Ohio State Buckeyes season recap

You know life is pretty good when you have to settle for Big Ten titles and BCS bowl appearances.

Ohio State entered the season with legitimate national championship hopes and climbed to No. 1 in the polls after Week 6. Life at the top was short lived, however, as the Buckeyes lost to Wisconsin to fall out of the title race. Although a decorated senior class didn't reach its ultimate goal, it kept three very important streaks alive. Ohio State won a record-tying sixth consecutive Big Ten title, beat archrival Michigan for the seventh consecutive time and will play in a BCS bowl for the sixth consecutive January.

The Buckeyes made legitimate improvements on offense, rising from 68th nationally in yards per game in 2009 to 18th this fall, and from 49th nationally in points per game in 2009 to 11th this fall. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor continued to evolve and Dan Herron established himself as the Buckeyes' premier running back in Big Ten play. The defense overcame several key injuries, especially in the secondary, to finish in the top five nationally in scoring (3rd, 13.3 ppg), rush defense (4th, 94.3 ypg), pass defense (4th, 156.3 ypg) and total defense (2nd, 250.6 ypg).

The only thing Ohio State lacks is a true signature win. Victories against Miami and Iowa looked decent at the time, but both teams fell out of the rankings.

How good is this Ohio State team? We'll likely learn more in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Offensive MVP: Terrelle Pryor. His haters will always be out there, but Pryor took another step forward as a quarterback this fall. The junior finished the regular season ranked 14th nationally in passer rating (157.98) after completing 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,551 yards and a Big Ten-leading 25 touchdown strikes. Is he a finished product? No. But Pryor is becoming a more complete quarterback. Receiver Dane Sanzenbacher and Herron also merit mentions.

Defensive MVP: Brian Rolle. The senior linebacker was one of Ohio State's most consistent performers and got better as the season went along. Rolle led the team in both tackles (70) and tackles for loss (10), and he added two interceptions, four pass breakups, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick. He earned consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors for his efforts. Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward also should be mentioned.

Turning point: Ohio State trailed Iowa 17-13 late in the fourth quarter Nov. 20 and was dangerously close to a second league loss that would have ended its streaks of Big Ten titles and most likely BCS bowl appearances. But Pryor came up huge on fourth-and-10 and Ohio State rallied for a 20-17 win. Ohio State's second-half turnaround against Penn State the week before also stands out.

What's next: The Buckeyes try to end their often-discussed postseason drought against SEC teams (0-9) on Jan. 4 against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. Ohio State looks for back-to-back wins in BCS bowls and its highest wins total since 2006. Although a sizable senior class departs after the bowl game, Pryor vows to be back for one more run at a national title.