Buckeye Breakdown: Revenge Gained

No. 14 Ohio State announced its return to the national stage Saturday night, right? Find out inside as the BuckeyeSports.com puts together its Buckeye Breakdown on what we learned and how OSU fared in East Lansing in the win vs. No. 8 Michigan State

Ohio State run offense: Ohio State has been the only team able to run on Michigan State in recent years, and the Buckeyes were ruthlessly efficient in the slicing through the Spartans to the tune of 268 net yards, four touchdowns, two runs of more than 45 yards and 6.5 yards per carry. Good night, game over, drive home safely. In the second half, Ohio State went through Michigan State on the ground like a knife through butter, scoring touchdowns on six consecutive drives before Cameron Johnston's punt with 30 seconds to play. Much of that damage was done on the ground, including Barrett's clinching 55-yard scamper that pushed aside MSU's last gasp, and the Spartans couldn't stop the Buckeyes' rushing game when it needed to when OSU got the ball back with 5:20 to play. -- Jeff Svoboda

Ohio State pass offense: After duds in its two biggest games of the season against Virginia Tech and Illinois, the pass offense answered its critics against the Spartans. J.T. Barrett put up 300 yards on 16-of-26 passing with three touchdowns while Devin Smith and Michael Thomas both had big days. The offensive line was a little shaky early, but Tom Herman called plays to roll the pocket and get the ball out of Barrett’s hands quickly that allowed them to get in a grove. They carried that over into more aggressive play calling as Barrett was able to hit Smith on a bomb that was thrown to the only spot his receiver could catch it. That was indicative of Barrett’s night as he shook off the inaccuracies he showed against Illinois and was on point all night. Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi called him “a heck of a quarterback,” and I would have to agree. -- Blake Williams

Ohio State run defense: There’s no sugarcoating it: Michigan State exposed Ohio State’s run defense. The 178 yards rushing for the Spartans are the most for an Ohio State opponent since Navy’s 370 in the opener and 44 more than they ran for last season in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Spartans ran the ball in a number of ways, but often there was nothing fancy about it: The familiar old “power” play that was a favorite of MSU co-offensive coordinator Jim Bollman when he was working at Ohio State. The Buckeyes did get a couple of key stops on the ground, though, including a fourth-down tackle for loss by Eli Apple on Nick Hill on the final play of the third quarter. -- Marcus Hartman

Ohio State pass defense: Generally speaking, the Ohio State pass defense did the job it needed to do in order for the Buckeyes to walk out of East Lansing with a win. There was a hiccup early – Gareon Conley got the start in place of Eli Apple and was targeted throughout the first drive, which ended with a touchdown for the hosts. Overall, MSU quarterback Connor Cook didn’t appear to put up numbers that damaged either team’s cause, completing 25 of 45 passes for 358 yards, two touchdowns and no interception. On the other hand ... some of those numbers were thanks to a fourth quarter spent playing against a team with a double-digit lead. In the final 15 minutes, Cook completed 14 of 19 passes for 191 yards, making huge gains in both yardage and accuracy. Overall, this was a game that the secondary needed to have. Apple came in on the second possession and played really well excluding the one time he dropped an interception that he got his hands on. Doran Grant had one of his best games as a Buckeye and held MSU receiver Tony Lippett to five catches for 64 yards. OSU looked much better than the unit that allowed the likes of Jared Abbrederis, Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins rack up hundreds of yards against them.

What We Learned…

Ryan Ginn: I think it’s premature to say the Buckeyes control their own destiny, but winning out would give them a solid, solid case to be included in the College Football Playoff. They finally have a signature win – on the road, no less – and will also have a chance for another decent road win when they travel to Minnesota next week. If a one-loss Nebraska shows up to the Big Ten title game, there’s another shot at a big win. The SEC isn’t getting more than one team in, and the Pac-12 and Big 12 aren’t in the clear when it comes to producing a one-loss champ. OSU has a program and coach that command respect, and they may get it come December.

Marcus Hartman: Ohio State is the best team in the Big Ten. Nebraska, Wisconsin or Minnesota might have something to say about this in a few weeks, but the Buckeyes earned the right to wear the crown for now as they broke the record for most consecutive Big Ten regular season wins. When Barrett is on, there are too many weapons on this team to stop everyone. Michigan State isn’t the same defense it was last year, but the Spartans are still by far the best team Ohio State has faced. The Buckeyes proved they can take a punch — even some self-inflicted ones — and play on, letting their talent show through at the most important moment. Never doubt Urban Meyer as a motivator.

Jeff Svoboda: These Buckeyes are capable of big things. It's too early for a coronation -- there's still four Big Ten wins to go before the really fun stuff can happen -- but Ohio State proved that the young Bucks can play a game as good as anyone when they are at their best. Ohio State clearly had something to prove tonight and overcame some pretty crippling errors early to overwhelm Michigan State. One of my biggest tests for any sports team is how it handles adversity because, simply put, a lot of teams in athletics (especially at the college level) tend to fold when things go wrong. Not these Buckeyes. That's quite a complement to the coaching staff and leadership of the team. Now another test beckons -- how Ohio State handles success. This upcoming trip to Minnesota is no trap game; the Golden Gophers are 7-2 and coming off a thrashing of Iowa.

Blake Williams: The talk of growing up at Penn State was more than just lip service. All we heard after the near-loss against the Nittany Lions was how much that experience helped the young Buckeyes mature. With apologies to Illinois, this was the first time that statement was put to the test. It passed. The Buckeyes made some early mistakes with penalties and turnovers but they weren’t rattled and controlled the game after Dontre Wilson’s fumble led to a Michigan State field goal. Granted, the stadium wasn’t as loud as the one in State College, but the Buckeyes proved their more than ready for the big stage.

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