The pendulum in a season of extremes swung in the right direction for the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday.
One week after losing 55-24 at Iowa, a defeat that ranks as the most lopsided of coach Urban Meyer’s career, No. 13 Ohio State beat No. 12 Michigan State 48-3 at Ohio Stadium. It’s the largest margin of victory in the history of a series that began in 1912.
Ohio State’s College Football Playoff hopes may be all but dead, but it’s two victories away from returning to the Big Ten championship game for the first time since 2014. The Buckeyes (8-2, 6-1) sit all alone in first place with a home game against Illinois and a road game at Michigan remaining.
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This victory, much like the six that followed the loss to Oklahoma, only makes the Buckeyes harder to figure out. They have been great or awful with no performances that fall in between.
“We can’t go back in the past, of course,” Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett said. “We try to move on, learn from things, learn from losses. That’s what we did today. We grew from it being able to perform the way we did today.”
Barrett threw two touchdown passes and rushed for two scores. The big offensive stars, though, were the running backs. Mike Weber gained 162 yards on nine carries. J.K. Dobbins rushed 18 times for 124 yards.
Weber and Dobbins combined for 11 carries and 78 yards in the loss at Iowa.
“There was a mandate to make sure those guys touch the ball,” Meyer said.
Weber’s 47-yard touchdown run on Ohio State’s first possession set the tone. His 82-yard run in the second quarter extended Ohio State’s lead to 35-0. This was the best game of Weber’s second season. He rushed for 1,096 yards as a redshirt freshman and has 437 yards this season.
“He’s a much, much better player than he was a year ago,” Meyer said. “He was a good player a year ago and that darn injury — that hamstring was darn near surgical, where that would have been the season — he rehabbed it. A lot of credit to Mike to hang in there and just keep going. The two of them today, you talk about the 1-2 punch, that was outstanding.”
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Michigan State (7-3, 5-2) finds itself in the similar situation to what Ohio State faced last week. The Spartans beat Penn State 27-24 last week and couldn’t build on that momentum. This was the most lopsided defeat of coach Mark Dantonio’s 11 seasons.
“It was a disappointing outcome, obviously,” Dantonio said. “When you look at the football game, the other side of the field got a wave of momentum going and things just didn’t go right. We didn’t separate with our receivers. We didn’t throw the ball accurately. We couldn’t protect the quarterback. We couldn’t run the football.
“Defensively, we didn’t tackle well. We didn’t pressure their quarterback enough and couldn’t stop the run. Consequently, a meltdown happens, and you have to give Ohio State a lot of credit. They came in ready to play, and obviously, we could not match up with them in terms of the momentum of the game.”
Ohio State intercepted Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke twice and recovered a fumble.
“Credit to the leadership and the young guys following our lead,” defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “We had a meeting early in the week talking about the Big Ten standings and what we needed to do from here on out. It was mentioned that if we won this game we would move ahead in the Big Ten East, and that was our focus.”