Look good, feel good, play good. Against the Spartans, the Buckeyes debuted a more traditional yet fresh all-gray look as Ohio State got past Michigan State easily, 38-3. On a Saturday with a number of massive games across the nation, the Buckeyes handled business and moved to 10-0 for the second consecutive year.
It was another dominating performance by the Buckeyes over the Spartans. After that one-point Ohio State victory in 2016, the Buckeyes’ margin of victory over the Spartans in the last six meetings is a whopping 36.3 points. From the onset, this game was out of reach and both teams knew it.
Massive First Half Rockets Ohio State Past Michigan State
Marvelous Marvin Heisman Harrison, Jr.
If there were any doubts about whether or not Marvin Harrison, Jr. deserved at least an invite to the Heisman Trophy ceremony, they were dispelled early. On the day, Harrison hauled in seven passes for 149 yards and a pair of scores. He even added a 19-yard touchdown run off of an end-around on the first drive.
It’s a good thing for Michigan State and an unfortunate thing for Harrison that Ryan Day took his foot off the pedal because the future top-three pick was about to have a Jaxon Smith-Njigba-type of game.
This performance was just another elite showing by Harrison. On the simple end-around touchdown on the game’s opening drive, he did not even need to break a sweat as he glided into the endzone. Then, for some reason, the Spartans thought that they could cover Harrison one-on-one. Naturally, Harrison ate it up and made a pair of easy catches for touchdowns.
With his third score on the day, Harrison had accounted for 91 yards (19 rush, 72 receiving) and three touchdowns in 15:02 of game time. Harrison’s day ended in the third quarter as the Buckeyes began pulling starters but the damage was done.
When it was all said and done, Harrison became the first Buckeye receiver to record multiple 1,000+ yard seasons and tied David Boston for most games with 100+ receiving yards. He’s currently fifth all-time in career receiving yards and is just 281 yards from having the most. When it comes to touchdowns, he’s fourth and six scores away.
A Career Day Under Center
There has been much to do about the play of quarterback Kyle McCord to this point. Some criticisms are warranted, others are just petulant whining because he’s not perfect. Either way, McCord showed up in a massive way against Michigan State, as has become a tradition for Ohio State.
To start the game, Ohio State tried to get the run game going, so not much was asked of McCord. Each of his first three completions was to Cade Stover. However, quite possibly the best throw of his season came on that second drive as he dropped it in the bucket to Harrison right over the shoulder of the corner.
McCord did what he needed to do. Ohio State trusted him enough to manage the game with a loose enough leash to allow him to take a shot or two.
On the day, McCord finished with a career-high 335 yards and three touchdowns off of 24/31 passing. It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s thrown three touchdowns, all this year. Plus, it’s the fourth time he’s thrown for three scores without any interceptions.
Fully-Healthy Weapons Help
Last week, the Buckeyes were without Emeka Egbuka and Stover and their absence was felt. This week, Stover made an impact but Egbuka only recorded one catch for 12 yards before evidently tweaking the ankle injury he’s been battling.
Stover, in the meantime, was a welcome return to the offense. Whether he got the ball as the designed target or the checkdown, the athletic tight end made plays at every junction. He ended up with seven receptions of his own for 79 yards and a late second-quarter touchdown. While tight ends are the topic of conversation, true freshman Jelani Thurman got his first chunk of meaningful playing time in this one and will be a name worth watching in 2024 and beyond.
Another player who has been battling injuries looks like he’s back to form. TreVeyon Henderson had himself another solid game, rushing for 63 yards and a touchdown off of 13 rushing attempts. He’s fully healthy and sure looks like he’s got his swagger back. Over the course of these next two games (at least), they’ll need Henderson to continue getting chunk plays. It’s especially crucial that he make things happen when the offensive line struggles, as they will likely see in a couple of weeks.
Defensive Injuries? No Problem
The main storyline heading into the game was how Josh Proctor, Lathan Ransom, and Tommy Eichenberg were injured and out for the game. However, Cody Simon, Sonny Styles, and Malik Hartford were able to pick up the slack in relief.
Simon ended up leading the team with five tackles and added a pass breakup. On a day when the Buckeyes did not force any turnovers and managed just two sacks, the defense stood as tall as it has all year.
During the live watch, it felt like Michigan State was gashing the defense. In reality, the Ohio State defense stifled anything and everything the Spartans attempted to do. Michigan State managed just 182 total yards of offense and scored its three points off of a short field. As for the Spartans, those 182 yards matched is worst offensive total of the year… in their game with Michigan. Both games were the worst efforts by Michigan State since it managed just 142 against Wisconsin in 2019.
Jim Knowles‘ defense is still playing at a high level and, overall, it is the strength of this team. The matchup in two weeks will be crucial for this defense. Both teams possess elite defenses and similar offenses (in terms of productivity). Hopefully, Ohio State can get at least Eichenberg and Proctor back since the Latham injury looks to be more long-term.
The Best Thing About Being 10-0…
Despite the fact that this Ohio State team is not winning every game by 50+ as expected by fans, this is still an elite team. The offense is truly starting to hit its stride and the defense has been lights out since the first snap in Week 1.
Moving forward, only two guaranteed games remain. Minnesota is not great but the Buckeyes still have to take care of business to make sure that November 25th date in Ann Arbor is for all the marbles. Ohio State has spent each of the last two weeks atop the CFP Committee Rankings. Time will tell if they remain after this week but the goal remains: keep winning.
If Ohio State just wins these next two games and takes home the B1G Title, they need only worry about seeding. There could still be an argument if they go 11-1 with a loss to Michigan but the field looks to be a bit tougher to navigate than it was last year.
Regardless, lean on Harrison and Henderson on offense and keep playing great defense. It’s all in front of Ohio State.