Three takeaways from MSU's 49-37 loss to Ohio State.
1. MSU's linebackers were nowhere to be seen
MSU's front seven was dominated by Ohio State's offensive line, and while both MSU's defensive line and linebackers struggled, it was the linebackers especially who were a glaring hole.
MSU's three leading tacklers were defensive backs, followed by Shilique Calhoun. The three starting linebackers - Taiwan Jones, Darien Harris and Ed Davis - combined for 14 tackles. Safeties Kurtis Drummond and RJ Williamson each had 11. I don't even know if Davis' name was called on the ESPN broadcast.
Whether it was blitzing or trying to get the edge on the outside, the linebackers could do neither. The Buckeyes averaged 6.5 yards per rush. MSU had two sacks and two QB hurries. None of those came from the linebackers.
Ohio State did a good job of moving the pocket, getting J.T. Barrett on the run and getting rid of the ball quickly, but MSU's blitzes rarely got pressure, and they were cut off from the edge all night.
Other than the Nebraska game and a poor offense in Michigan, the linebackers have struggled much of the season to get off blocks, get the edge or defend the flats.
Jones was right that Barrett is a better fit for the offense, but Braxton Miller was also right on Saturday.
2. MSU's offensive line played very well
There were a few penalties on the group, including a hold on Jack Allen that nullified a 28-14 lead, but the unit as a whole did a good job holding off one of the best defensive lines in the nation. Pun maybe intended.
Connor Cook wasn't pressured very much, and Jeremy Langford had many holes to run through, averaging 7.6 yards per carry. Ohio State recorded just one sack and four quarterback hurries. Offensive tackle Jack Conklin owned All-American-quality defensive end Joey Bosa when they were matched up.
The unit has been complete and healthy for the past two games, and they've done well. Near the end of the OSU game, Kirk Herbstreit said MSU's OL lost the battle against Ohio State's DL. I usually agree with Herbstreit's analysis, but I strongly disagreed with that one. The penalties were costly, but they were great otherwise.
This offense will likely shatter the school record for scoring, and what may be the best offensive line in the Dantonio era is a big reason for that.
3. Nothing stays gold forever
MSU lost a LOT from last year's defense, and a poor schedule had hidden just how costly those losses had been, if you weren't watching with your eyes. The two losses have exposed them to the country.
There weren't weaknesses last year. There are weaknesses this year. You give up 49 points and force two (really, one) punts, and that's pretty clear. Oregon and Ohio State had the personnel and game plans to exploit them.
Darian Hicks and RJ Williamson have been picked on all season, and the linebackers haven't gotten off blocks, as mentioned above. MSU has had a top-five defense for three straight seasons. The nature of college football with its roster turnover meant it wasn't going to last forever. I don't want to say MSU fans have been spoiled, because they truly did appreciate how good those defenses were.
Kurtis Drummond, Taiwan Jones and Marcus Rush - and his MSU starts record - will graduate. Trae Waynes and Shilique Calhoun will likely have NFL decisions to make. And then there's Pat Narduzzi's future, which could also see him leave East Lansing, potentially.
Things could get worse, defensively, before the Spartans get back among the nation's leaders across the board. Fans should savor what Max Bullough, Denicos Allen, Isaiah Lewis and Darqueze Dennard did, and hope the young talent grows up quickly.