FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- We now know for sure that Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence won't play in Friday's Discover Orange Bowl. He won't play again until the Buckeyes' third game of 2014, in fact.
The team announced Wednesday morning that Spence has been suspended three games by the Big Ten for violating an unspecified conference rule. The suspension begins with the bowl game and includes the first two games of next year, at Navy and vs. Virginia Tech.
It's unquestionably a big loss for the Buckeyes, as Spence led the team with eight sacks, finishing second in the league in that category. He also had 14.5 tackles for loss and is as quick coming off the edge as any player in the Big Ten. His pass-rushing ability will really be missed against Clemson, which has an explosive passing attack. If Ohio State can't generate some pressure on Tajh Boyd, its battered secondary will be hard-pressed to get stops.
The emergence of true freshman Joey Bosa as a star at defensive end mitigates Spence's absence somewhat. Bosa was incredibly disruptive in the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State and had 6.5 sacks this season. Jamal Marcus and Steve Miller have been splitting reps at Spence's defensive end spot in practice this week.
We don't know what rule Spence broke and it would be reckless to speculate. Ohio State did mention in its release that Spence was an academic all-Big Ten selection who would continue working on his degree next semester, so this does not sound like it was related to academics. The league also likely would not have stepped in on a criminal matter, and there was no on-the-field reason for the suspension, like fighting. Ohio State said Spence's parents disagreed with the league's ruling and penalty and that the school assisted in exhausting the appeals process with the conference, which is why Spence's status has been up in the air all week. (A cynic might say the Big Ten got burned the last time it went to bat for Ohio State players in a BCS bowl game. See: the Tattooed 5, 2011 Sugar Bowl).
So make of that what you will.
For now, the Buckeyes will have to find ways to make up for Spence's production over their next three games, all of which are against good teams.