It was far from pretty, and featured very little (ahem) “game control” on the favorite’s part throughout most of it, but a win is a win is a win.
Thanks in large part to an embattled and beleaguered special teams until, No. 6 Ohio State, anywhere from 32- to 35-point favorites coming in, was able to flip momentum midway through the third quarter and rode it to a closer-than-expected 42-27 win over 3-8 Indiana in Columbus. IU now has a 22-game winless streak against OSU dating back to 1988.
The win clinches the Big Ten East for the 10-1 Buckeyes, and sends them to the Big Ten championship game next month. Were it not for a pair of plays from the special teams, however, OSU very well could’ve been forced to wait until Week 14 to clinch.
Trailing 14-13 at the half, the Hoosiers stunned the Ohio Stadium crowd with 7:17 left in the third quarter as Tevin Coleman raced 90 yards for a touchdown to put IU up 20-14. While the Buckeyes were forced to punt on the ensuing possession, Ray Guy Award candidate Cameron Johnson pinned the Hoosiers on their own one-yard line. The Buckeyes’ defense stiffened in forcing a three-and-out and a punt, which was promptly returned 54 yards for a touchdown by Jalin Marshall.
Up 21-20 with just over two minutes left in the third, OSU gradually pulled away as Marshall scored a second touchdown — a six-yard touchdown pass from J.T. Barrett that was the quarterback’s 31st of the season, breaking Troy Smith school record — very early in the fourth quarter… and then a third, a one-handed scoring catch from 15 yards out… and then a fourth on a short “pass” he took 54 yards to the end zone to account for the final score on the OSU side of the ledger.
Barrett, in the running for a mid-December road trip to New York City for the Heisman ceremony, rebounded from a miserable two-pick first half to put together a solid albeit unspectacular game, at least based on the high standards he’s set for himself since the Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech. In completing 25-of-35 passes, Barrett threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns. He’s now tied with Purdue’s Drew Brees for the Big Ten record of total touchdowns in a season (42) as the redshirt freshman now has 33 passing and nine rushing scores in his first year as a starter.
The breakout star of the game, however, was Marshall. He accounted for four touchdowns, all in the last two quarters, after entering the game with four touchdowns in the first 42 quarters of the season. The most remarkable aspect of Marshall’s scoring outburst? He only touched the ball seven times all game, and ended up with 151 all-purpose yards.
Ezekiel Elliott paced the Buckeyes’ running attack with 107 yards, his fifth 100-yard effort of the season. Coleman, one of the most underrated backs in the country, gashed the Buckeyes’ defense for 228 yards on 27 carries, his fourth 200-yard game of the season. The last two weeks, both losses, Coleman totaled 535 yards on the ground.
Coleman also accounted for all three of the Hoosiers’ touchdowns, with two of them coming on runs of 90 yards and 52 in the second half to close out the scoring.
As stated earlier a win is a win is a win, but it’s a win that could very well spell trouble for the Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff rankings.
After struggling on the road against woeful Kansas last week, TCU was dropped to No. 5 in the most recent rankings by the CFP committee. OSU, sitting at No. 6 in those rankings, could very well suffer a similar fate and be leapfrogged by the likes of Baylor come Tuesday. One thing is all but certain: barring upsets later today and even as the win over Minnesota last week looks even better today, the sixth-ranked Buckeyes won’t be moving up when the Top 25 is released in three days.
Another known is that OSU, which closes out the 2014 regular season next week in The Game against Michigan, will be playing in its second consecutive conference championship game. Just who its opponent will be won’t be decided until next week as the winner of the Wisconsin-Minnesota game — in Madison — will claim the Big Ten West and a spot opposite OSU in Indianapolis.