Coming into the Michigan State game there were plenty of doubters when it came to Ohio State, and rightly so.
The Spartans smacked the Buckeyes around in the fourth quarter of last year’s Big Ten championship game. This year, OSU was thoroughly embarrassed at home by a bad Virginia Tech team, an upset that’s looking worse and worse with each Hokie loss.
With the chance to make a statement that they’re a much better team than that Week 2 debacle, the No. 14 Buckeyes did just that in going into East Lansing and claiming a dominating 49-37 win over the No. 8 Spartans. As unimpressive as the Hokie game was, this was at the opposite end of the eye-test spectrum in both style and substance against a team whose only loss coming in was to No. 4 Oregon in Eugene.
Against a defense that came into the game giving up less than 280 yards per game, the Buckeyes rolled up 568 yards of offense. From early in the second quarter to midway through the fourth quarter, OSU scored touchdowns on six straight possessions.
As has ofttimes been the case, it was redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett who did a significant amount of damage for the Buckeyes.
The quarterback completed just 16 passes, but did so for 300 yards and three touchdowns. For good measure, he added 86 yards and two more scores on the ground. Barrett has now accounted for 34 touchdowns (26 passing, eight rushing — in his first season as a starter, and a quarter of the season is still left.
It wasn’t all Barrett, though, as Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
With the win, a record 21 straight in regular-season Big Ten play,the Buckeyes now have a clear path to the East division title and a spot in the Big Ten championship game. Regardless of what MSU does, OSU just needs to win two of its last three games — at Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan — to claim the division and a spot in its second consecutive conference championship game.
It was, thoroughly and completely, a resounding statement for the Buckeyes. The question thus becomes, will the College Football Playoff Committee hear it? It’s hard to tell, although it likely won’t result in a vault to the four-seat table right away.
Four one-loss teams ranked ahead of OSU in the most recent CFP poll — No. 3 Auburn, No. 7 Kansas State, No. 10 Notre Dame and, of course, No. 8 Michigan State — lost, so the Buckeyes should, at bare minimum, move into the Top 10. They should also leapfrog two-loss and No. 11 Ole Miss and one-loss and No. 13 Nebraska. At most, OSU will move to No. 7; realistically, they’ll likely come in at No. 9 or No. 10.
Beggars who lose to a bad Hokies team can’t be choosers, however, so it’ll still serve as quite the comeback from the embarrassment of Week 2.
Moving forward, OSU could pick up another quality win next week on the road against 7-2 Minnesota, pumping up an ever-improving résumé. What the Big Ten must hope for, at least as far as the CFP is concerned, is that both the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers remain unbeaten the remainder of the season and each head into the league title game at 11-1.
Such a development would leave the winner with a very solid argument for its champion to be a part of the four-team playoff. And, after the way the conference started the 2014 season, that’s about the league can ask for.