Ohio State has taken its play to another level.
The fourth-ranked Buckeyes hosted No. 7 Michigan State on Saturday in one of the biggest games of the season. To call the outcome lopsided would be putting it lightly.
Ohio State absolutely demolished the Spartans, 56-7, to put itself another step closer to a Big Ten East title and a College Football Playoff berth.
In the win, the Buckeyes jumped out to a 49-0 halftime lead behind a red-hot performance from quarterback C.J. Stroud. In the first half alone, Stroud completed 29-of-31 passes for 393 yards and six touchdowns as MSU’s pass defense — which allows more passing yards per game than any other team in the country — lived up to its reputation.
The Buckeyes scored on all seven of their first-half possessions as Stroud routinely found receivers streaking behind the Michigan State secondary. In the first quarter, Stroud had touchdown passes of 23, 77 and 43 yards. MSU looked completely shell-shocked and never even flirted with the idea of a comeback.
Along the way, Stroud spread the ball around to the stellar receiver trio of Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, all three of which passed the 100-yard mark and reached the end zone. Olave and Wilson reached the end zone twice. In all, those three combined for 24 receptions, 371 yards and five touchdowns.
Just as impressive, the Buckeyes’ much-maligned defense completely held Michigan State in check. The Spartans entered the game averaging 448.9 yards and 34.6 points per game. In this one, MSU mustered only 224 yards of offense with Kenneth Walker III, the nation’s leader in rushing yards per game, was limited to just 25 yards on six carries.
What does this mean for Ohio State?
With the win, Ohio State improved to 10-1 on the year with a perfect 8-0 mark in Big Ten play.
The Buckeyes lost in Week 2 to Oregon but have since rattled off nine consecutive victories. The Buckeyes are peaking at the right time, and just one more game remains on the schedule — a trip to Ann Arbor to face No. 6 Michigan.
Michigan took care of business Saturday on the road against Maryland which means the Ohio State-Michigan matchup will have the Big Ten East crown on the line. On top of that, the winner of that game will have an inside track to a College Football Playoff berth.
The winner will head to the Big Ten title game, where a CFP berth will almost certainly be sealed with a Big Ten championship.
With Saturday’s win, it’s possible Ohio State could move up a spot in the CFP rankings. Oregon is ranked No. 3, but OSU’s commanding victory over a top-10 team in Michigan State could do enough to move the Buckeyes ahead of the Ducks.
Oregon’s performance Saturday night against No. 23 Utah will obviously play a part in that.
What's next for Michigan State?
Losing by such a significant margin is an extremely disappointing turn of events for Michigan State. Still, MSU has had a tremendous season in Year 2 of the Mel Tucker era.
Not much was expected from the Spartans entering the season, but they can still get into a New Year’s Six bowl if they win at home against Penn State next week. That win would give MSU a 10-2 record for the season.
The loser of the Michigan-Ohio State game will likely drop to the Rose Bowl, but Michigan State could still slot into the Fiesta Bowl depending on its place in the final College Football Playoff rankings.
Another factor to keep an eye on for Michigan State is Tucker’s name popping up in coaching vacancies speculation, including LSU. That chatter will continue until Tucker agrees to the massive contract extension that MSU has reportedly offered him.