How did the Buckeyes grade out vs. Michigan State? Did anyone get failing grades?
This was a bad on-paper matchup that Vegas oddsmakers felt would go sideways, and their 20-point spread on the game got some curious looks. Many thought Michigan State was again being overlooked and that soon-to-be-filthy-rich coach Mel Tucker would have his players ready for what he called a "street fight."
The Spartans' pass defense couldn't be that bad, right?
Well, a blowout of epic proportions happened, Vegas was right and Ohio State won 56-7 in a game that somehow wasn't as close as the score indicated.
The Buckeyes were unstoppable on offense, and a surging defense ended Kenneth Walker III's Heisman campaign, looking nothing like the unit witnessed by Oregon, Tulsa and others.
How did the Buckeyes grade on Saturday? Leaves are awarded on a zero-to-five basis.
Ohio State offense (5 leaves)
Leaf limit here is five, but this could have been 10. They could have scored 100 points. That's how spectacular the Buckeyes' first-team offense was against a really bad pass defense. C.J. Stroud completed 20 of his first 21 passes, and the one that hit the ground was an uncharacteristic drop of an easy throw to Garrett Wilson on the sideline.
At halftime, after which Ohio State basically stopped trying, Stroud was 29-for-31 for 393 yards and six touchdowns as the Buckeyes somehow landed on an even 500 yards of offense. Three receivers topped 100 yards for the game as Ohio State outgained the Spartans 655-244.
Stroud's pass protection was fantastic, and the gigantic linemen seemed energized by how they were sprinting out to the flats to block for screens.
Ohio State defense (5 leaves)
The Ohio State defense picked a good time to play its best game. All of the Heisman hype for Kenneth Walker III must have been playing on repeat at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center this week. Walker finished with 25 yards and never got a chance to get in a groove because of the Buckeyes' early large lead.
The Ohio State defensive line was active and strong, and the linebackers filled run lanes better than they have all year. Freshman Denzel Burke proved again to be a feisty cover corner who fights for the ball until the whistle blows.
Michigan State's lone score came in garbage time, which started a few minutes into the third quarter.
Ohio State special teams (3 leaves)
For Ohio State, the worst news to come out of the day was that kicker Noah Ruggles is no longer perfect. After going 16-for-16 to start this season, the North Carolina transfer missed a 38-yard field goal try in the third quarter. Buckeyes fans can only hope that doubt will not creep into Ruggles' brain for the first time this year.
Kick returner Emeka Egbuka was out for an undisclosed reason, so Julian Fleming filled in and scared everybody in scarlet and/or gray when he lost the opening kickoff in the sun and let it bounce a few times before gathering it in.
Punter Jesse Mirco got his usual one time on the field, booting the ball once for 50 yards for no return.
Coaching (5 leaves)
What's to criticize about a team that appears to peaking at the right time? The Buckeyes were ready and the game plans on both sides of the ball were sound and executed well. And, as coaches do, Ryan Day said he started thinking about Michigan before he even left the Ohio Stadium turf on Saturday. But as coaches don't usually do, afterward he admitted that, yes, he has watched Michigan play this year.
Fun quotient (4 leaves)
Five leaves require drama and intrigue. This was fun because of the high level at which the Buckeyes executed. As this one got away from the Spartans early, one could only wonder whether this offense can succeed against Georgia's all-world defense. But first, Michigan.
Michigan State Spartans (1 leaf)
Michigan State talked a lot about being disrespected at the same time reports came out that their coach was going to be respected to the tune of $95 million if he stays in East Lansing. The Spartans were flat and had no clue as to how to stop the Ohio State offense or how to rip through a defense that so many others have.
The only reason a leaf landed on their green helmets here was the effort they put forth in the second half. Not quitting is important to Tucker.
Officiating (3 leaves)
Nothing controversial or wayward in a game-affecting way. But there was one odd moment when officials ruled that Michigan State receiver Jayden Reed completed a catch while being blanketed by cornerback Denzel Burke when replays showed Reed actually fumbled the ball before hitting the ground. Replay officials stepped in and ruled that neither was the case. Instead, they called the play an incompletion.
The College Football Playoff schedule
- Here are the dates to know for the College Football Playoff:
- Selection show: Noon Dec. 5 on ESPN
- Cotton Bowl: 3:30 or 7:30 p.m., Dec. 31 on ESPN
- Orange Bowl: 3:30 or 7:30 p.m., Dec. 31 on ESPN
- College Football Playoff national championship game: 8 p.m., Monday, Jan. 10, 2022 on ESPN
The College Football Playoff rankings
- Georgia 10-0
- Alabama 9-1
- Oregon 9-1
- Ohio State 9-1
- Cincinnati 10-0
- Michigan 9-1
- Michigan State 9-1
- Notre Dame 9-1
- Oklahoma State 9-1
- Wake Forest 9-1
- Baylor 8-2
- Ole Miss 8-2
- Oklahoma 9-1
- BYU 8-2
- Wisconsin 7-3
- Texas A&M 7-3
- Iowa 8-2
- Pittsburgh 8-2
- San Diego State 9-1
- NC State 7-3
- Arkansas 7-3
- UTSA 10-0
- Utah 7-3
- Houston 9-1
- Mississippi State