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Ohio State 17, Michigan State 16: Kneejerk Reactions

Immediate postgame thoughts on a disappointing start to the Big Ten season.

Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

1) Braxton Miller is the Ohio State offense, and that may not be a problem for the Buckeyes.

136 yards rushing, 179 passing, and more "how in the heck did he make us miss" plays than I care to remember. Nebraska and Michigan are sure to be studying this tape looking for ways to get around our defense, though neither Taylor Martinez nor Denard Robinson is as much of a threat with his arm as Miller.

2) The passing game is improving.

Keith Mumphery (5 catches, 79 yards, and a touchdown on which he ran through six tacklers) and Tony Lippett (4 catches, 46 yards) both looked like actual receivers out there, although Lippett had at least one drop. (If someone knows of a site that records drops in the boxscore, please let me know; I'm working from memory on these.) Bennie Fowler didn't have such a good day (2 catches for 46 yards, but multiple drops). It looks like Andrew Maxwell is starting to get a little bit comfortable with the receivers, which bodes well for the rest of the year.

3) We can't continue settling for FGs.

Dan Conroy missed one field goal right before halftime (his fifth game in a row with a miss) but hit three others, two from beyond 45 yards. Turn any one of those into a touchdown and we have a very different game. One of the three made FGs came after the Miller fumble which was whistled dead early and should have been returned for a touchdown, but even with that bit of bad luck, the offense needs to convert at least one of these drives into seven points instead of three.

4) Where did the run game go?

Le'veon Bell was effective as a receiver (8 catches, 58 yards) but didn't get much room on the ground (17 carries, 45 yards). This may be because of the injury to Travis Jackson early on, as it looked like the run game was working reasonably well before that. Here's hoping for a quick recovery. (UPDATE: Sounds like that won't be happening. Per MSUDersh in the game thread, spartynation here, and @mattcharboneau, he's done for the season with a broken leg and MCL tear.)

5) Regarding the division race, it's a setback but not a killer.

It hurts because we had plenty of chances, but Michigan and Nebraska both play at Ohio State, so it's fairly likely to be a wash if, as expected in the preseason, it comes down to the three of us. As far as tiebreakers go, it's a non-division game so it won't hurt us there (barring a three-way tie with Michigan and Nebraska with one of them beating OSU but losing one of their other crossover games). 6-2 is quite likely to at least tie for the division, and there are plenty of winnable games left. But we cannot afford to throw away another one by stalling out and settling for field goals.

Next up is Indiana. Hopefully that will be an opportunity to get healthy and work out the kinks in the offense a little more before the division games start.