The Buckeyes face a tough pill to swallow.
For the first time since 2000, No. 2 Ohio State fell on its home turf Saturday to rival No. 3 Michigan, leaving Ohio Stadium at the hands of a 45-23 defeat.
Head coach Ryan Day and the Buckeyes suffered their first loss to a Big Ten opponent at home since 2015, and now they’ve yet to defeat the Wolverines in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1999-2000.
The Buckeyes can go in a number of directions after their regular season finished Saturday. While they won’t be in Indianapolis competing for a Big Ten Championship, they still have a chance at making the College Football Playoff.
Here are five takeaways from Ohio State’s 45-23 loss to Michigan.
Ohio State didn’t accomplish its first goal of the season
Day said repeatedly over the course of the season that Ohio State has three goals in front of it at the start of each year.
Capturing the conference crown and winning a national championship are two the Buckeyes would like to achieve, but they have a difficult chance at attaining either without accomplishing their first one.
Beat “the team up north.”
The Buckeyes held a 20-17 lead at halftime but failed to find the end zone and scored just three points while Michigan sped past and punched in four touchdowns in the second half.
After winning the Big Ten championship from 2017-20, Ohio State has been kept from competing for the conference title by its rival that is now booked for its second-straight appearance in Indianapolis.
But the season isn’t over yet
The regular season is over for most teams, and championship week begins for others.
The CFP will release its final top-25 rankings Tuesday before the final four-team playoff field is announced Dec. 4. This season, three undefeated teams remain in No. 1 Georgia, the Wolverines and No. 4 TCU, and all three appear in control to win their conferences.
No. 6 USC defeated No. 15 Notre Dame 38-27 Saturday, and will enter the Pac-12 Championship as a one-loss program. Winning the conference title will boost the Trojans’ playoff resume, and it’ll be up to the CFP selection committee whether Ohio State deserves a spot.
The Buckeyes earned two Associated Press Top 25 wins this season against the then-No. 5 Fighting Irish Week 1 and then-No. 13 Penn State Week 9. They also boast an offense and defense both of which ranking in the top 25 among college football programs.
A loss to rival Michigan provides the Buckeyes enough sting to look ahead to getting their next chance at beating the Wolverines next season.
But the door isn’t completely shut on this one.
Big plays swung the game for Michigan
The Wolverines scored 28 points in the second half, including 21 during the fourth quarter.
Of their 530 yards of offense, 349 came on five of their six touchdowns.
Wolverines senior wide receiver Cornelius Johnson and sophomore running back Donovan Edwards had two touchdowns apiece that went for at least 69 yards. Johnson shed a tackle in the second quarter to help Michigan tie the game at 10 points, then Edwards scored the final two touchdowns of the fourth to finish the game.
Ohio State had big plays of its own, including nine passes of at least 15 yards. However, it only had two plays longer than 24 yards — catches by second-year wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. on a 42-yard touchdown reception and Emeka Egbuka on a 44-yard grab.
The Buckeyes forced Michigan to five three-and-outs compared to their own three, but the Wolverines didn’t need extended drives to come out on top.
C.J. Stroud may’ve played his last game at the ‘Shoe. Did he at Ohio State?
Third-year quarterback C.J. Stroud threw for 349 yards, two touchdowns and as many interceptions against Michigan.
Arizona State transfer and third-year linebacker Chip Trayanum largely shouldered the load while the Buckeyes battled injuries at running back as third-year ball-carrier Miyan Williams made eight carries while second-year running back TreVeyon Henderson missed his third of four games.
Last season, Stroud led the charge offensively against Michigan and was tasked with doing so again, as he attempted 48 passes to Ohio State’s 29 carries.
Stroud didn’t say after the game if he’d suit up in a bowl game should Ohio State not qualify for the CFP. He could follow routes taken by former wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson and opt out of the remainder of what’s left for the Buckeyes as Stroud has high NFL prospects.
The Heisman Trophy ceremony will take place Dec. 10, and Stroud has a chance at not only returning as a finalist this season, but earning the honor outright.
Decisions lie ahead for Ohio State’s signal-caller, who said after the game that he’s grateful for all that Ohio State has offered him.
Steps toward progress must begin immediately
After the stunner in 2021, Ohio State shuffled its defensive coaching staff and revamped areas on both sides of the ball.
The Buckeyes likely didn’t expect falling in rivalry defeat in two-straight years, though.
Day hired a new defensive coordinator, offensive line coach while retooling the secondary, bringing in a cornerbacks coach who’d spent time at the NFL level and a safeties coach who previously mentored a first round NFL draft pick.
It may take a grandiose change by Day and Ohio State to get over the hump. The Buckeyes haven’t lost three in a row to Michigan since 1995-97.
Ohio State may likely see a new starting quarterback under center come the 2023 season, while Michigan likely won’t. The Wolverines will be preparing to strike for a third time, likely with quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who threw 263 yards and three touchdowns Saturday.
The Buckeyes already waited 365 days for a chance to correct their rivalry defeat. They’ll have 365 more until their next.