In the best game the Big Ten conference can produce, Ohio State came away with a knockout win over Michigan State to reclaim the title of ‘best team in the conference’ following a dominating 49-37 road win against the Spartans, led by the combination of J.T. Barrett and Devin Smith in the air, helped out by what might be the best running game in the nation, spearheaded by Ezekiel Elliott.
It’s been almost a year of waiting for the Buckeyes since losing to Michigan State in the conference championship game to reclaim their unofficial title. On the way, they lost to Virginia Tech which seemed to almost end their hopes of making the playoff. However, College Football seasons tend to be long and bumpy rides with plenty of things changing along the way. Ohio State haven’t lost since, and are now the only one-loss team in the Big Ten, a conference that doesn’t seem to offer serious rivals on their way to win the division and play for the conference title which they hope that with one loss puts them in the playoff.
Michigan State are known for their defense but in their two losses this season that unit couldn’t hold up against Oregon in Eugene and at home against a Buckeyes team they dominated last year yet have traditionally failed to win against, especially at home, for more than a decade. Just like in the Oregon game, Michigan State actually dominated for about a half, but once the Buckeyes took a 28-21 lead late in the second quarter, they were off to the races while Michigan State simply couldn’t keep up.
J.T. Barrett completed 16-of-26 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns passes. He throws better than the missing Braxton Miller and can run not too bad as well, going for 86 yards and scoring a couple of touchdowns. Despite turning the ball over twice, Ohio State managed to keep it even in the time of possession department, and outgain the Spartans who kept throwing late in the game to try and compensate.
Devin Smith was untouchable with 6 receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown, the one with 56 seconds to go in the half that put the Buckeyes in the lead. Two and a half minutes earlier it was a 79-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas that tied the game. Michigan State gave up too many big plays and despite the improvement we’ve seen in Connor Cook, throwing for 358 yards and a couple of touchdown passes, they usually don’t have (or need) that big play capability on every possession.
A quarterback that threw for 300 yards, a receiver with over 100 yards and a running back with over 100 yards (Elliott, 154 yards and two touchdowns), the Buckeyes finished with one of each in the same game for the first time since 2006, when they had that #1 vs #2 game against Michigan. They gained 284 yards on designed runs, more than anyone has been able to do against Michigan State over the last two seasons, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Michigan State haven’t allowed four rushing touchdowns in one game since a 2011 bowl game against Alabama.
The Spartans need a miracle because they’re now waiting for Ohio State to lose against either Minnesota, Indiana or Michigan. The Spartans will take a tumble from number eight in the nation and have a soft finish themselves: Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State. Even if they win out and move up the committee like-meter in the final three weeks, they still need Ohio State to lose at least one game in order to creep back up into pole position.