Here are 5 things we learned from the Ohio State Buckeyes' 45-23 loss to Michigan

Brian White
The Columbus Dispatch

Michigan planted its flag, Baker Mayfield style, at midfield of Ohio Stadium after outplaying and outcoaching Ohio State.

C.J. Stroud, who has put up great numbers as a Buckeye, is 0-2 against the Wolverines and might have seen his Heisman hopes slip away again in a loss to his most hated rival.

C.J. Stroud's legacy:Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud knows what fans will say: 'I never won The Game'

Ohio State vs. Michigan 2022:'Competitive stamina' follows Ohio State down the drain against Michigan | Rob Oller

A lot went wrong for the Buckeyes as a season with great hopes came to what might be a crashing end.

While the lobbying for a College Football Playoff spot begins, here are five things we learned from Saturday's game:

Ohio State can't use injuries as an excuse

If standout Michigan running back Blake Corum had returned from last week's injury and ripped through the Ohio State defense, then maybe Buckeye fans could use the, "Well, we didn't have Jaxon Smith-Njigba or TreVeyon Henderson or Matt Jones or ..." cry as an excuse.

But once Corum called it a day after a few plays, all was level, and that excuse went out the window. Corum is more important to Michigan's attack than the missing Buckeyes are to theirs. He's a Heisman candidate who is the epitome of Michigan toughness.

Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who has been out most of the season, again sat out when the Buckeyes' lost 45-23 to Michigan.

Henderson is electric but is a part-time player who misses a lot of time with injuries. Smith-Njigba is great but hasn't played for almost the entire season. Jones was a staple on a line that has had its toughness questioned.

'Ryan Day is playing checkers':Ohio State football fans react to loss to Michigan

Ohio State-Michigan:Bottom line: How did the Buckeyes grade out vs. Michigan?

Michigan found a way to respond, and Donovan Edwards rushed for 216 yards on Saturday. Ohio State gave most of its carries to a linebacker, Chip Trayanum, who gained 83 yards on 14 carries after having only one rush all season. The star of last week's win at Maryland, freshman running back Dallan Hayden, was forgotten and had only two touches for 7 yards. Co-starter Miyan Williams, back from injury, looked healthy but had only eight carries for 34 yards.

Michigan won the defensive coordinator battle

Network TV types get advantages nobody else in the media does in that they get to talk to coaches of both teams with the understanding that what is said in that room stays in that room.

So when FOX's Joel Klatt casually dropped before the game that Michigan's defensive coordinator had a bunch of schemes planned that he had devised and saved to confuse Stroud, X's and O's geeks became quite interested.

Ohio State wide receiver Emeka Egbuka is tackled by Michigan defensive back Mike Sainristil.

Oddly, none of those schemes involved blitzing or harassing Stroud the way Michigan did last year. Instead, Stroud enjoyed a super-clean pocket but had great difficulty finding any of his five-star receivers open. It was a safe, keep-everything-in-front defense, and the result was confusion on the Ohio State side and maybe Stroud losing the Heisman.

On the other side, Ohio State's Jim Knowles went with a high-risk scheme of playing forward and filling the gaps to stop the run. That left man-to-man coverage with no deep safety help. That's great fun when it works, but when your coverage is the weak part of your defense, chaos can ensue. Granted, nobody expected Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy to actually throw accurately, but many of his big-play targets were wide open. In the end, big plays killed the Buckeyes.

A lot of eyes will be on Ryan Day

No, Ryan Day shouldn't be fired, as the knee-jerks and drunks on High Street and Twitter were wishing late Saturday. But how the Ohio State coach handles a second straight loss to Michigan will be interesting.

Ohio State Sports Insider:Sign up for the Ohio State Sports Insider text group with Dispatch reporters

Ohio State coach Ryan Day walks away after the postgame handshake with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh after losing 45-23 Saturday.

Day wears the stress of Michigan week for all to see. He knows the pressure, and he acknowledges it regularly. But he does so in a manner that doesn't really make listeners feel that he enjoys it. It's the way it is around here, he says, and he accepts it.

But does a man who can easily move to the NFL want to put up with the criticism that comes with losing one game a year? Does the unfairness of it cause him to look elsewhere?

One drive summed everything up

With a 24-20 lead, Michigan took possession at its own 20 with 6:21 remaining in the third quarter. Ohio Stadium was perhaps the loudest it had been all day. The time seemed right for the Buckeyes to finally take charge.

What followed was a drive that didn't end until 13:10 remained in the fourth quarter, and it was capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by McCarthy on third-and-3. The Wolverines ran 15 plays, and 10 of them were runs. They converted a third-and-1 at the OSU 30 with a gutsy trick play, as running back Kalel Mullings, recently converted from linebacker, took a handoff, stopped and threw a jump pass to Luke Schoonmaker for 15 yards.

Michigan celebrates a J.J. McCarthy rushing touchdown against Ohio State. He also threw for three scores.

Later came a traditional 3-yard run by Donovan Edwards on third-and-3 and a then third-and-10 conversion because of a pass interference call in the end zone against OSU's Ronnie Hickman. It was a drive that could have been a season-saver for the Buckeyes. Instead, it was Michigan returning to the toughness it used in last year's win.

That was the game.

Prepare to watch preparations for next year

With a blowout loss, Ohio State's chances for a playoff spot grew slimmer. If the Buckeyes miss out and instead head to another Rose Bowl while Michigan heads to the playoff, Saturday could have marked the end of the college careers of Stroud, Smith-Njigba and others who might choose safety over a bowl game.

That was the case last year, when receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson sat out the Rose Bowl. But Stroud and Smith-Njigba were there, so the offense was stable and explosive and contributed to a thrilling Rose Bowl win. Expectations are now that they'll head to the NFL, so there's a good chance we'll see Kyle McCord and maybe Devin Brown throwing to Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka.

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud walks off the field after perhaps his last game at Ohio Stadium, a 45-23 loss to Michigan.

For coaches, it's the curse of recruiting so many future NFL players.

Get more Ohio State football news by listening to our podcasts