EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Big Ten was served notice here Saturday night. The rest of college football, too.
Ohio State is coming for your championships.
Better brace yourselves, because the Buckeyes — 49-37 winners over Michigan State — are back. And they’re only going to get more dangerous in the coming couple of seasons.
It’s a long way from the No. 14 ranking to the College Football Playoff. Too long for the Buckeyes (8-1) to get there? Perhaps, but a crazy day in the sport — four top 10 teams were beaten — was a reminder that the paint on the playoff picture won’t dry until after the first Saturday of December.
Meanwhile, everyone can forget about any other team having a shot at the Big Ten title this year.
Defending league champ Michigan State, which came in with the No. 8 ranking, will forever lament the second-quarter holding call on offensive lineman Jack Allen that negated an apparent Jeremy Langford touchdown. Instead of going ahead 28-14, the Spartans soon found themselves in a 21-21 game.
The Buckeyes were just getting warmed up. By the time the scoreboard read 49-31, they’d found the end zone on six consecutive possessions, not counting a lost fumble on a kickoff return.
By land (268 yards rushing) and by air (300 passing), the Buckeyes pummeled one of the most respected defenses in the land. MSU allowed more points than it had in a game since 2008. That includes the 46 Oregon hung on Sparty two months ago in Eugene, something for the playoff selection committee to think about.
But what’s most impressive about Urban Meyer’s third Ohio State team — which, like the first two, hasn’t lost a Big Ten regular-season game — is the sense of a glorious future that surrounds it.
That was a redshirt freshman, J.T. Barrett, throwing for 300 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions, and rushing for 86 yards and two scores. A perfect game for a guy who wasn’t even supposed to start this season? It pretty much was. Injured Braxton Miller can forget about winning his job back in 2015.
And those were sophomores — Ezekiel Elliott, Michael Thomas and Dontre Wilson — scoring four touchdowns between them. Running back Elliott, a 225-pound specimen, blasted his way for 154 bruising yards, making sure the hard-hitting Spartans got the message.
Sorry, MSU, but you’re not the intimidators of the Big Ten anymore.
Meyer’s defense is loaded with Young Bucks who bring championships to mind, too. Sophomore end Joey Bosa, sophomore safety Vonn Bell, freshman linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Darron Lee — these are players who could start, and star, in any program in America.
Ohio State always has the best talent in the Big Ten. The school didn’t need Meyer to make that happen. But it needed him to make the sort of talent he won national titles with at Florida happen, and that’s what we saw here Saturday.
“I think [the playoff committee] now recognizes that we’re able to play football with the best of them,” Barrett said.
Once again, the Big Ten is the Buckeyes’ world. Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin and the rest, they’re all just living in it.