Forget offense -- Ohio State now has a championship-caliber defense
Whether human, cat or dog, we tend to focus on flashy things in life. And Ohio State’s offense continues to be the ultimate laser-pointer.
How can you not fixate on CJ Stroud going 29-of-31 for 393 yards and 6 touchdowns in the first half against Michigan State? Those aren’t even video game stats. You can’t set the quarters long enough to have that many plays. It would be impressive against an FCS team. This was against the No. 7 team in the country.
But when you dig through the rubble of what was once Michigan State following Ohio State’s 56-7 annihilation, something far more important stands out.
We already knew Ohio State had an offense that can score at will. No further illumination would come out of facing the nation’s literal worst pass defense.
But Michigan State does have a pretty good offense. So good that running back Kenneth Walker III came into the game as the top candidate for this year’s Heisman Trophy. The thought was maybe the Spartans could score enough to hang around with the Buckeyes or even pull off an improbable win.
Nope. Not even close.
And for Ohio State, that’s the most important development with regards to its championship aspirations — both Big Ten and CFP. The Buckeyes aren’t just a team that can end any given drive in the end zone. Now they’re actually capable of preventing opponents from doing the same.
Statistically speaking, Ohio State had already shown this to be true after struggling in the first 10 quarters of the season. No running back has exceeded 100 yards against the Buckeyes since Oregon’s CJ Verdell in Week 2.
But it was hard to know how real that improvement was. From Akron to Purdue, Ohio State faced 8 straight teams that have little-to-no running capability. Walker and the Spartans were made of sterner stuff.
Walker’s final line: 6 carries, 25 yards, Heisman hopes in total disarray.
With Michigan and its 225 rushing yards per game looming next week, that shut-down ability is an important revelation.
And it might not be as impressive as what the Buckeyes did to Michigan State’s passing game.
Michigan State is easily the worst pass defense in the Big Ten in terms of yards allowed, but Ohio State came into the game ranked 13th. By touchdowns allowed, the Buckeyes were tied for 11th with 17.
They made MSU quarterback Payton Thorne look hapless.
Thorne finished 14-of-36 (39%) for 158 yards. It’s the only time he’s completed less than 50% of his passes this season.
If this is Ohio State’s true identity — a complete football team — the Buckeyes can beat Michigan. They can beat whoever wins the Big Ten West. And yes, they can beat a Georgia team that has thus far appeared invincible.