The vast majority of teams in the country would have gladly traded places with Ohio State, but the season still qualified as a disappointment, given the combination of high expectations and a pair of postseason stumbles.
Everything before those final two games went just about perfectly to plan, with coach Urban Meyer guiding the Buckeyes to another perfect record behind a prolific offense and a defense that typically offered enough support to keep everything pointed to a championship. But Michigan State was able to pick apart Ohio State through the air and had a talented enough defense to slow down quarterback Braxton Miller, and Clemson staged a late rally to pull out a victory in the Discover Orange Bowl that dropped Meyer’s record to 24-2 overall with the Buckeyes.
Offensive MVP: QB Braxton Miller. The junior had issues at the end of the season throwing the football, but his athleticism, competitive fire and plenty of eye-popping numbers made him the player the Buckeyes could never truly survive without for long. Kenny Guiton filled in admirably during Miller’s September injury, and running Carlos Hyde ended his career with an epic tear through the Big Ten. But Miller is the engine, and he still has one more year of development to tap into his potential as a passer.
Defensive MVP: LB Ryan Shazier. Few players in the nation gave more to their unit than Shazier did for the Buckeyes, stuffing the stat sheet from all angles while building himself into a potential high-round draft pick and declaring for the NFL draft a year early. The junior was at times a one-man wrecking crew, flying around the corner as a blitzer, making tackles anywhere between the sidelines and stabilizing a front seven that had six new starters lined up next to him.
Best moment: A perfect record in the regular season was on the line, along with the hopes of a national title and the invaluable bragging rights that come with a rivalry win. And it all boiled down to one make-or-break play as Michigan scored a late touchdown and rolled the dice on a game-deciding 2-point conversion. Tyvis Powell’s interception didn’t end up saving a national championship season, but it did clinch another pair of gold pants and give the Buckeyes plenty to celebrate at the time.
Worst moment: After flying so high the week before, the Buckeyes finally crashed to earth in the Big Ten title game, dropping their first game under Meyer and out of the national championship race at the same time. Michigan State had a fantastic game plan to slow down Miller, and it picked apart Ohio State’s struggling defense, but the Buckeyes still had a fourth-quarter lead, which slipped away in a sobering 34-24 defeat.