"Why not us?"
Those were the words spoken earlier this week by Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio about his team and the national championship.
After Saturday's 34-24 win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship, Dantonio's quote seemed rather prophetic.
No one was giving the Spartans much of a chance, and all the talk heading into the week was whether Ohio State would win by enough to keep its BCS National Championship hopes alive.
Instead, Michigan State exposed the weakness of Ohio State and its secondary and is going to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1988.
Remember when everyone was like Ohio State's secondary is going to be the strong part about the defense. Welp— Mr Bow Tie (@BuckeyeSioux) December 8, 2013
"We’re 12-1 and we’re going to the Rose Bowl and that’s something we’ve worked very hard for," said Dantonio after the game. "A lot of people didn’t give us a chance to be here right now, but we persevered through it all and proved them wrong."
Michigan State proved its doubters wrong by finding a lethal passing game. Quarterback Connor Cook finished the game with 304 yards and three touchdowns through the air on the way to victory.
However, Cook and the Spartans needed a little time to get going. After one quarter, he had just 34 yards passing.
All it took was 10 seconds into the second quarter for the Buckeyes secondary to be exposed, though, as Cook hit Keith Mumphrey for a 72-yard touchdown.
On the very next possession, Cook came up big again in the passing game, hitting Tony Lippett for a 33-yard touchdown and running the Spartans' lead to 17-0 with 9:01 left in the half.
The problem for Ohio State was a secondary that just couldn't stay with MSU receivers. Lippett's touchdown was a great example of that, as he ran a simple pattern up the sideline and beat OSU safety C.J. Barnett one-on-one for the touchdown.
Michigan State's third passing touchdown of the game was perhaps the most glaring example of why Ohio State just wasn't good enough to beat a great team on a neutral site.
Cook hit tight end Josiah Price from nine yards out, but it was the fact that Price was basically left alone in the end zone for one of the easiest touchdowns you'll ever see that has to be disconcerting for Buckeye fans.
All three passing touchdowns came because of major scheme and individual breakdowns, and it's something Ohio State's head coach Urban Meyer acknowledged following the game.
"[I'm] Disappointed with our pass defense," said Meyer. "We have to get this fixed. We're going to get back to work."
Not only did the pass defense fail the Buckeyes, but the usually stingy run defense also gave up an unusual number of yards and a rare rushing touchdown.
On that play, Jeremy Langford broke right up the middle for an easy 26-yard score with 2:16 left to seal the deal. It couldn't have been any easier for Langford and was a surprising breakdown for the normally stout Buckeye run defense.
Langford's touchdown was just the eighth rushing touchdown the Buckeyes gave up this season.
Ohio State showed that it can be an offensive juggernaut, putting up 24 unanswered points and getting both quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde over the 100-yard mark on the ground. The Buckeyes ran for 273 yards and averaged an impressive 6.8 yards a carry against a defense that gives up only 80.8 yards rushing to opponents.
However, the OSU offense couldn't get it done when it needed to the most, going 1-of-10 on third downs in the game.
While the Buckeyes offense proved it was impressive enough to win any game, the defense showed it still has a long way to go before Ohio State is championship material.
The question moving forward is, can this defense turn it around in a month? Because it is likely to face another potent passing attack in an Orange Bowl matchup against Clemson, and Ohio State won't win with what it has shown defensively in the past two weeks.
*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. You can follow Andy on Twitter: @ andycoppens.