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PREVIEW: Ohio State vs Indiana

Nov 22, 2014 -- 7:10am

By Bruce Hooley | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

No College Football Playoff contender has a friendlier path to finishing the season without an additional defeat than Ohio State, which will play host to 3-7 Indiana on Saturday, 5-5 Michigan next week and the Big Ten's Western Division winner in the conference championship game.

The Buckeyes don't plan another true road game, since Indianapolis is sure to be overrun with OSU fans two weeks from now.

Ohio State has won 18 in a row against Indiana and has already blasted two teams -- Maryland (52-24) and Rutgers (56-17) - that blasted IU (37-15/45-23). The Hoosiers bring a five-game losing streak into Ohio Stadium for the noon kickoff.

This is where college public relations flaks really earn their money, making IU sound like a competent opponent.

So, take a look at actual statements from Indiana's press release and what lies behind the facts.

Fact: Tevin Coleman is second nationally in rushing yards (1,678), rushing yards per game (167.8), all-purpose yards (1,810), all-purpose yards per game (181.0), yards from scrimmage (1,810) and yards from scrimmage per game (181.0).

What it means: Coleman is outstanding, but it won't matter. He rushed for 307 yards last week at Rutgers and IU lost by more than three touchdowns to a team Ohio State beat by more than five touchdowns.

Fact: The IU defense is tied for 26th in the country in third down conversion defense (35.3 percent).

What it means: Opponents don't often need three downs to keep the sticks moving. IU is next-to-last in the league in scoring defense and 12th among 14 teams in total defense.

Fact: Fifteen Hoosiers hail from the state of Ohio, including Patrick Dougherty (Aurora/Aurora), Nate Hoff (Solon/Solon), David Kaminski (Strongsville/Strongsville), Mark Murphy (Akron/St. Vincent-St. Mary), Devine Redding (Youngstown/Glenville), Dameon Willis, Jr., (Cleveland/Saint Ignatius) and Shane Wynn (Cleveland/Glenville).

What it means: Three of IU's best players are Ohioans.

Murphy is Indiana's active career leader in tackles and is starting for the fourth straight season. He has two career interception returns for touchdowns and is one of 17 nominees for an $18,000-NCAA post-graduate scholarship from the National Football Foundation.

Wynn is the first player in IU history to score touchdowns receiving, rushing and via kickoff and punt returns. He is the Hoosiers' career leader in receptions and is second on the career list with 20 touchdown catches.

Hoff is starting at nose tackle after redshirting last season at the U.S. Naval Academy prep school.

Fact: IU last defeated OSU on Oct. 8, 1988, (41-7 in Bloomington), a year after a 31-10 victory in Columbus.

What it means: OSU coach Earle Bruce referred to the 1987 loss as, "the darkest day in Ohio State football history," and the other defeat came in the first of only two losing seasons during John Cooper's 13-year run as OSU's head coach.

Fact: Quarteraback Nate Sudfeld suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the second quarter at Iowa in week six. He was one of 32 quarterbacks on the 2014 Manning Award Watch List.

What it means: Sudfeld's injury took the threat of the pass away from Indiana. When it had that and Coleman together, the Hoosiers could score enough to mask the limitations of their defense. Witness their 31-27 win at Missouri on Sept. 20, which remains the most shocking result of this college football season.

IU's backup quarterback, Chris Covington, is a freshman who switched from linebacker in fall camp. He's out for the season, too, so that leaves third-team Zander Diamont as the guy.

He threw for 179 yards last week in the blowout loss at Rutgers and finally broke IU's streak of 18 quarters without a touchdown pass. That's 4 1/2 games, folks!

Diamont had 103 passing yards combined in his first three games.

At 6-1 and 170 pounds, Diamont will be fortunate to make it out of Ohio Stadium without an unpleasant encounter with OSU defensive end Joey Bosa.

Of course, drama is nothing new to Diamont. His dad is Don Diamont, who in 2006 was voted the sexiest soap opera hunk of all time for his 25-year role on The Young and the Restless, now The Bold and the Beautiful.

Zander Diamont's step-mother is Cindy Ambuehl, who played Jerry Seinfeld's girlfriend in a Season 9 episode of Seinfeld, in which she claimed to have contracted VD from a tractor seat.

 

Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

Email Bruce hoolz@espncleveland.com

Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz

 

 

 

Kam Williams leads the way for Ohio State in 74-63 win over Marquette

Nov 18, 2014 -- 10:49pm

By Bruce Hooley | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Thad Matta has the raw materials for a seventh straight NCAA Tournament team and his ninth in 10 seasons, if Ohio State's 74-63 victory over Marquette on Tuesday at Value City Arena is representative of what's to come.

This team -- although strange in composition with six seniors, five freshmen and one sophomore -- is far deeper and much more adept at scoring than the shot-challenged crew Matta nursed to a 25-10 finish last season.

It appears OSU will also have greater depth than the six- or seven-man rotations Matta has favored in recent years, which should allow him to press full court without fear of foul problems.

Senior point guard Shannon Scott appears the only indispensible player, given his ability to exert defensive pressure and get the Buckeyes ordered properly on offense.

OSU (2-0) next plays Sunday at 7 p.m. against Sacred Heart.

Here's a quick rundown of the roster and what to expect as the season unfolds:

Starting Lineup:

Shannon Scott, 6-1, senior point guard: His 14 assists vs. Marquette gives him 23 in two games. That's what OSU needs from Scott, who still cannot shoot three-pointers consistently, but is such a disruptive force defensively and such a talented play-maker he must be on the floor for good things to happen at both ends.

D'Angelo Russell, 6-5 freshman shooting guard: He's trying to do too much right now, as evidenced by his seven turnovers against Marquette. Many expect this smooth lefty to lead OSU in scoring and be their next one-and-done. Matta has said he's the best guard he's recruited since Mike Conley.

Amir Williams, 6-10 senior center: Finally, we've gotten a glimpse of what prompted the McDonald's All-American voters to bestow that honor on Williams coming out of high school. He played with energy and enthusiasm and didn't foul, while making each of his six shots. Approach that level all season and OSU could be special.

Marc Loving, 6-7 sophomore forward: He looks a bit more confident than last season, and a bit stronger. Had 10 points against Marquette and made his only 3-point attempt. Will need the triple to be part of his arsenal if he's going to live up to his former Ohio Mr. Basketball label.

Sam Thompson, 6-7 senior forward: You still can't throw an alley-oop pass too high for this kid to catch and slam. He's supposedly worked very hard on his shot in the off-season. It looks better, but it's doubtful he can approach 40% success from there.

Bench:

Trey McDonald, 6-9 senior center/forward: Weight work has trimmed him down and improved his quickness. He's perfect as an energy guy if his contribution is limited to 10 minutes or less. Not hopeless in the low post, like he once was.

Keita Bates-Diop, 6-7 freshman forward: He'll play a lot and help OSU's backcourt pressure and zone defense with his quickness and long arms. Bates-Diop has outstanding form on his three-pointer and can knock it down. All-Big Ten potential down the road.

Kam Williams, 6-2 freshman guard: If his shooting success continues, he'll be the biggest surprise of the season. He hit three-of-four from long range against Marquette and scored 15 points. Don't know how you play him with Scott and avoid the pitfalls of a tiny backcourt, but it's going to be hard to keep him off the floor because of his offensive skills.

Jae'Sean Tate, 6-4 freshman forward: Destined to take over for Aaron Craft as a fan favorite. Tate is higher than high energy and will be the sort of guy opposing fans hate. There's a hint of former Michigan Stater Draymond Green in this kid.

Anthony Lee, 6-9 senior forward: This transfer from Temple hasn't quite found his niche yet, but looks like he will. Has a decent mid-range jumper and has above-average quickness for his size. Could be a 10-to-12 point per-game scorer.

Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

Email Bruce hoolz@espncleveland.com

Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz

 

 

 

Hooley's NFL Picks: The ol' college try

Nov 16, 2014 -- 12:00pm

By Bruce Hooley | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Next time someone tries to tell you the emphasis on quarterbacks in the NFL is overrated, remind them the Random Factor picks last week went 9-2 selecting solely on which team had the better player under center.

That raises the season's total to 85-50 entering games of this weekend, where we'll choose a winner weighted only on which team has the better Division I (OK, purists, Football Bowl Subdivision) college football program close by.

Minnesota at Chicago -- The Golden Gophers of Minnesota are 7-3 after their loss to Ohio State, while Northwestern is sky high after defeating Notre Dame in overtime. Still, Goldie the Gopher won its head-to-head matchup with the Wildcats by a TD. Pick: Minnesota

Houston at Cleveland -- Yes, we know Mid-American Conference programs abound around Cleveland, but Northeast Ohio is first and foremost an Ohio State haven. Houston might have a chance against OSU if Andre Ware or David Klingler were still winging it around, but they aren't. Pick: Cleveland

Seattle at Kansas City -- Chris Peterson will eventually get it going at UDub, but he's a few more years away than Bill Snyder at Kansas State, which consistently plays at a Top 25 level. Pick: Kansas City

Atlanta at Carolina -- Georgia looked pretty good Saturday in thumping Auburn...just as bad as it looked in losing to Florida a few weeks ago. Regardless, the Bulldogs have enough to beat Duke any week, particularly since the Blue Devils showed the depth of their floor by losing to Virginia Tech this weekend. Pick: Atlanta

Cincinnati at New Orleans -- Gunner Kiel is fun to watch at UC, but LSU on a bad day -- like Saturday, when it got shut out at Arkansas -- is better than the Bearcats at their best. Pick: New Orleans

Tampa Bay at Washington -- Florida can run it, but can't throw it. Maryland can do a little of both, but not enough of either to match up with the Gators' defense. Pick: Tampa Bay

Denver at St. Louis -- Colorado is a train wreck in the Pacific 12, just like it deteriorated into as its Big 12 membership wound down. Gary Pinkel and Missouri can still win the SEC East, despite losing at home to Indiana. Expect the SEC to make a rule against that next year. Which, it should. Pick: St. Louis

San Francisco at N.Y. Giants -- Stanford is showing steady deterioration under David Shaw, but it's still a better program than Syracuse. Pick: San Francisco

Oakland at San Diego -- The Cal Bears won by two touchdowns at Oregon State, which won by three touchdowns over San Diego State. Does that mean the Raiders will win their first today? Probably not. Even so... Pick: Oakland

Detroit at Arizona -- This game should be highly entertaining, but not as intriguing as the college matchup would be between Rich Rodriguez and Arizona against Michigan. Can we, please, get this in a bowl game. Oh, right, Michigan might not be eligible. Pick: Arizona

Philadelphia at Green Bay -- Penn State and Wisconsin don't play. Thank you, Jim Delany, whose Big Ten Network-driven expansion acquistion of Maryland and Rutgers has turned long-time Big Ten rivals into virtual strangers. Good thing for Penn State, in this case, because Melvin Gordon would roll. Pick: Green Bay

New England at Indianapolis -- Boston College won at Virginia Tech. You know what Virginia Tech did to Ohio State, and you know what Ohio State is going to do to Indiana. Pick: New England

Pittsburgh at Tennessee -- Pitt also won at Virginia Tech, but the Panthers have lost six of seven. So, while Tennessee isn't yet what it will become under Butch Jones, a good rule of thumb is to take average SEC over below-average ACC every single time. Pick: Tennessee

 

Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

Email Bruce hoolz@espncleveland.com

Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz

 

 

 

Buckeyes' 31-24 win over Minnesota may not have been enough for Playoff jump

Nov 16, 2014 -- 12:49am

By Bruce Hooley | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Ohio State did exactly what it needed to Saturday at Minnesota, or fell woefully short.

If you watched the Buckeyes' 31-24 victory start to finish, you saw another comfortable victory.

If you just scanned the final score, you probably agree OSU didn't do enough.

That's the weird world we live in thanks to the first College Football Playoff and the 12 members who will decide which teams get to seek the national championship.

Slotted at No. 8 in the latest playoff rankings, OSU knew going into Minnesota that the panel would likely compare its result against TCU's 30-7 win over the Gophers earlier this season.

So, while they won by seven on the scoreboard, did the Buckeyes' compile enough style points to shoot past TCU or Baylor should both Big 12 teams currently ahead of them continue to win?

We won't know until Dec. 7, when all the regular-season and coference champioship games are played and the Committee releases its final rankings.

But rest assured, the one-touchdown win over Minnesota will be portrayed unfavorably by the fan bases of the schools in front of Ohio State in a campaign to stay there.

Turnovers and penalties kept the Buckeyes from getting everything they wanted out of the trip.

Jalin Marshall fumbled away one touchdown just before he crossed the goal line and set up Minnesota's final TD with a fumbled punt at the OSU 14-yard line.

In between, Doran Grant returned an interception for a score, but a penalty for pass interference nullified the play.

Did the Minnesota receiver fall because of Grant's excessive contact, or did the slippery turf cause the spill?

Who knows, but the touchdown came off the board and OSU may end up suffering because of it.

That's the crazy thing about the beauty contest that typifies these first Playoff deliberations.

A turnover here, a penalty there can make a gigantic difference.

A game tape watched to truly recognize one team's dominance over another, or simply a final score compared to another because a committee member has a busy week...who knows what the final result may hinge upon.

Already, Mississippi has been all but eliminated because Laquon Treadwell fumbled on the one-yard line as he was going in for the winning score against Auburn.

If Treadwell's leg doesn't snap under the duress of an Auburn tackler, or if his bone snapped a second later, Ole Miss would have just one loss and undoubtledly be positioned to play for the title.

Likewise, if Utah's Kaelin Clay doesn't drop the ball on the one-yard line in premature celebration of a touchdown last week against Oregon, his team takes a 14-0 lead at home and the Ducks may not have survived to hop Florida State in the rankings.

That's how thin the margin is between in-or-out, and Ohio State's seven-point win over Minnesota hovers in that gray area between asset and detriment.

The Buckeyes dominated the statistics, gaining 489 yards to Minnesota's 303. The game was never really close, but it will forever look that way because of the final margin.

Ohio State functions like a playoff-worthy team at times, but commits enough self-loathing mistakes to undermine its candidacy.

If OSU gets left out, its fan base will at least have a distraction from that disappointment should they choose to consume the off-season arguing the merits of Barrett over Braxton Miller.

Miller, the two-time Big Ten MVP, went down 12 days before the season with a shoulder injury.

Barrett stepped in and Saturday shoved his predecessor from the record book twice, in combined touchdowns rushing and passing in a single season and in rushing yards in a single game.

Barrett's 189 yards on the ground bettered Miller's 186 against Nebraska in 2012, and Barrett's four TDs rushing and passing give him 38 this season, two more than Miller's school-record set last season.

Barrett completed 15-of-25 attempts for 200 yards and three touchdowns, rushing 17 times to compile his school-record single-game total.

David Cobb had 145 yards and three touchdowns for Minnesota, which rushed for 218 against the Buckeyes.

Cobb managed just 41 rushing yards and Minnesota 99 in its early-season loss to TCU.

 

Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

Email Bruce hoolz@espncleveland.com

Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz

 

 

 

PREVIEW: Ohio State at Minnesota

Nov 15, 2014 -- 7:36am

By Bruce Hooley | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

The mystery of exactly what matters most to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee may be revealed as its rankings continue to trickle out every Tuesday.

One thing's for sure, Ohio State would be well-served to defeat Minnesota by a margin greater than 30-7 Saturday at noon in TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

That score decided Minnesota's Sept. 13 loss at TCU, which holds the No. 4 spot in the Playoff Rankings at present, four places above OSU.

If the Buckeyes (8-1) want to overtake TCU, they better make an impressive case against only their second ranked opponent of the regular season.

Minnesota (7-2) barely meets that standard at No. 25 coming off a 51-14 home victory last week against Iowa.

Here are some particulars on the Golden Gophers from their weekly press release, with the truth behind the facts listed to provide additional texture and enlightenment.

Fact: "Ohio State leads the series, 43-7-0, and has won eight straight against the Gophers. Minnesota's last win was a 29-17 victory on Oct. 14, 2000, in Columbus. The last time Minnesota beat Ohio State in Minneapolis was 1981, when the Gophers triumphed 35-31 at Memorial Stadium."

What it means: OSU has dominated Minnesota as much as any opponent on its Big Ten schedule, losing to the Gophers only twice since 1966. Only Northwestern, which has also beaten OSU twice since then, has been as feeble.

Fact: "The Gophers are 8-3 in their last 11 Big Ten games, with home wins over Iowa, Purdue, Northwestern, Nebraska and Penn State and road wins at Michigan, Northwestern and Indiana. The 8-3 mark is the best record for Minnesota in an 11-game conference stretch since it also went 8-3 from Nov. 4, 1967 to Nov. 23, 1968."

What it means: Minnesota has beaten only one ranked opponent in that stretch, No. 24 Nebraska, last season.

Minnesota's last win over a Top Ten opponent in football stumps the Google search engine, which returns lots of stories about the Gophers' golf and women's volleyball and ice hockey teams, but nothing about football.

Fact: "Minnesota is 6-0 at home this year. The last time Minnesota won seven home games in a season was 1931 when it topped North Dakota State, Ripon, Oklahoma A&M, Iowa, Wisconsin, Cornell and Ohio State, beating the Buckeyes, 19-7."

What it means: Cue the Twilight Zone theme if this one ends, 19-7, in favor of Minnesota.

Fact: "Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett has been responsible for 34 touchdowns this season, second most in the country. Barrett needs two TDs to tie and three to break Braxton Miller's school record of 36 set in 2013. Barrett has been responsible for at least four touchdowns in five of nine games this season."

What it means: J.T. Barrett will have better numbers than Braxton Miller, but he lost to Virginia Tech in Week 2 at home on a Saturday night and Braxton Miller most assuredly would not have done that.

Fact: "Neither Urban Meyer nor Minnesota coach Jerry Kill were in their present positions when the Buckeyes and the Golden Gophers last met, four years ago on Oct. 30, 2010 in Minneapolis."

What it means: Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany's silly conference expansion plan makes some schools in the league virtual strangers to the Buckeyes. In place of Wisconsin and Nebraska this year, OSU gained the privilege of playing Rutgers and Maryland. Both will be fixtures on the Ohio State schedule as Eastern Division partners. Do you think OSU would be getting hammered for its soft schedule if it replaced Rutgers and Maryland with Nebraska and Wisconsin? If not, send your complaints to the Big Ten office in Park Ridge, Illinois, attention: Jim Delany. But, hey, that Big Ten Network is raking in cable fees in Baltimore and New York City, so there's that.

Fact: "Minnesota is enjoying a fine season at 7-2 overall and in a three-way tie for first place with Nebraska and Wisconsin in the Big Ten West at 4-1. Minnesota's only two losses this season have come on the road at TCU (30-7) and three weeks ago at Illinois."

What it means: Ohio State hammered Illinois, 55-14.

Fact: The Gophers are led offensively by senior running back David Cobb, who ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 133.9 rushing yards per game. Sophomore QB Mitch Leidner is fourth in the Big Ten in passer efficiency.

What it means: Cobb had 15 carries for 41 yards and Leidner had four of Minnesota's five turnovers in the loss at TCU, whose defense most-closely approximates Ohio State's. Minnesota managed just 99 yards rushing, 134 less than its average at the time, against TCU.

Fact: "Defensively, the Gophers are second in the Big Ten with 12 interceptions and are second in turnover margin (+8)."

Ohio State isn't likely to help the Gophers much. Barrett has thrown two interceptions in his past six games, both in the double-overtime win at Penn State.

 

Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

Email Bruce hoolz@espncleveland.com

Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz

 

 

 

Hooley's NFL Picks: Best QBs

Nov 09, 2014 -- 11:20am

By Bruce Hooley | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photos/Getty

With the Browns off, celebrating their 24-3 win over Cincinnati, the Random Factor picks take on a decidedly-Cleveland bent.

Since too many cannot let go of the Brian-or-Johnny argument, even when it's pointless and unproductive, let's pick games based solely on which team has the better quarterback.

Maybe it will yield a better record than last week's 7-5 mark, tracing to picks based only on which team had the more stylish uniforms, that lowered the season record to 76-48.

Tennessee at Baltimore -- Not even close here, between rookie Zach Mettenberger and Super Bowl winner, Joe Flacco. Pick: Baltimore

Kansas City at Buffalo -- Alex Smith was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Although the 49ers gave up on him, far more teams have given up on Kyle Orton. Pick: Kansas City

Miami at Detroit -- Ryan Tannehill is playing well, but he's no Mathew Stafford. Pick: Detroit

San Francisco at New Orleans -- Colin Kaepernick has a franchise-quarterback contract. Drew Brees is the safer bet as franchise quarterback. Pick: New Orleans

Pittsburgh at N.Y. Jets -- Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 12 touchdown passes the past two weeks. The Jets have eight TD passes all season. Pick: Pittsburgh

Dallas at Jacksonville -- Assuming Tony Romo plays, Dallas has the better quarterback. If Romo doesn't play, it's Brandon Weeden against Blake Bortels. And, then it's too close to call. Pick: Dallas

Atlanta at Tampa Bay -- Matt Ryan still has enough of a glow on him, even with the Falcons struggling, to outshine Josh McCown. Pick: Atlanta

Denver at Oakland -- Derek Carr is the best rookie quarterback this season. But he's not Peyton Manning. Pick: Denver

St. Louis at Arizona -- St. Louis is extremely happy with Austin Davis' performance in place of the injured Sam Bradford. Arizona is so happy with Carson Palmer, it gave him a three-year extension this week. Pick: Arizona

N.Y. Giants at Seattle -- Pretty tough call here. Eli Manning has two Super Bowl wins,  but Russell Wilson has one and is hotter now, perhaps only because of the team around him. Pick: Seattle

Chicago at Green Bay -- Jay Cutler might have the strongest arm in the NFL. Too bad he doesn't know what to do with it, like Aaron Rodgers demonstrates every week. Pick: Green Bay

Carolina at Philadelphia -- Nick Foles and Cam Newton have exactly the same quarterback rating (81.4) and are within a whisper of each other in completion percentage and TD-to-interception ratio. Foles has slightly better numbers, so ignore the disparity in draft position. Pick: Philadelphia

 

Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

Email Bruce hoolz@espncleveland.com

Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz

 

 

 

Buckeyes enter Playoff discussion with emphatic 49-37 win over Michigan St.

Nov 09, 2014 -- 12:59am

By Bruce Hooley | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

Ohio State no longer need bang on the door to lobby for inclusion in the College Football Playoff conversation.

The Buckeyes have instead forced their way into the discussions by knocking down the door on the same day it slammed in the faces of a host of other hopefuls.

Scoring touchdowns six times in a seven-possession stretch Saturday at Michigan State, OSU made its case as one of the nation's Top Four teams with an emphatic 49-37 victory.

Combined with made-to-order results from around the country, Ohio State should vault at least five spots from No. 14 in the Playoff Rankings with still time for teams that remain ahead to lose against much tougher schedules.

Losses by Auburn, Kansas State, Notre Dame and, of course, MSU will give Ohio State some post-season momentum entering a stretch run in which it will not play another Top 15 team until -- and this is no certainty -- the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis.

Whether that will be enough to get OSU (8-1) into the playoff remains unknown, but there's no doubt now about its superiority in the Big Ten's Eastern Division, given its systematic dismantling of Michigan State.

The Spartans (7-2) had no answer for the multiplicity of OSU playmakers quarterback J.T. Barrett employed to bolt away from a 21-21 tie midway through the second quarter.

His 44-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith shortly before halftime provided a seven-point advantage at the break, despite OSU having fumbled away one punt and one kickoff.

The first turnover set up an MSU touchdown, and the second looked like it would, as well, but a holding penalty wiped out the score and forced a field goal attempt, which Michigan State missed.

Rather than lead, 28-14, MSU's margin held at 21-14, which Barrett erased on the next snap with a 79-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas.

That typified the dominance OSU's offense enjoyed all night, with tailback Ezekiel Elliott gaining 154 yards on 23 carries and Barrett running quarterback power after quarterback power to add 86 yards on 14 carries to go with his 300 passing yards and three TD throws.

Michigan State's defense was no match, failing to have any of the success against OSU that it enjoyed last December in a stunning, 34-24, victory over the then-No. 2 Buckeyes in the conference title game.

That loss cost Ohio State a berth in the final BCS championship game.

This victory moves OSU into position where all it need do is wait, for No. 1 Mississippi State to play at Alabama and at No. 8 Missiissippi, for No. 4 Oregon to perhaps lose to arch-rival Oregon State or in the Pacific 10 championship game or for TCU or Florida State to stumble inexplicably.

Of course, Ohio State doesn't need all of that to happen. It may need only one of those things to happen, or maybe none of it to happen.

No one knows how much value the Committee will place on the win at Michigan State, but it unquestionably provides something the Buckeyes did not have on their resume -- an impressive win over a quality opponent.

It doesn't hurt that the victory came on the road, but the win at MSU won't erase from Ohio State's dossier the one thing no other playoff contender has -- a loss as bad as the Buckeyes' 35-21 failure against Virginia Tech in week two.

Tech has since lost five of seven games, including four at home, which makes its win and the fashion in which it dominated OSU up front all the more puzzling.

Will the Committee give leeway for the young Ohio State offense's dramatic improvement over the course of the season, or stick to a cold evaluation of the numbers relative to the other contenders for one of the four precious Playoff berths?

No one knows the answer to that question.

But as for the class of the Big Ten East, Ohio State settled that argument without debate.

 

Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

Email Bruce hoolz@espncleveland.com

Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz

 

 

 

PREVIEW: Ohio State at Michigan State

Nov 08, 2014 -- 11:57am

By Bruce Hooley | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

The Big Ten, which hasn't looked ready for prime time all season, gets its de facto championship game on national TV tonight when Michigan State plays host to Ohio State in an 8 p.m. kickoff in Spartan Stadium.

The stakes prompted ESPN College GameDay to headquarter in East Lansing, which brought out the snark among the GameDay sign crowd.

Among the contenders, but not winers, for best sign:

"Urban Meyer drinks Pumpkin Spice lattes."

"J.T. Barrett hates puppies."

"Brutus is a dog's name."

But the winner, hands down, went to the OSU fan who captioned a curmudgeonly photo of MSU coach Mark Dantonio with:

"I smiled once....I hated it."

A few facts from the MSU press release and what they mean for tonight's game:

Fact: Both the Spartans and Buckeyes enter Saturday’s game with perfect 4-0 league records. The Spartans are coming off a bye week after defeating Michigan for the sixth time in seven tries on Oct. 25 in East Lansing, 35-11. Ohio State defeated Illinois, 55-14, last week in Columbus to win its 20th straight Big Ten game.

What it means: The rest of the Big Ten is crap. Arkansas, which hasn't won a game in the SEC in two years, would easily win the Big Ten West. If the Big Ten is going to have a team in the College Football Playoff, it's whoever wins this game.

Fact: Michigan State is looking to defeat Ohio State in consecutive years for the first time since 1998-99.

What it means: Sparty's win at Ohio State in 1998 knocked the Buckeyes off the No. 1 perch in the inaugural BCS standings. That OSU team never gets mentioned among the best in school history, but likely would have wiped the field with the 2002 squad that won the national championship. Oh, and in true Sparty fashion, after winning at Columbus in 1998, MSU went home the next week and lost top Purdue.

Fact: Dantonio (71-30, .703) is one of just six active coaches in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision to own at least a .700 winning percentage in at least 100 games at the same school (Les Miles, LSU; Gary Patterson, TCU; Nick Saban, Alabama; Bob Stoops, Oklahoma; Mark Richt, Georgia).

What it means: Dantonio has done a marvelous job and his program is onl going to ascend from here. Whether he can win a national title like Miles, Saban or Stoops is questionable, but he's clearly taken control of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry and a win over OSU would give him the edge on the Buckeyes, too.

Fact: MSU is one of just three teams in the FBS, along with Mississippi State and Marshall, to average more than 250 yards in both rushing and passing. The Spartans are averaging 254.9 yards rushing with 28 TDs and 260.4 yards passing with 19 TDs.

What it means: That balance makes MSU a different challenge than Ohio State has faced so far. The Buckeyes failed their only comparable test, against Virginia Tech. But it's not like MSU has put up those numbers against a monster schedule, either.

Fact: Michigan State, which has ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten and Top 10 in the NCAA FBS the past three seasons in total defense and rushing defense, ranks second in the Big Ten and sixth in the NCAA FBS in rushing defense in 2014 (95.4 ypg).

What it means: MSU is good defensively, but it's not what it was a year ago. Oregon, which is the closest the Spartans have faced to OSU, rushed for 173 yards and passed for 318. Purdue's Akeem Hunt had 96 of the Boilermakers; 129 yards on 25 carries against Michigan State. If OSU averages 5 yards per-carry like that, this game will be over by the start of the fourth quarter.

Fact: Michigan State co-offensive coordinator Jim Bollman served as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator for 11 seasons (2001-11).

What it means: Bollman was the favorite whipping boy of Ohio State fans whenever they perceived the Buckeyes falling short of their expectations on offense. Truth is, he never had final play-calling authority. That always belonged to head coach Jim Tressel.

Fact: Michigan State’s 2014 roster features 27 players from Ohio, including 10 of the Spartans’ 24 probable starters against the Buckeyes, including junior quarterback Connor Cook (Hinckley/Walsh Jesuit).

What it means: Cook wasn't offered a scholarship by Ohio State, which had already locked up Braxton Miller. Cook is 1-0 against Miller, and appears to have an excellent NFL future -- something no OSU quarterback has had in at least 15 years.

 

Bruce Hooley hosts "The Bruce Hooley Show" from 5-7 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

Email Bruce hoolz@espncleveland.com

Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz

 

 

 

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