Ohio State put together the first half that fans have been waiting for all season long and didn’t let a wounded enemy build any hope as the Buckeyes dismantled Michigan State under the lights in Ohio Stadium
Let’s get to the observations!
1. How about that for a fast start? The Buckeyes scored early and often in the first half. The run game was working and Kyle McCord played his best two quarters of the season in building an early insurmountable lead. Yes, the competition has to be considered here, but this isn’t the first bad team Ohio State has played this year and we haven’t seen them dominate a first half like that.
2. With that fast start came a rise in Marvin Harrison’s Heisman odds. Another dominant effort from Marv continues to turn this Heisman campaign from a long shot to a reasonable shot. Still think he needs a big game in a win over Michigan, but if that happens, he could emerge as the favorite as players like Bo Nix, Michael Penix, Jordan Travis, and maybe even Jayden Daniels, split the QB vote.
3. Speaking of Marv, I consider myself pretty well versed in Ohio State trivia but I was floored that he became the first Ohio State wide receiver to record back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons. I was sure that was wrong when it was announced. Certainly David Boston did it. Certainly one of Garrett Wilson or Chris Olave did it. Nope. Crazy stat from a program that has produced more top end wide receivers over the past 30-40 years than any other program in college football.
4. Kudos to offensive line coach Justin Frye, and the offensive staff in general, for making some major tweaks to the run game that have paid a lot of dividends recently. I wanted stretch to be loaded into a cannon and fired to the moon, and it hasn’t quite been that, but we’re seeing much less of it and a lot of gap scheme running allowing backs to just hit the hole and go. Less thinking, fewer decisions, just get north and south.
5. I continue to be impressed with the competitive depth being built in the secondary. Even going back to the last time the Ohio State defense had a really good secondary in 2019, I’m not sure they could have overcome the injuries or trusted the young guys like they do this year. Jermaine Mathews is a budding star, Malik Hartford is too and was constantly in the right position tonight. Then Calvin Simpson-Hunt has to come in for some of his first action, MSU smartly throws a screen right at him, and he sticks his nose in there and makes a play.
6. Welcome back Cade Stover. An tremendous first half from McCord’s security blanket. As we dissect the Ohio State offense and wonder why fast starts have been few and far between, it may be worth considering that the percentage of minutes with the quarterback and skill guys at full health and playing all together is incredibly low. Guys aren’t all 100% right now but that was the closest to being at full strength as this offense has been since the Notre Dame kicked off.
7. Huge momentum win for the team. “But it’s just Michigan State”, I can already hear it. Yes, it was just Michigan State, but that was a complete performance. Pretty much every position group on the team should feel good about itself coming out of this one for one of the first times all year. You want to be playing your best and at your most confident in November. This is a something, even if Sparty isn’t very good.
8. It’s admirable what Emeka Egbuka is doing right now. He has worked incredibly hard to get back onto the field. But the staff needs to take his helmet and hide it until Tuesday of Michigan week. Having a legit No. 2 option is going to be huge in that game. Get him as healthy as you can over the next 10 days.
9. To the above point, we saw a philosophical change from Ryan Day tonight and it was very well-timed. Day has famously left his starters in late into games that were already in hand but, boy, did he ever have a quick hook tonight. With some guys battling injuries, and others too important to suffer one down the stretch, Day emptied the bench early in the second half and was able to get some valuable reps for several promising freshmen. This was a great move.
10. It’s almost eerie how similar some of the common opponent games have been playing out recently for Ohio State and Michigan. Both played similar games against Penn State, Michigan State, and Rutgers. I think we’re in for an absolute slug fest on November 25th where the first team to 20 wins.