Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball 273 times last season in 15 games, an average of 18.2 rushes per game. He has 220 carries this season in 10 games, putting him on pace for 330 carries if the Buckeyes play another 15-game season.
Elliott ran the ball 26 times against Minnesota two games ago and matched his season high with 27 rushes at Illinois last Saturday. The stats show the No. 3 Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0) are not preserving his strength for the stretch run, which includes a 3:30 p.m. game Saturday against No. 9 Michigan State (9-1, 5-1) and a noon game Nov. 28 against No. 12 Michigan (8-2, 5-1).
“We’ve never even thought that way,” coach Urban Meyer said. “We have to win each game we play, and it hasn’t been easy. We’ve rode Zeke pretty hard. Twenty to 25 carries, I can’t imagine much more than that per game.”
Underdog Spartans: Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook says he’s shoulder is good. He insists he’ll be ready to go against Ohio State. The Buckeyes believe him. They’re preparing as if Cook, who missed the second half of a 24-7 victory over Maryland on Saturday with a shoulder injury, will start.
Cook wants to play because he and the Spartans feel no one is giving them a chance. Michigan State is a 13-point underdog.
“Same story, different week,” Cook said. “No one really gives us the kind of respect that we deserve that we think we need. It’s just another reason why we’ve said it thousands and thousands of times, it seems like, the chip on your shoulder provides more motivation to us. We like being the underdog, because the majority of time we come out on top. So we’re going to embrace it, and we will be ready to go, that’s for sure.”
Award news: Joey Bosa is one of four finalists for the Lombardi Award. The award honors college football’s best lineman or linebacker.
Bosa was also a finalist last year. The award will be presented Dec. 9 in Houston, Texas. Clemson’s Shaq Washington, Penn State’s Carl Nassib and Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett are also finalists.
Kicker update: Meyer will stick with placekicker Sean Nuernberger as the start, he said Tuesday in the Big Ten coaches teleconference. Nuernberger returned to the starting role in the Illinois game and missed a 24-yard field goal.