Ohio State played host to Michigan State on Saturday night. They invited the Spartans over for a nice night of football, but what transpired was a blood-letting lesson in the way of the world.
The Buckeyes bullied Michigan State. They didn’t do it all four quarters because that would have just been cruel. They only did it as much as they needed in order to secure a 34-10 win, but make no mistake, the Spartans had enough.
Ohio State ran for over 300 yards and held MSU under 70. They had custody of both sides of the line of scrimmage and wouldn’t even give Michigan State visitation rights.
It all sounds like the same old-same old for the Buckeyes, which makes you wonder what we could possibly learn from this game. But this wasn’t the same old-same old. This was a new statement from the 6-0 Buckeyes and people better take it seriously.
1. Zach Harrison looks like a starter.
For me, this was Zach Harrison’s finest hour. He was no longer the freshman defensive end who was getting spot duty in order to build his confidence. He was in the rotation from the first quarter and never once looked out of place. In fact, he looked like much more than that. He was credited with two tackles and a half a sack, but he pressured Brian Lewerke throughout. He wasn’t just a pass rusher either as he continues to improve his overall game. Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper may be the starters, but Harrison belongs and will continue to contribute this season.
2. Shaun Wade is defending screens like the greats.
There were two screens outside that Shaun Wade stopped before they had a chance to go anywhere. The first one saw him escape the block of an offensive lineman who was split out wide. Wade engaged with him, but was still able to free himself and bring the ball down for a gain of maybe one. He stopped another screen pass with a similar gain as well. Both plays were primed to hit big. He looked like some of the best screenbusters OSU is ever had. Up there with Donte Whitner, Antoine Winfield, and Jermale Hines. Wade is an overall great player, but he made some very impressive stops that shouldn’t go unrecognized.
3. JK Dobbins is no longer a mystery.
It’s one thing to rush for 193 yards on Indiana or 177 yards at Nebraska this year, but what JK Dobbins did last night by rushing for 172 yards on 24 carries against Michigan State is another thing entirely. Ryan Day and Tony Alford asked him to run tougher and they did it with games like this in mind. Dobbins was stifled early, managing just 14 yards on his first six carries. With his next 18 carries spanning basically the second and third quarters, Dobbins managed 158 yards rushing. He carried this offense through football hell and back. This is who he is now. The 2018 version of Dobbins no longer applies.
4. The defense isn’t quite there yet.
It really seems silly to criticize this Ohio State defense after allowing 283 yards of total offense, but there were more plays out there to be made than normal. That’s not a huge surprise as they were facing their best offensive line and best quarterback of the season. MSU quarterback Brian Lewerke missed an easy touchdown on an overthrow which featured busted coverage by the Buckeyes. Spartan receiver Darrell Stewart dropped three or four passes, which would have helped as well. Still, even if they hit all of those plays, this offense maxes out at maybe 20 points. Even when this defense gives up a hit, it rarely bruises.
5. Binjimen Victor is turning into a No. 1 receiver.
Binjimen Victor leads Ohio State with 348 yards receiving, even though he is only averaging three catches per game. The Buckeye offense doesn’t necessarily have a go-to receiver or a “Number 1” receiver, but Victor is looking the part if there was ever need for one. Yeah, the drop was bad, but I was impressed with Victor’s speed on his 60-yard touchdown, and twice he put a foot in the ground and left a defender behind, once with a subtle juke and once with a dynamic one. His 79 yards receiving against Michigan State was a career high, but it was his fourth game this season with at least 65 yards receiving. He is one of the best receivers in the Big Ten and may be the best by January.
6. This game will help down the road.
Ryan Day wanted his team to experience adversity and that happened in this game. While the Buckeyes never trailed, they did experience a much more difficult opponent. The adversity came on every play, just trying to get first downs. No, they didn’t need all four quarters to get the win, but I’m not going to fault them for a 296-yard response in the second quarter. This game will help them this season. They fought like hell for first downs and they saw the results. They may not be tested like that again, but if they are, they should be able to draw back on this experience.
7. The off week comes at a perfect time.
Saturday’s night’s game was a battle that left few Buckeyes bruise-free. Chase Young, Damon Arnette, Thayer Munford, Branden Bowen, JK Dobbins, Justin Fields, and more were all the worse for wear. And now they get a week off. No, they won’t necessarily get a week off of practice, but they will be given whatever time they need to recuperate. There is no 100% at this point in the season, but everyone is going to have an opportunity to get as close to that number as their bodies will allow. And who knows, maybe it will also allow Tyler Friday to get back as well and get this Ohio State defensive line as close to full strength as it has been all season long. Ryan Day viewed this season in different parts. The first part is now over and went just as he wanted it. Now comes act II. Brace yourself.
8. Master Teague could start at 12 different B1G schools right now.
Next year, this will read “Master Teague could start at 14 different B1G schools right now” and be 100% true. Jonathon Taylor and JK Dobbins will be in the NFL next year and nobody in the Big Ten will have a better starting running back than Master Teague. I don’t get to watch Teague as much as I’d like because I’m running down to the field when he’s running out the clock. He is just a patient brute. He slowly steps on your throat and then somehow runs a 4.3 on it.
9. Justin Fields has become a leader.
Justin Fields proved on Saturday how tough he was. Not that his teammates didn’t already know it, but for everyone else, they got to see as well. He took hits, he gained yards, he stood in the pocket when needed, and lowered his shoulder when necessary. He led the Ohio State offense and you saw his teammates respond to him. In the locker room after the game, he was right next to Ryan Day with a handful of other captains. Fields continues to progress as a quarterback, but he has already emerged as a leader of this team, which is exactly what the Buckeyes needed from him.
10. This is Ryan Day’s program.
Ohio State didn’t truly become Urban Meyer’s program until September 29, 2012 in East Lansing. It took that hard-fought 17-16 win for the Buckeyes to come together as a team and see the possibilities. That group went on to go undefeated despite having no postseason available to them. Seven years later almost to the week, you saw a team that has completely bought into Ryan Day’s Ohio State football program. And now they know what they are capable of.