Michigan State's vaunted defense was expected to give Ohio State a test in Saturday's Big Ten title game. In the end, it was that defense that kept the Buckeyes from the conference crown and a shot at a national championship.
Spartans linebacker Denicos Allen stuffed Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller on fourth-and-two from Michigan State's 39-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, and tailback Jeremy Langford broke free for a 26-yard touchdown on the ensuing possession to help No. 10 Michigan State sink the No. 2 Buckeyes 34-24 and capture the Big Ten championship. The loss was Ohio State's first in Urban Meyer's two seasons (24 games) as head coach, and it derails the Buckeyes' BCS title dreams.
Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook went 24-of-40 for 304 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, while Langford rushed for 128 yards on 24 carries.
Ohio State entered Saturday having faced a relatively easy schedule to date. Prior to facing Michigan State, Meyer's crew had played only one team, No. 21 Wisconsin, currently ranked in the AP Poll. The Spartans' defense presented a new challenge, and it lived up to its billing: After Tony Lippett reeled in a 33-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter, Michigan State held a 17-0 lead.
But it didn't take long for Ohio State to wake up. Miller found Philly Brown with a 20-yard touchdown strike with just over six minutes to play in the first half, and kicker Drew Basil hit 28-yard field goal before the break to cut the deficit to seven points. The Buckeyes' surge continued in the third quarter, when Miller engineered a 75-yard scoring drive to even things up. Two possessions later, Miller punched in a six-yard touchdown run to give the Buckeyes the lead and cap a 24-0 run. Ohio State had seemingly returned to form.
The fourth quarter proved a different story, however. Cook hit Macgarrett Kings Jr. on a 48-yard pass to move the Spartans into Ohio State territory, and he hooked up with Josiah Price from nine yards out to give his team the lead for good.
On Michigan State's next possession, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier blocked the Spartans' punt to give the Buckeyes one last glimmer of hope. That's when coordinator Pat Narduzzi's defense came, through. Miller couldn't convert, and Ohio State's title aspirations slipped away.
This is a crushing loss for the Buckeyes, who just completed their second straight undefeated regular season but once again will be left out of the national title picture. Last season the reason was NCAA sanctions; this time around, Ohio State's offense simply couldn't get past the country's most dominating defense. Now, No. 1 Florida State, which claimed the ACC title earlier on Saturday, is likely to face No. 3 Auburn, which won the SEC championship, in the BCS title game in Pasadena. Coming into Championship Saturday, it looked as though the SEC's streak of seven consecutive national titles could come to an end. But thanks to Ohio State's loss, Auburn now has a chance to keep that run of dominance alive.