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Three Thoughts on Ohio State’s 17-16 Victory Over Michigan State

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | On Saturday, September 29, 14th-ranked Ohio State beat Michigan State 17-16 to win Urban Meyer's Big Ten coaching debut. Braxton Miller threw for 179 yards and ran for 135 more to lead the Buckeyes.

Here are three thoughts on the game:

Improved tackling

If there's been one problem with the Buckeyes thus far in 2012, it's been their tackling. It seems like Ohio State has missed more tackles this season than it did throughout all of Jim Tressel's final year with the club. It was my biggest concern for the team as it entered Big Ten play this weekend against Michigan State and its powerful rushing attack.

However, for the most part, the Buckeyes defense had its best game of the season. They held Spartans running back Le'Veon Bell to 49 yards on 17 carries and limited Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell to just over 50 percent passing.

The Buckeyes were successful because they tackled well. That's why they won the game. It's not Braxton Miller's play at quarterback, or the team's pass rush. It's all about the Buckeyes' defense wrapping up the ball carrier and limiting the Spartans.

Unfortunately, it wasn't a perfect performance by Ohio State. The Buckeyes had every chance to stop the Spartans' Keith Mumphery from scoring on a 29-yard pass play from Maxwell. At least four Ohio State players missed tackles on Mumphery as he ran to the end zone. That's not going to fly against high-powered Nebraska next weekend.

Miller's mistakes

The media is spending a lot of its time praising Braxton Miller for piling up 314 total yards on Saturday, and I think he deserves it. Miller is the player who makes the Buckeyes' offense go. I have no doubt that the team would have lost without him in the lineup this weekend.

However, I can't ignore the three turnovers he committed against the Spartans. One of his fumbles is understandable since he was injured on the play, but his other fumble was a direct result of his failure to protect the football.

Miller also made a poor decision to throw the ball into coverage in the second quarter, which resulted in an interception. He's fortunate that the Ohio State defense did an excellent job preventing Michigan State from taking advantage of those turnovers. If the Spartans had won this game, Miller wouldn't be labeled as the hero of the game. Instead, he would have been the one shouldering the blame for the Buckeyes' first loss of the season.

Huge Victory

This game was a gut-check for the Buckeyes. Few people have forgotten how Michigan State shut down the Ohio State offense in their 10-7 win last season in Columbus. Going up to East Lansing and returning the favor in the Big Ten opener is an excellent sign that Meyer has the Buckeyes heading in the right direction.

''A great team win,'' Meyer said. ''We found out something about our team today, to go on the road in a hostile environment against a quality, quality football team and find a way to win.''

Indeed, we did find out something about the 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday. This is a team that has faced a ridiculous amount of criticism throughout the first month of the season. In fact, Meyer is one of those people who has criticized the Buckeyes. He's been completely upfront about Ohio State's poor performances. That's why this victory is so important. Now we know that the Buckeyes are getting better. It's going to take some time, but it's clear that Ohio State is more than capable of hanging with the best teams in the conference.

Derek Ciapala has been following Ohio State athletics since childhood. He has been published on Yahoo! Sports, GatewayMMA.com and multiple other websites. You can check him out on Facebook or Twitter @dciapala.

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