25 words or fewer: And now for the main event! The B1G East was always going to turn on the result of Ohio State at Michigan State.
25 words or fewer
And now for the main event! The B1G East was always going to turn on the result of Ohio State at Michigan State.
In the polls
The Buckeyes moved up two spots to No. 11 in the coaches' poll, and idle Michigan State dropped a spot to No. 6. In the Associated Press media poll, OSU stayed No. 13, with the voters slotting Ole Miss, which has lost two straight, in 12th.
Outside linebacker Darron Lee and defensive end Joey Bosa, and their knack for making game-changing plays. It was Lee's pluck of an Illinois receiver's bobble on the first possession of the game that shoved Saturday night's blowout into gear. The Buckeyes are 12th nationally in turnovers gained (20), trailing only No.8 Michigan State (22) in the Big Ten. Bosa had two sacks, upping his season total to a league-leading 10 while sitting fifth nationally with an average of 1.25 per game.
What's not hot?
J.T. Barrett admitted his passing wasn't hot at the start. He badly missed on a few throws that would have jacked his stats immediately. Playing despite a left knee sprain, Barrett settled down and tossed both of his touchdown passes to Devin Smith before sitting down at halftime. He slipped one spot to No. 4 nationally in passing efficiency, but he still leads the Big Ten, ahead of No. 2 Connor Cook of Michigan State, who is No. 7 nationally.
What went right?
Freshman Curtis Samuel got his first collegiate start, and a 23-yard sprint around right end for the first of his two TDs set the OSU running game in motion. It wound up with six players carrying at least five times and combining for 296 yards and three TDs. OSU has rushed for at least 200 yards in six straight games.
Back to the drawing board
The OSU coaches know Mark Dantonio and his staff likely spent time adding wrinkles to Michigan State's schemes during the bye week. And if Ohio State has been hiding some things on the backside of the drawing board, this will be the week to flip it over. For example, remember that fourth-and-2 try that failed against the Spartans in the Big Ten title-game loss last year? The OSU offense generated seven TDs on Saturday, but it was stymied twice on fourth down in the red zone.
Barrett had to play only half the game, and he reported no ill effects to his braced knee. He even ran seven times for 38 yards.
For those complaining that the "wildcat" is too predictable, Jalin Marshall introduced the "winged wildcat." The redshirt freshman hybrid back and former high-school quarterback scored on a 30-yard run and threw a pass after taking a direct snap late in the third quarter. It was incomplete, but showing that a pass was possible is what mattered most.
Michigan State, sitting in the same position it was this time a year ago. The Spartans lost early in 2013 to Notre Dame, then went on an undefeated run that included the win over OSU in the Big Ten championship game and a victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Cook is statistically better than he was a year ago and the Spartans - known previously for shut-down defense - are ninth nationally in total offense (515.3-yard average) and fifth in scoring (45.5). OSU ranks 14th (505.1) and fourth (45.6), respectively.
This week's challenge
It's tough to get a gauge. OSU and Michigan State are both in the East Division, but eight games into the season they've yet to play a common opponent. And don't judge based on last year's league title game. The Spartans' offense is more explosive; the Buckeyes' more diverse. Michigan State's defense is not quite as formidable; OSU's is much improved against the pass. What haven't changed are the spoils that likely will belong to the victor. But keep in mind that the regular season is not yet complete.