COLUMBUS — The high standards at Ohio State are nothing new.
But the Buckeyes kept offering more reminders of that even after the kind of win that most programs would celebrate as a major accomplishment.
A ranked opponent came into the Horseshoe and was thoroughly beaten in all three phases. The Buckeyes never trailed to Michigan State, and the outcome was never in doubt in the second half. Ohio State had spent weeks looking for something it could consider a real challenge, and even acing another test it was more interested in looking ahead to the next one than celebrating the victory over Michigan State.
If championship-caliber teams are never satisfied, than Ohio State certainly qualified in that regard after beating the Spartans 34-1o on Saturday night.
“We did face adversity,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “It was not a good quarter of football on offense. And when you’re playing against a team like Michigan State, things like that are going to happen. You have to respond and I thought we did.
“I think the best part about that is we all kind of got off the field feeling like we can’t wait to get to practice and figure out where we can improve.”
The Buckeyes have a little extra time to make any corrections they need to heading into their first off date of the season. And while there may have been a couple flaws in the victory over Michigan State, there certainly aren’t any major flaws with what appears to be one of the most complete teams in the country right now. But for a closer look, Lettermen Row is breaking down What We Learned coming out of the Big Ten win in a blackout at Ohio Stadium.
Off date coming at good time for Buckeyes
A handful of key starters clearly paid a physical price for the win over the Spartans. And while the way those Buckeyes largely battled through pain and discomfort was a reminder of their toughness, a weekend without a game will surely be welcomed by the program — particularly since quarterback Justin Fields and superstar defender Chase Young were among the guys walking gingerly off the field. Left tackle Thayer Munford missed stretches with what appeared to be an ankle injury and cornerback Damon Arnette was held out of the second half for what he called precautionary reasons, while Young and Fields just brushed off their issues as soreness. But for everybody at Ohio State, the upcoming breather was well earned after a six-game stretch to open the season.
Chase Young doesn’t need sacks to wreck opponents
The sack streak officially continued for Young thanks to an assist on an early takedown of Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke, and he just missed on adding a couple more to his impressive total so far this season. But after the game, Young recounted a story of a Spartans tight end who had helped provide extra blocking muscle against him who told him the offensive playbook had effectively been cut in half due to concerns with slowing down the junior pass-rusher. Young didn’t really need the validation that he had played well even without one of his best statistical outings, because the captain is well aware that eating up double and triple teams opens opportunities for other Buckeyes. But it probably didn’t hurt to hear just how much teams fear him right now.
Tight ends ready when needed by Ohio State
The opportunities in the passing game are probably never going to come consistently for the tight ends. But Luke Farrell made it clear that it’s not because the unit can’t be a weapon for the Buckeyes with one of the most eye-opening individual-effort plays of the night against the Spartans. The veteran tight end had just one reception to his credit this season heading into the matchup, and he only added one more to his total in the win. But he certainly made it count on a 21-yard touchdown, with half of that yardage coming after catching the ball around the 10 and then shrugging off tacklers, dragging defenders to the end zone and refusing to be denied his first touchdown of the season. Obviously Farrell has been important throughout the year as a blocker, but he can do more when the chances come his way.
Zach Harrison is way ahead of schedule for Buckeyes
Ohio State has never been opposed to working in true freshmen on the defensive line given all the five-star recruits it has been accumulating for position coach Larry Johnson to unleash. But even for guys like Young or the Bosa brothers, it has seemingly taken a bit more time before their impact was really felt during that first season on campus. That hasn’t exactly been the case with Zach Harrison, and he’s already got 1.5 sacks and 3 tackles for loss in the first six games of his career. Beyond those numbers, though, it’s the situations where Ohio State is using him that proves how much faith it has in him and how quickly he’s progressed into somebody Johnson trusts in critical situations. The Buckeyes are already building another monster up front.
Binjimen Victor can still work open-field magic
The drop was costly and not something Ryan Day will excuse. But if there’s anything a wide receiver can do to make up for putting a potential touchdown on the turf, it’s bouncing back to replace that score — and doing so by straining all the way to the goal line. Victor showed both physical and mental toughness on his 60-yard, catch-and-run score, putting his early mistake behind him and again showing off some elusiveness in the opening field that was reminiscent of his famous play last year at Penn State. For all of his natural gifts, the ability to make guys miss doesn’t seem to come up as often as his size or leaping ability. But Victor certainly has a knack for making defenders look silly.