Last year, Martinez and Burkhead gashed the Buckeyes defense, scoring four times. Burkhead had one rushing touchdown with 119 rushing yards, while Martinez had two passing scores and one rushing touchdown to go with 293 combined yards. 

But if today’s run-stopping performance is any indication of how this Buckeye defense is going to perform from here on out, then they should have no problem stopping the Cornhuskers’ dynamic duo. 

Today was a time when they had to go out and win a game, even if this Buckeye team cannot play in any postseason games. 

They needed a huge game that reassured themselves—and their fans—that, even if they cannot hold any hardware above their heads at the end of the season, they are the best team in the Big Ten.

One great defensive game is great. However, to make it a common occurrence, they need to put together another solid game next week against Nebraska.