Ohio State vs. Michigan State: 10 Things We Learned in 2013 Big Ten Championship
The No. 10 Michigan State Spartans shocked the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, and in turn caused BCS chaos, with a 34-24 victory in the Big Ten title game.
The Spartans (12-1, 9-0) dominated the opening and closing quarters of the game to seal the 10-point upset victory. The Buckeyes (12-1, 8-1) couldn't overcome the nation's top-ranked defense, faltering for the first time all season despite being one game away from playing in the national title game.
It was one of the best wins in program history for Michigan State and one of the most gut-wrenching defeats for the Buckeyes.
Here's what we learned from the Big Ten title game.
Ohio State Wasn't Bulletproof
After winning 24 consecutive games, Ohio State was starting to look bulletproof.
The Buckeyes had won routs, ugly games and down-to-the-wire battles. Whatever the challenge, Urban Meyer and his Ohio State team always seemed to have an answer.
There were no answers Saturday night.
The Spartans raced out to a 17-0 lead, and after the Buckeyes responded with 24 consecutive points, Michigan State closed out the game with another 17-0 run. Everything the Buckeyes tried to do in the fourth quarter failed, and that's a credit to Michigan State and its game plan.
On the doorstep of the national title game, Ohio State faltered at the worst possible time.
Michigan State Has Been Severely Underrated
After a six-loss season last year, Michigan State entered 2013 unranked and looking up at other Big Ten teams like Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
When the dust finally settled, the Spartans proved they were the best of the bunch.
An early 17-13 loss to Notre Dame seemed to confirm everyone's doubts about Michigan State, but that defeat came before the Spartans had worked out their quarterback situation.
The moment Connor Cook settled in, Michigan State took off and never looked back.
The Spartans defeated each of their first eight Big Ten opponents by double digits, and that stretch continued in Indianapolis.
Looking at Michigan State's No. 10 ranking is almost laughable, especially after what they showed against the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes Couldn't Survive Another Defensive Letdown
Ohio State's defense has been up and down all season, but down the stretch, there was too much inconsistency for a title contender.
After giving up more than 600 yards to an anemic Michigan offense, the Spartans gashed Ohio State's defense, especially through the air.
Ohio State gave up 438 yards and 34 points to another marginal offense in Michigan State. The Spartans hit huge plays, including touchdown passes of 72 and 33 yards and the game-sealing touchdown run from Jeremy Langord that went for 26 yards.
Ohio State entered the fourth quarter up 24-20, but Michigan State stole the momentum with an eight-play, 90-yard drive to retake a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
Michigan State's Defense Was Up to the Task
All week leading up to the game, everyone was talking about whether Michigan State's top-ranked defense could contain Ohio State's offense, which ranked third in the country with 48 points per game.
After four quarters of action, it's clear that the Spartans were up to the task.
Ohio State was held to season lows in points (24) and total yards as the Buckeyes managed just 374 yards against the Spartans.
Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes looked to be rolling in the third quarter after scoring 24 unanswered points, but in the fourth quarter, Ohio State was stifled, gaining just 25 yards and scoring no points.
The game was won for the Spartans late when Ohio State attempted to convert a 4th-and-2 at Michigan State's 39-yard line. Braxton Miller went wide to the right, following Carlos Hyde's lead block, but the Spartans broke through and got to Miller in the backfield.
It was the perfect moment to depict the larger flow of the game. In crunch time, Michigan State could not be denied.
Urban Meyer's Offense Wasn't Dynamic Enough to Beat This Defense
A big reason Ohio State struggled was because the offense wasn't dynamic enough to challenge the Spartans defense.
When the Buckeyes were on offense, there weren't many plays that didn't involve Braxton Miller or Carlos Hyde running the ball. Miller threw 21 passes and completed just eight of them for 101 yards.
To beat the Spartans, Ohio State simply needed more playmakers to make more plays. Down the stretch, Michigan State adjusted and shut down Hyde and Miller in the running game. It was the final chess move in a brilliant game plan for Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio, and the Buckeyes had no response.
Only one player, Corey Brown, recorded more than one catch. Only three other Buckeye offensive players—Devin Smith, Jeff Heuerman and Carlos Hyde—recorded a catch.
Against this defense, that kind of disparity was the difference.
Mark Dantonio Is the Gutsiest Coach in the Big Ten
Just after retaking the lead 24-20, Michigan State lined up for the kickoff and looked to be booting it deep to the Buckeyes.
Mark Dantonio, though, has a reputation for getting tricky on special teams, and he chose this moment to enhance that perception.
Michigan State kicker Kevin Muma pooched a beautiful squib/onside kick to the open space in Ohio State's kickoff return unit, and the Spartans would have recovered had the ball not taken an unfortunate bounce toward the sideline.
In that situation, leading by just four with more than 11 minutes to go, Dantonio showed incredible...intestinal fortitude...to make that call. Despite not converting the play, Michigan State's defense got off the field in three plays anyway.
Connor Cook Is Going to Be a Superstar for the Spartans
On the biggest stage of his young career, sophomore quarterback Connor Cook put together his best performance to lead his team to a huge victory.
Cook was outstanding, completing 60 percent of his passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns against just one interception. The running game wasn't working early, but despite that Cook came up with big throw after big throw to keep the Spartans' offense going.
Cook's 304-yard performance was a career high and capped a regular season that netted 20 touchdown throws to just five interceptions. He threw for over 2,400 yards despite not winning the starting spot until Week 5.
Now, with a Big Ten title under his belt, Michigan State has a young star under star coming into his own.
Joey Bosa Is on the Verge of Stardom for Ohio State
Ohio State fans looking for something positive to glean from the loss: Joey Bosa, the freshman defensive end out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was absolutely phenomenal for the Buckeyes.
Despite playing on a defensive line that's loaded with talent, Bosa was far and away the most impressive of the group, providing constant pressure all night. He recorded only three tackles, two of which went for loss, and a sack, but he was in Michigan State's backfield and forcing Connor Cook out of his comfort zone all night.
That he's just in his first year in college should bring a smile to Buckeye fans.
With a full year in Ohio State's weight program, Bosa could be expected to put forth a dominating sophomore campaign. The Buckeyes clearly have one of the better young players in the conference to rebuild their defense around.
The Spartans Are Rose Bowl Bound
With the victory, Michigan State clinched its first bid to the Rose Bowl since 1988.
The Spartans will be matched up against No. 7 Stanford, which beat Arizona State 38-14 in the Pac-12 title game Saturday night.
The Cardinal, behind a dominant defensive performance, won last year's Rose Bowl over Wisconsin 20-14. The Big Ten hasn't won in Pasadena, Calif. since Ohio State beat Oregon 26-17 in the 2010 Rose Bowl.
The Spartans will have a very tough challenge, but the two teams have similar identities, both offensively and defensively. It will certainly be a tremendous matchup on New Year's Day and one that the Spartans earned with their victory over Ohio State.
Ohio State Is Likely Headed to the Orange Bowl
It's not the ending Ohio State wanted, but with a 12-1 record, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes are still bound for a BCS bowl.
Early projections have Ohio State heading south to Miami for a matchup with Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Given how Ohio State's defense has performed, that will be a challenging matchup.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd is one of the best quarterbacks in the country. The senior signal-caller has thrown for 3,473 yards and 29 touchdowns against just nine interceptions this year. The Tigers are 10-2 after getting routed by Florida State and losing by two touchdowns to South Carolina in the season finale.
The Buckeyes will need to bounce back quickly in order to avoid a letdown, because Clemson has the kind of offense that could give Urban Meyer's squad a lot of trouble.
All stats via NCAA.com.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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