1. OSU needs a miracle
The College Football Playoff committee might be capable of a surprise. It’s possible Michigan State’s 55-16 blowout of Penn State helped OSU’s cause. The Buckeyes’ 17-14 stumble against the Spartans in the wind and rain at Ohio Stadium on Nov. 21 kept them from playing in next weekend’s Big Ten Championship Game against undefeated Iowa and almost surely ended their hopes of repeating as national champions. If Iowa beats Michigan State, some analysts might believe the Buckeyes are better than the Hawkeyes. But will the CFP committee? I could see them fearing that an OSU-USC Rose Bowl would steal the playoff’s thunder. But where OSU rates with Iowa and MSU will probably serve only as good fodder for postseason arguments.
2. How high will Ezekiel Elliott be drafted?
The running back position has been devalued in the NFL, but the junior who passed Eddie George Saturday and moved into second place on OSU’s all-time rushing list deserves consideration as a top 10 pick in the 2016 draft. With 214 yards on 30 carries and two touchdowns against Michigan, Elliott again played his best in a big game. His 698 yards to close out the 2014 national title run against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon should be enough evidence of that. He’s an all-around back who can block and catch, meaning he would never have to come off the field. And he’s a team player, genuine in his apology for criticizing the OSU play-calling last week. Five years ago, those would be credentials for a top five pick.
3. What took so long?
After totaling just 132 yards against the Spartans, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer moved offensive coordinator Ed Warinner to the press box to call the plays. Warinner’s graduate assistant, Jim Cordle, a former OSU lineman, handled the sideline coaching along with tight ends coach Tim Hinton, who moved downstairs. Facing the second-best defense in the nation, the Buckeyes rushed for a season-high 369 yards and five touchdowns. Quarterback J.T. Barrett contributed 139 yards and three touchdowns. OSU’s 482 total yards were 219 yards more than Michigan came in allowing per game. The Buckeyes’ offense has been out of sync and had play-calling issues all season, with co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tim Beck joining the collaboration with Warinner and Meyer. Saturday’s plan should have been considered weeks ago.
4. The rivalry debut of Jim Harbaugh was a dud
So much for the suggestion of another “Ten Year War” between Harbaugh and Meyer, just like Michigan’s Bo Schembechler and Ohio State’s Woody Hayes. This marked Ohio State’s fourth consecutive victory over Michigan and 13th in the last 15 games.
5. Give Luke Fickell credit for halftime adjustments
At intermission, the Wolverines had converted 8-of-11 on third down and trailed just 14-10. They finished 9-of-18. The Buckeyes also cut down on missed tackles after the break, so defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Fickell’s message must have gotten through. “We had to buckle down and (improve the) poor tackling,” OSU linebacker Darron Lee said. “We were never worried or concerned. We came in at halftime and made a couple adjustments on what they were doing. Just preparation. We were prepared and we wanted this one. Defensively we really did.” Browns fans might long for such dramatic changes after the half.
— Marla Ridenour