Ohio State Buckeyes make convincing statement in 56-7 rout of Michigan State
Football is not a game that lends itself to perfection.
It is a game of 22 players moving with speed and violence. Chaos and mistakes are inevitable.
"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence," Vince Lombardi once said of his sport.
The 101,858 fans at Ohio Stadium on Saturday for No. 4 Ohio State's 56-7 victory on Senior Day over No. 7 Michigan State might beg to differ.
This was as close to football perfection as anyone would ever hope to witness, at least when the Buckeyes' starters were in the game.
This was an annihilation on the order of Ohio State's 59-0 win over Wisconsin in the 2014 Big Ten championship game that propelled the Buckeyes into the College Football Playoff and eventually the national title.
"I think you can see our capabilities," Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. "When we're playing good football and clean football we have a high ceiling. ... We're still striving for greatness."
The Buckeyes (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) don't need any style points this year, just victories, and this one was over quickly. Ohio State scored touchdowns on its first seven possessions to take a 49-0 halftime lead. The Buckeyes gained 500 yards in the first half, averaging 10.2 yards per snap in the first half.
If quarterback C.J. Stroud wasn't the Heisman Trophy front-runner entering the game, he is now. The redshirt freshman played pitch-and-catch with Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, exploiting a Michigan State pass defense that ranked last in the country.
Stroud was 32-of-35 for 432 yards and six touchdowns, including an OSU-record 17 straight completions.
"The level he's playing at right now is very high," Day said.
Olave made a nifty 23-yard catch between two MSU defenders for a touchdown to start the onslaught. His 43-yard touchdown catch that gave OSU a 21-0 lead was the 35th of his career, breaking David Boston's OSU record. The senior finished with 7 catches for 140 yards.
Wilson, a junior who almost certainly will head to the NFL next year, also caught two touchdown passes, including a 77-yarder, and had 126 receiving yards in seven catches. Neither Wilson nor Olave played in the second half.
Smith-Njigba had 10 catches for 105 yards and one touchdown.
Ohio State didn't run often but did so effectively. TreVeyon Henderson averaged 7 yards in his nine carries, with Miyan Williams and Master Teague III adding support.
"Not everything was perfect," Stroud said. "We did a decent job today, but we're never satisfied."
The Buckeyes' offense has been a juggernaut for most of this season. The big question has been the defense, which was porous against Purdue last week after having made steady progress.
On Saturday, the first-team defense was as dominant as OSU's starters on offense. The Buckeyes effectively ended the Heisman candidacy of Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III. With the Spartans (9-2, 6-2) forced to throw early, Walker was a non-factor. He gained only 25 yards in six carries, with one of them a 15-yarder.
Ohio State's defensive line put consistent pressure on quarterback Payton Thorne, who completed just 14 of 36 passes for 158 yards. Only one of Michigan State's six first-half possessions lasted longer than six plays or gained more than 19 yards. The exception was a 13-play, 55-yard drive on the Spartans' second possession that ended with a missed 46-yard field goal.
Michigan State finally ended OSU's shutout bid with a 12-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Stroud was in for only one possession in the second half. He was sacked to end the drive, and Noah Ruggles missed a 38-yard field goal, his first miss of the year after 16 successful kicks.
Kyle McCord then took over for Stroud as the rest of the second half became a formality. Teague had the only Buckeyes score on a 1-yard run with 3:30 left to cap a 75-yard drive, pleasing fans who had chanted the senior's name when the Buckeyes got into scoring range.
Up next: No. 6 Michigan in Ann Arbor.
"We have a huge game coming up," Day said. "I think before the end of this game I was already thinking about it. ... I've watched them a little bit this year. They're a very, very good team."
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