Dienhart: Buckeyes still have plenty to play for

Dienhart: Buckeyes still have plenty to play for

Ohio State needed a dominating win vs. a good opponent badly. And, it got it.

Just when you thought the Buckeyes were veering off a championship trek a week after getting pantsed at Iowa, Ohio State showed it’s still … well … Ohio State.

The final: Buckeyes 48, poor, poor Michigan State 3. Honestly, it probably wouldn’t have really mattered who was lining up across from Ohio State on this day. The Buckeyes weren’t going to get beat. They were out for blood. And they got plenty of it.

No. 13 Ohio State (8-2 overall; 6-1 Big Ten) more than passed the eyeball test, scoring on five of its first six possessions and leading 35-3 at the half. It looked like a playoff team. Alas, those dreams may be over, left in a 55-24 heap last week at Iowa. That was defeat No. 2 on the year for the Buckeyes. And, as we know, there has never been a squad with two losses to make the College Football Playoff.

Was this a case of too little too late for the Buckeyes? Not as far as winning the Big Ten title is concerned. And that still means something for this prideful program.

***

This win means Urban Meyer’s squad controls its own destiny in the wild and wacky Big Ten East. Next up is a visit from Illinois before the regular-season ends with a trip to Michigan. And, we all know how that series has gone of late.

In case you didn’t know, Wolverine boss Jim Harbaugh is 0-2 vs. the Buckeyes. Last year’s 30-27 double OT win by OSU in Columbus was epic. But Michigan has lost five in a row to Ohio State and 12 of 13. The last Wolverine triumph? In 2011 in Ann Arbor.

So, win-out, then claim the Big Ten title game, and Ohio State will win the Big Ten and go to a nice bowl. And that’s noteworthy, as the Buckeyes haven’t won the conference title since 2014. Heck, the Buckeyes haven’t even won the East in either of the last two years, as Michigan State and Penn State have taken the banner the last two seasons respectively. So, taking the division banner and winning the Big Ten crown would be a nice feat for Ohio State.

A big key to success on this day was the Buckeye ground game. Specifically: Getting the running backs involved. Too often, the Ohio State backs haven’t been involved enough—especially in losses to Oklahoma and Iowa.

Last week at Iowa, J.K. Dobbins ran six times for 51 yards and Mike Weber ran five for 27. In a 31-16 loss to Oklahoma in September, Dobbins carried 13 times for 72 yards and Weber had three totes for 29.

On this day, the Buckeyes rode Dobbins and Weber, and the Ohio State attack thrived vs. a No. 12 Michigan State (7-3 overall, 5-2 Big Ten) squad that had won five of its last six entering today and was coming off a 27-24 win vs. No. 7 Penn State. The only defeat in that span was a triple-OT loss at Northwestern.

“I thought the running backs ran really, really hard,” Urban Meyer said. “Even when they got hit, it was plus-2 (yards).”

Dobbins finished with 124 yards on the ground, while Weber had 162. Ohio State finished with 335 rushing yards vs. the Big Ten’s No. 1 rush defense (87.0 ypg), as Barrett added 55 yards rushing in a nice rebound effort following last week’s four-interception nightmare in the house of horrors that is Kinnick Stadium for highly ranked teams. Barrett hit 14-of-21 passes for 183 yards with two TDs and two picks, as OSU outgained MSU, 524-195.

“I wouldn’t have thought this was going to happen,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.

But, it did.

Ohio State looked very impressive—like a playoff team.

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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