The Columbus Dispatch

Where does OSU go after rare loss to Michigan?

- Bill Rabinowitz and Joey Kaufman Columbus Dispatch | USA TODAY NETWORK

Editor's note: After each Ohio State football game, beat reporters Bill Rabinowitz and Joey Kaufman discuss the lasting storylines and other key developmen­ts.

Ohio State's Big Ten and College Football Playoff hopes took a fatal hit on Saturday, but what stung even more about the 42-27 loss to Michigan was the way in which the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes to end UM'S eight-game losing streak in The Game.

Michigan ran for almost 300 yards and defensive end Aidan Hutchinson was in the backfield consistent­ly as the Wolverines dominated the trenches. Now Ohio State is off until a likely New Year's Day bowl.

Rabinowitz: Count me among the vast majority who was stunned by what happened at the Big House. I figured Michigan had a chance, but only if the game followed a certain script. Jim Harbaugh couldn't have written it any better to get that Buckeye monkey off his back. The Wolverines played as if they were on a mission. Ohio State seemed like it was on its heels all game. Only the Buckeyes' passing game kept it close, and even that wasn't as explosive as usual.

Kaufman: These were the conditions for an upset, no question. Michigan's run-heavy approach was especially effective because it limited the Buckeyes' scoring opportunit­ies, giving them only 10 drives on offense. It was computes a statistic called “percentage of possession­s used.” It's defined as “a measure of personal possession­s used while the player is on the court. Simply assigns credit or blame to a player when his actions end a possession, either by making a shot, missing a shot that isn't rebounded by the offense, or committing a turnover.”

Liddell sits 10th nationally with a usage rate of 35.2. Only two Buckeyes have finished a season at higher than 30%: Evan Turner (34.7) in 2009-10 and D'angelo Russell (30.2) in 2014-15.

Someone besides Wheeler needs to learn how to take care of ball

Wheeler's reputation as being a tough defender came with him to Ohio State. Six games in, he's also sharing and taking care of the ball at a clip never before seen during his four years at Penn State.

With 23 assists and four turnovers, Wheeler leads the Big Ten with a 5.75 assist-to-turnover ratio. While with the Nittany Lions, Wheeler was at 1.87 (332 assists, 177 turnovers). His best season was as a sophomore, when his ratio was 2.07 (89 assists, 43 turnovers).

His career numbers might indicate his current rate is unsustaina­ble, and it's fair to expect them to come down at some point. It's also possible that he's simply surrounded by more talent than at Penn State.

Rebounding might be an issue

Drawing conclusion­s about a team based on rebounding numbers can be folly. If a team isn't missing many shots, it stands to reason it will have fewer opportunit­ies to rebound the ball.

But in its last three games against high-major competitio­n, Ohio State has lost the rebounding battle each time. More importantl­y, Florida and Xavier each pulled down 16 offensive rebounds while Seton Hall finished with 14. Ohio State's opponents are pulling down 33.6% of their misses, a figure that ranks the Buckeyes No. 309 nationally.

Sueing's ongoing absence critical

With all the talk about which players need to give the Buckeyes consistent production alongside Liddell, it's easy to forget it's been roughly two weeks since Ohio State shut down fifth-year forward Justice Sueing as he deals with an abdominal injury.

The plan entering the season was for Sueing to frequently have the ball in his hands in crucial situations. He's elite at getting to the line and is a proven, capable shot-maker. There's no like-for-like replacemen­t, and his absence was glaring against Florida.

Johnson, Branham haven't arrived

Both of Ohio State's young guards have shown potential. In the opening win against Akron, it was Malaki Branham who had the game-winning assist in the final seconds. Against Seton Hall, Meechie Johnson Jr. hit the game-winning 3-pointer, also in the final seconds.

But both have struggled. Johnson is averaging 8.0 points per game, but 35 of his 48 points are in three of the six games. That's 72.9% of his scoring in 50.0% of his games, and in the other three he's made no more than two field goals.

Branham has started the last five games but scored only six points during the two games in Fort Myers and finished with four assists and five turnovers. Together, the two guards have combined for 25 of Ohio State's 74 turnovers.

 ?? NICOLAS GALINDO/THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH ?? Here Ohio State forward Zed Key (23) grabs a rebound against the Bowling Green, but OSU'S opponents are pulling down 33.6% of their missed shots this season, a figure that ranks the Buckeyes No. 309 nationally.
NICOLAS GALINDO/THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH Here Ohio State forward Zed Key (23) grabs a rebound against the Bowling Green, but OSU'S opponents are pulling down 33.6% of their missed shots this season, a figure that ranks the Buckeyes No. 309 nationally.

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