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Early OSU observations: No. 1

COLUMBUS, Ohio — There isn’t much to work with heading into spring break, but Ohio State’s two practices to open camp before taking the week off did give at least a peek at some new faces and a couple changes.

Ohio State Basketball: Will Balanced Scoring Help or Hurt Buckeyes in March?

If you think you had a bad week, try being an Ohio State basketball player. The Buckeyes dropped consecutive decisions to Michigan State and Iowa in games that showcased an offense as prone to sputtering as a 1970 AMC Gremlin. A team that averaged 10.3 turnovers per game before heading to East Lansing, Mich., found itself struggling to 38 in the pair of losses. Despite all those empty possessions, OSU was still able to make an epic rally to force overtime against the Spartans and held a lead in the final five minutes against the Hawkeyes. Even after two of its worst performances of the season, it’s hard to doubt Ohio State’s defensive mojo. The Buckeyes will get back to making opponents look silly, perhaps as soon as Thursday against a dangerous Minnesota team. The offense, however, is lagging behind as it seeks someone to assume the mantle left behind by All-American Deshaun Thomas. The best thing we can say about the OSU offense is that it’s balanced. No opponent ever knows who’s going to take over the game that night. Of the nine players in the Buckeyes’ rotation, backup center Trey McDonald and freshman forward Marc Loving are the only men not to lead the team in scoring this season. On the other hand, the worst thing we can say about the Ohio State offense is that it’s balanced. Like the opponents, Thad Matta and his players never know who’s coming to do some work from night to night. Ross at a Loss Junior forward LaQuinton Ross leads Ohio State in…

Marble’s 22 lift No. 20 Iowa past No. 3 OSU, 84-74 (The Associated Press)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — There’s an invisible line that a good team must cross to become a national or even conference contender.

OSU offseason to-do list: Special teams

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Another 12-win season is in the books, though the second one under Urban Meyer did come with a pair of losses at the end that took a bit of the shine off the record for Ohio State. As the Buckeyes turn the page to Year 3 under Meyer, they’ll certainly be looking to top that victory total, clinch a spot in the first edition of the College Football Playoff and again compete for a national title. To do so, all three phases will have issues to address, and the final checklist hits on the special teams.

OSU offseason to-do list: Defense

Another 12-win season is in the books, though the second one under Urban Meyer did come with a pair of losses at the end that took a bit of the shine for Ohio State.

OSU offseason to-do list: Offense

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Another 12-win season is in the books, though the second one under Urban Meyer did come with a pair of losses at the end that took a bit of the shine off the record for Ohio State.

Reported Miller decision bolsters OSU

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Hitting one out of two was about all Ohio State could ask for with its star juniors. Even better for the Buckeyes, they’re apparently keeping the one who really matters to their title hopes in 2014.

Ryan Shazier is a fantastic defender, and given the woes on that side of the ball at the end of the season, Urban Meyer certainly can use as many of those as possible as he rebuilds and reloads that unit. Losing him to the NFL draft, as SI.com reported citing a source, is a significant blow. But the Ohio State coach has been stockpiling talent to turn loose defensively next season — and replacing Braxton Miller was always going to be the taller order.

+ EnlargeAllen Kee / ESPN ImagesBraxton Miller’s return instantly puts Ohio State in the conversation for next season’s national title.Now the Buckeyes won’t have to do that for another year, and the benefits are obvious. The record-setting spread offense will have its engine back with yet another year to absorb the system, become a better student of the game and again improve his mechanics. For all Miller’s struggles at the end of the year throwing the football, whether he was banged up, slowed by bad weather or whatever else, he again proved in the Discover Orange Bowl how invaluable his singular skills are to the Buckeyes as he nearly dragged them to a win by himself with four total touchdowns.

Of course, the bid for a late comeback ultimately came up short when Miller misread a coverage and fired an easy interception directly to a Clemson defender, adding one more bit of evidence that he’s not quite ready to be a professional passer. There was plenty of proof to go around during the final month of the regular season and another sloppy outing in the Big Ten title game. But even with Miller not quite reaching his potential, there’s probably nobody in the country that Meyer would trade for to run his offense.

Miller is the two-time defending Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. He has twice finished in the top 10 in voting for the Heisman Trophy. And while his arm might get criticized at times and NFL scouts night not have considered him ready to move on, Miller is plenty good enough at the level he’s at now to take the Buckeyes back into national-title contention during his senior season.

Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett could wind up being productive quarterbacks down the road, and they might have been capable of leading an attack with veteran skill players such as Devin Smith and Jeff Heuerman returning along with promising dynamic threats such as Dontre Wilson and redshirting freshman Jalin Marshall without missing a beat. But they almost certainly don’t have Miller’s multipurpose athleticism

Clemson 40, Ohio State 35 (The SportsXchange)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins led an explosive offense as the No. 12 Clemson Tigers defeated the No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes 40-35 on Friday night at the Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium. Playing before a crowd of 72,080, Boyd passed for 370 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 127 yards and one score. Watkins caught 16 passes and set an Orange Bowl receiving record with 227 yards. He scored two touchdowns. Clemson improved to 11-2 for the second straight season, which is the most wins in any two-year period in school history. Ohio State fell to 12-2. The winning touchdown was a 5-yard toss from Boyd to tight end Stanton Beckinger with 6:16 left in the fourth quarter. The two-point conversion pass failed. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller was sacked — with a lost fumble — and intercepted on the Buckeyes’ final two possessions. OSU and Clemson traded touchdowns early in the third quarter. The Buckeyes converted a fourth-and-1 with a 31-yard gain by running back Carlos Hyde. On the next play, Hyde ran 1 yard for a touchdown. Clemson capitalized on a fumble by punt returner Philly Brown that was recovered by safety Robert Smith at the OSU 33. Three plays later, Watkins went up and grabbed a 30-yard touchdown pass. Another Ohio State turnover — this time an interception by safety Jayron Kearse — paved the way for Clemson to take a 34-29 third-quarter lead on a sensational 3-yard touchdown grab by Martavis Bryant. The Clemson wide receiver overcame pass interference against Ohio State cornerback Armani Reeves and still made the juggling catch. Ohio State went up 35-34 on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Miller to Hyde. Miller took a hit on the play and was removed from the game. Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton threw an incomplete pass on the try for a two-point conversion. Clemson scored on the game’s first possession, traveling 75 yards in six plays capped by a 48-yard touchdown run by Boyd, who faked a handoff before taking off. It was the longest run of Boyd’s career. Ohio State tied the score 7-7 on Miller’s 33-yard touchdown run around left end. …

Ohio State Players Who Must Step Up with Noah Spence Suspended

When Ohio State left Columbus minus star defensive end Noah Spence, speculation and intrigue followed. OSU would only say he was “dealing with a personal issue,” and no more. Ohio State finally ended the speculation Wednesday morning, announcing Spence had been suspended for three games. His suspension was due to a “violation of Big Ten rules,” without further explanation as to what B1G rule it was that he violated. While that information is likely to come out over time, the more important thing going forward is how OSU replaces a first-team All-Big Ten defensive end and a player who recorded a team-high eight sacks. Luckily, Ohio State has a lot of talent and depth on the defensive line and replacing Spence for three games may further build that depth for the future. Spence will miss the Orange Bowl and two intriguing matchups in 2014, with OSU facing Navy and Virginia Tech to open the season. It’s not the cupcake city OSU opened 2013 with, so there are players who will need to step up. Who are those players? Let’s explore the players who need to step up in his absence. Begin Slideshow

Three Reasons Why Ohio State Must Defeat Clemson in the Orange Bowl (Yahoo Contributor Network)

COMMENTARY | The Ohio State Buckeyes find themselves in a familiar spot this bowl season. After a two-year absence, OSU will once again play in a BCS bowl game when the Buckeyes face the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl on January 3. This marks OSU’s 10th appearance in a BCS bowl since the series began in 1998, which is tops among all FBS schools. It might be one of the Buckeyes’ most important BCS bowl games, as well. There’s a lot more than pride on the line against Clemson for OSU. These are three reasons why the Buckeyes must defeat the Tigers in the Orange Bowl: OSU Must Prove They Can Bounce Back After A Loss OSU coughed up a chance to face Florida State in the BCS championship game when they lost to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game on December 7. While the loss to the Spartans was disappointing, it will be interesting to see how Urban Meyer’s team responds in the bowl game. Remember, this will be the first time the Buckeyes are coming off a loss in the Meyer era, and a loss to Clemson could really damage the psyche of OSU’s underclassmen heading into 2014. OSU needs to find a way to defeat the Tigers to regain some lost confidence and end the year on a high note. The Buckeyes’ Credibility Is At Stake Of the handful of legitimate national title contenders that materialized in 2013, the Buckeyes were undoubtedly the least-respected team in that group. Twice this season, OSU dropped in the polls following a victory, mainly because the Big Ten is quite frankly not the conference it once was. Even though the conference that Clemson hails from — the ACC — has long been one of the weakest of the BCS conferences, FSU’s march to No. 1 this season likely vaulted the ACC ahead of the Big Ten in most people’s eyes. A victory over the second-best team in the ACC would go a long way towards restoring some much-needed credibility for OSU and the Big Ten as a whole entering 2014. OSU Needs To Impress The Pollsters Heading Into 2014 A Buckeyes loss in the Orange Bowl could be damaging to their 2014 national title hopes. I know that may sound nonsensical, but bear with me here. This season, OSU opened the year at No. 2 in the polls after their undefeated 2012 season, and they still needed losses by several teams just to even be in a position to appear in the national title game before the loss to MSU. If OSU loses their final two games of 2013, you can forget about them being ranked in any preseason top five next summer. FSU, Auburn, Baylor, Stanford, Oregon and Alabama may all be ranked ahead of the Buckeyes heading into 2014, and even though there will be four spots in college football’s new playoff system, a loss to Clemson means that OSU could once again be doing a lot of scoreboard watching next fall. Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed Ohio State football for over 25 years. Sports & RecreationAmerican FootballClemson Tigersthe Buckeyes

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