5 things I liked about Ohio State's win over Michigan State
I would suspect that Ohio State’s victory was just the kind of performance Buckeyes fans were looking for.
Yes, there were shaky snaps. Yes there were fumbles. Yes, there was another backup quarterback coming in and throwing for a few big plays in the second half. But all in all, this looked like what we expect from the fourth-ranked team in the country.
And when you factor in that they demolished a confident Michigan State team on its own field, 52-12 — doing it without three starting offensive lineman, as well as Tuf Borland and head coach Ryan Day — well then, that sounds about as good as you can expect.
Once again, the 5-0 Buckeyes looked like the No. 4 team in the country, worthy of playing in the College Football Playoff. But even more important for the immediate future, they looked like they belonged in their own conference championship. If Michigan has to cancel the big game next week, the B1G would have to tweak its rules to allow the Buckeyes in with less than 6 games played.
I think this game went a long way to proving that will be done — if it needs to be. And for all of those reasons, many thought this was a huge game for Ohio State. A statement game, Paul Finebaum said. The Buckeyes went up to East Lansing without 23 players, 3 assistant coaches and their head coach and were still able to deliver a dominant performance.
Here are 5 things I liked:
1. They played the game
We have to start with this, right? Just the fact the Buckeyes were able to get on the field and work their way toward another of those all-important six wins was the biggest news of the weekend. But the way in which they won will go a long way, I think, to making the College Football Playoff. This week, Gary Barta, chair of the selection committee and athletic director at Iowa, said the number of games a team plays is very important. Simply, it gives the selection committee more evidence when evaluating.
“The more games a team has to bring to the committee, the more we have to evaluate,” he said.
That means Ohio State needs to play as many games as possible. The fact that this one got played is a big deal.
2. Ohio State improved its image
Let’s face it — Ohio State won and looked good doing it. It was important for the Buckeyes offense to come out and perform.
Barta himself noted last week that one of the reasons Ohio State was still ranked fourth was essentially because of the eye test, and he specifically mentioned the explosive qualities of Justin Fields and the offense. I feel it was important for both Fields and his weapons to come out and show how important they are to college football, and they did just that.
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Fields returned to form with one of his most impressive performances to date. Factoring in that he never really knew where the snap from backup center (and normal starting left guard) Harry Miller was going, Fields was amazing, filling up the stat-line to the tune of 17-24 passing for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns, while rushing for a career-high 104 yards and another 2 TDs on 13 carries. He came out fast, stepped on the gas and put this one out of reach quickly. He even ran down Trey Sermon and prepared to throw a last-ditch block (if needed) on Sermon’s 64-yard touchdown run.
Turns out it wasn’t needed, as Sermon had outrun the entire town of East Lansing. But one thing is certain: Ohio State, especially on offense, looked a lot more like what we all thought it should.
Justin Fields had them shook in space. 😳
The @OhioStateFB QB is unfair: pic.twitter.com/U5mMldPzXt
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) December 5, 2020
3. Guys stepped up
There’s a lot to unpack here, but we have to first talk about Larry Johnson.
Johnson, the associate head coach and defensive line coach, is probably the best at his job in all of college football. It’s no secret his former and current players love him, and he’s consistently put athletes into the NFL. He was asked to fill in as head coach, a tough position for anyone. In fact, he became the first black head coach in the history of the Ohio State program. And he passed with flying colors, as he can always say he’s 1-0 as the head man for the Buckeyes. He even got a much-deserved Gatorade bath when it was all over.
You earned it, @R2X_Rushmen1! 👏
Larry Johnson gets the historic win as acting @OhioStateFB head coach: pic.twitter.com/SkQCIkNFPb
— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) December 5, 2020
But we also need to talk about the offensive line, which has been criticized because it hasn’t performed better this year. Well, in the first half at least, these guys looked like much more than a patchwork crew. They gave Fields time, blocked to unleash some major runs, and — aside from the shaky snaps — looked like they’d played together for longer than just a few days. It was a good performance.
All over the field, guys were stepping in to fill spots. It’s just the kind of season it’s been, and the Buckeyes not only survived, they thrived.
4. Big-time players made big-time plays
Here, I’m thinking about guys like Shaun Wade, Haskell Garrett, Harry Miller and Trey Sermon. Each had a big play that helped either stretch the lead or just crush any momentum that Michigan State may have had.
Garrett will make all the highlight reels, of course. His tip, leap, catch and score is one of the most exciting plays of the year. But there was also Miller, who’d had a rough day snapping the ball to Fields, falling on a fumble to help keep a drive going. And Wade, who’s been criticized all season, snagging an amazing interception out of the air right after the offense had fumbled and given it to the Spartans.
And then there was Sermon, who seems to make the most of his carries. His touchdown run really took the wind out of the Spartans’ sails, and he ended up with 10 carries for 112 yards and the score.
Trey Sermon gone, but look at Fields running down field for the block pic.twitter.com/a63xAJilUF
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) December 5, 2020
5. We even got a little glimpse of the future
And the best part of Saturday’s game? I assume fans will say that the best part was in the end, the score was so out of reach that we were able to get a glimpse of the future.
Once again, freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud got in the game, where he was able to show just what he can do. The drive resulted in a 48-yard touchdown run.
Meet Ohio State's next QB, five-star freshman CJ Stroud, who just took a long run to the house. pic.twitter.com/QYbOkWXSAF
— Chris Hummer (@chris_hummer) December 5, 2020
Five wins down. One to go for Ohio State fans.
Then the real season can begin.