COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jalin Marshall returned a punt 54 yards for a touchdown to give No. 7 Ohio State the lead late in the third quarter and added three late insurance scores to lead the Buckeyes past Indiana 42-27 Saturday, the Hoosiers' sixth loss in a row.
The surprisingly tight game for most of the day could impact the playoff hopes of the Buckeyes (10-1, 7-0 Big Ten, No. 6 CFP), who clinched the East Division title and a berth in the conference title game.
They trailed the 34-point underdogs 20-14 after Tevin Coleman sped 90 yards for a TD midway through the third quarter. A week after rushing for 307 yards, Coleman went for 228 yards on 27 carries for three scores for the Hoosiers (3-8, 0-7).
Marshall caught fourth-quarter scoring passes of 6, 15 and 54 yards to put the game out of reach.
Despite the up-and-down day for the Buckeyes, J.T. Barrett set the school mark for touchdown passes (33) in a season and Ezekiel Elliott, who had 107 yards on 13 carries, topped 1,000 yards. Barrett completed 25 of 35 passes for 302 yards and four scores with two interceptions, and ran for 78 yards on 20 attempts.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After flirting with disaster and letting an upset alert pop up at the Horseshoe, No. 6 Ohio State snapped out of a turnover-induced funk to knock off Indiana.
The Buckeyes clinched a division title, earned a berth to the Big Ten title game and kept themselves in the College Football Playoff picture with a 42-27 win Saturday afternoon. But those positives aren’t likely to be mentioned much by coach Urban Meyer moving forward, and he has plenty of teaching points at his disposal heading into the regular-season finale.
How the game was won: Ohio State had turnover problems on offense and was gashed for a long touchdown by Indiana’s Tevin Coleman on defense, but decisively winning the battle on special teams was enough to pull out another win. The Buckeyes flipped field position with more impressive punting from Cameron Johnston, and they took a lead it wouldn’t relinquish thanks to a punt return for a touchdown that saved an otherwise shaky outing overall.
Game ball goes to: Jalin Marshall. Criticized for a pair of costly fumbles a week ago, the redshirt freshman wide receiver offered a strong reminder why Ohio State stood firmly behind him when he busted a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown when the team was trailing, and then extended the lead with three more scores through the air after that during a second-half, one-man blitzkrieg. He is an invaluable weapon for the Buckeyes when he hangs on to the football.
What it means: The Buckeyes have developed a troubling habit of turning the football over on offense, but they are still scoring points in bunches and are officially the East Division champion. They will play again for the Big Ten title in two weeks. There is no question, though, Meyer will be working overtime to fix the ball-security issues that have popped up lately.
Playoff implication: Maybe there weren’t many of those mythical style points to be found, but Ohio State got the only thing that really counts with a victory to keep itself solidly in the mix for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff. The first and only priority for the Buckeyes at this point is to keep winning -- ugly or not.
What's next: A trip to Indianapolis to play for the Big Ten championship is clinched, but the first order of business for Ohio State is The Game. With Michigan coming to Ohio Stadium next Saturday, there doesn’t seem to be much risk of the Buckeyes looking ahead with bragging rights at stake against their hated rival.
Josh Moyer: It’s difficult to answer that, Lynn, only because I disagree with the premise of the question. I think J.T. Barrett has gotten a lot of love in the Heisman race. A lot of outlets have him ranked in the top five – including Sports Illustrated (5), CBS (4), USA Today (3) and Yahoo! (5). Sure, he’s right on the outside of ESPN’s Heisman Watch at No. 6, but he’s just two points behind. And, quite frankly, I think it’s a no-brainer he should be ranked within those first five spots.
Since the loss to Virginia Tech, he’s statistically been the best quarterback in the nation – with a national-best 91.7 QBR and an FBS-leading 34 TDs. But, if I can play devil’s advocate just a bit here, he’s also played just four top-60 defenses and two of those games didn’t turn out so well (Virginia Tech, Penn State). He’s still obviously a great quarterback, one of the best in the country, but those stats appear at least a little inflated.
Does he deserve Heisman Trophy consideration? Absolutely. Should he be a top-five contender who travels to New York? You bet. But should he win the Heisman? Definitely not.
@ESPNJoshMoyer what's wrong with hack and how do we fix it?— Pete Lagasse (@petelagasse) November 21, 2014
Josh Moyer: Nearly all of it comes back to the offensive line. I actually wrote about this more in-depth earlier today, but let me kind of build off that a little bit because Christian Hackenberg has faced two primary criticisms this year -- one, he’s making bad throws even when he does have time and, two, it’s as if he can’t read a defense anymore. As far as the first point, maybe this is an odd analogy, but follow me on this: It’s a bit like Pavlov’s dog. Hackenberg can almost never step up into the pocket and, on most snaps, he has no time. So what happens when the pocket doesn’t collapse? Well, he’s still been conditioned not to step up, because that leads to big hits. When the defense rings that proverbial bell, Hackenberg just can’t snap back to his normal behavior all of a sudden. That goes for any quarterback; just look at Eli Manning and his 27 picks last season for the Giants.
As far as not being able to read defenses, that’s just patently false. He’s been put in some no-win situations because he hasn't been allowed to audible out of every play this season, and a big part of that stems from the fact the rest of this offense – with four new linemen and inexperienced receivers – isn’t ready for that under a brand-new system. Last season, like former Penn State quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher mentioned to me, Hackenberg was able to walk to the line, inspect the defense and pick from three to five plays that were best suited for the situation. He doesn’t have that this season. He’s just living through a worst-case offensive scenario right now. He needs a better offensive line or this isn’t going to go away.
Josh Moyer: You make an interesting point, Patrick, because it’s true that a playoff berth would only help Gordon’s chances. Look at Alabama’s AJ McCarron last season; I believe that’s the main reason he finished second on the ballot. His stats weren’t crazy – 28 TDs, seven INTs – but he was arguably the best player on the best team.
So, yeah, beating LSU would have helped slightly – but if last week’s rushing performance hasn’t changed your mind about Gordon, I don’t know if anything else would have, either. He’s actually within striking distance of Barry Sanders’ seemingly untouchable single-season record of 2,628 rushing yards. He’s averaging an insane 8.6 yards per carry. And on Saturday, he’ll almost certainly become the fastest player to reach 2,000 rushing yards when it comes to carries. It took Sanders 268 rushes, Nebraska’s Mike Rozier 258 rushes and Penn State’s Larry Johnson 251 rushes. Two of those players won the Heisman, and I think it would be a grave injustice if Gordon didn’t beat Marcus Mariota out for the trophy this year.
Josh Moyer: Purdue has shown marked improvement this year, especially with redshirt sophomore Austin Appleby under center. But make no mistake -- this team still has a long way to go. Its receivers are lacking -- Danny Anthrop is out until next spring and DeAngelo Yancey has been a disappointment -- and the defense hasn't at all helped matters.
Purdue is ranked No. 83 nationally in total defense and No. 97 in scoring defense, and it's a big reason Purdue didn't beat Minnesota or play Michigan State closer. The Boilermakers are simply giving up too many big plays. There are plenty of young players on both sides of the ball – such as linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, one of the biggest freshman surprises in the Big Ten – but the problem with this team is there’s more than one problem. Plus, just take a look at the nonconference slate next season when it faces Virginia Tech and Marshall.
So when will Purdue make it to the upper echelon? Not in the near future. Right now, the question has to be when it can become bowl-eligible – and I think Purdue will be improved, but still hard-pressed to do that next season.
RB Ezekiel Elliott
- The Buckeyes figure to be able to score any way they want against a defense that is allowing more than 33 points per game, and it's a safe bet J.T. Barrett is going to throw for a few touchdowns. But Ohio State will probably lean more heavily on its ground game against the Hoosiers, and Elliott will be the direct beneficiary of a game plan that could keep the clock rolling along while still lighting up the scoreboard just in case Urban Meyer thinks he needs some style points to impress the selection committee. Expect Elliott to get the 46 yards he needs to top 1,000 for the season by the end of the first quarter as the Buckeyes play it relatively safe and conservative while feeding the sophomore rusher carries. DB Tyvis Powell
- The Hoosiers have been a mess throwing the football since losing Nate Sudfeld to injury, and they weren't even all that dangerous through the air even with their starting quarterback healthy. No Big Ten team has more interceptions than Ohio State's 16, and it will no doubt be looking to add to that total this weekend -- and there might not be a player with more motivation to make a big play than Powell after a bit of an inconsistent outing against Minnesota. Powell's contributions have perhaps been a bit overlooked this season considering he's tied for second on the team with 54 tackles and he's picked off a pair of passes, but he could be in the spotlight against the Hoosiers for all the right reasons. QB Barrett
- Maybe he's a safe choice, and perhaps he will only be needed to play a half, like in his last home outing, against Illinois. But with the way the redshirt freshman is rolling, no list would be complete for Ohio State right now without his name on it. Backup Cardale Jones actually did some impressive work in relief of Barrett against the Illini, and Jalin Marshall has chipped in admirably as a Wildcat threat, so potentially the quarterback position in general could shine and not just Barrett. But with a Heisman campaign in full swing, Barrett probably won't leave the game until he's added to his already bursting resume.
Thanks to huge days by Melvin Gordon (64 fantasy points) and J.T. Barrett (44 fantasy points), it now appears as if it's just a two-team race between the Coal Crackers and Massive Attack. Who will come out on top these last two weeks?
Stay tuned ...
Your results this week:
Coal Crackers (Josh Moyer): 186
Massive Attack (Austin Ward): 156
Legendary Leaders (Brian Bennett): 107
The Trombone Shorties (Adam Rittenberg): 76
Sherman Tanks (Mitch Sherman): 63
And the overall standings:
Coal Crackers: 1,460
Massive Attack: 1,417
The Trombone Shorties: 1,327
Legendary Leaders: 1,164
Sherman Tanks: 1,048
Waiver wire: Rittenberg trails by 133 points after a down week and, as a result, he is trying to make up for some lost ground. He accounted for exactly half of our league's six moves this week. But, overall, last week's starting rosters are mostly intact.
Sherman adds Michigan RB De'Veon Smith and drops Nebraska RB Imani Cross
Bennett adds Michigan WR Devin Funchess and drops Penn State TE Jesse James
Rittenberg adds Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian and drops Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy
Moyer adds Michigan WR Amara Darboh and drops Illinois WR Geronimo Allison
Rittenberg adds the Michigan defense and drops the Rutgers defense
Rittenberg adds the Maryland kickers and drops the Minnesota kickers
Coal Crackers (Moyer)
Purdue QB Austin Appleby
Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner
Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo
Michigan WR Amara Darboh
Penn State defense
Bench: Maryland QB C.J. Brown (at Michigan)
Massive Attack (Ward)
Iowa QB Jake Rudock
Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Minnesota RB David Cobb
Ohio State WR Michael Thomas
Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton
Penn State kickers
Michigan State defense
Bench: Illinois RB Josh Ferguson (vs. Penn State)
The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg)
Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian
Michigan State QB Connor Cook
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah
Northwestern RB Justin Jackson
Ohio State WR Devin Smith
Nebraska WR Kenny Bell
Bench: Ohio State RB Dontre Wilson (vs. Indiana)
Legendary Leaders (Bennett)
Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
Illinois QB Wes Lunt
Iowa RB Mark Weisman
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford
Michigan WR Devin Funchess
Illinois WR Mike Dudek
Ohio State kickers
Bench: Wisconsin QB Joel Stave (at Iowa)
Sherman Tanks (Sherman)
Rutgers QB Gary Nova
Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg
Michigan RB De'Veon Smith
Purdue RB Akeem Hunt
Michigan State WR Tony Lippett
Iowa Kevonte Martin-Manley
Michigan State kickers
Ohio State defense
Bench: Wisconsin RB Corey Clement (at Iowa)
But a private conversation about an individual award is something else entirely, and the Ohio State coach doesn’t have plans for one of those with J.T. Barrett any time soon.
The redshirt freshman quarterback and blossoming national star is certainly attracting more attention, and he is steadily shooting up the polls as a candidate for the game’s most prestigious honor. Though Meyer has some experience dealing with the hoopla that accompanies a Heisman campaign and could counsel his young star if need be, at this point there appears be no need for a State of the Stiff-arm the way he might otherwise address his team’s playoff chances.
"But if I saw it [being a distraction], certainly I’d jump in the middle of that. But I haven’t even given it two thoughts."
Barrett seems to be giving it little consideration as well, though he is clearly aware that he is now part of the conversation as the season hits the closing stretch with the No. 6 Buckeyes gaining steam thanks to his 38 total touchdowns.
His emergence has been well-documented since taking over during training camp following an injury to Braxton Miller, who was supposed to be staging his own run for the Heisman as a senior after finishing in the top 10 each of the past two seasons. But Barrett has now gone well beyond being simply a caretaker for the spread attack in Miller’s absence, shattering records on a weekly basis and helping the Buckeyes expand the playbook thanks his accuracy as a passer, underrated athleticism and an uncanny ability to make the right decision -- both through the air and on the ground.
His success has done more than draw the spotlight to him as a potential candidate for individual awards, prompting additional speculation now about whether Barrett has so far exceeded Miller’s decorated tenure that the two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year should be his backup next season, or even switch positions once his surgically repaired shoulder heals. But if all that extra attention or scrutiny is changing Barrett, it certainly doesn’t seem to be inflating his ego or impacting his preparation.
"I hope it doesn’t change me," Barrett said. "I hope I stay the same. I try hard to be the same. Working hard, being here on a Wednesday night, I probably won’t leave until like 9 o’clock, you know, grinding, getting right and everything like that.
"I hope it doesn’t change me, I’m going to do my best to make sure it doesn’t. I have people around here to keep me grounded, so it’s really unlikely for that to happen."
Meyer has made it clear he would be among the first to bring Barrett back to earth if necessary, though so far he hasn’t needed to lean on the expertise acquired while guiding Alex Smith or Tim Tebow through the Heisman circus.
Barrett also has the benefit of sharing a locker room with a couple teammates who are dealing with similar attention, albeit on slightly smaller scales. Joey Bosa is a finalist for the Lombardi Award, Michael Bennett was a preseason All-America still pushing for individual honors, and a handful of skill players on both sides of the ball are in the mix for all-conference accolades.
For all of them, starting with Barrett and his high-profile campaign, one thing above all else is driving the conversation. And worrying about individual awards instead of team victories would be getting it all completely backwards.
"I'm having a lot of fun coaching this team," Meyer said. "J.T. is a Heisman candidate that knows that he could have played much better Saturday, and that's the best thing about coaching these guys right now. I hope it doesn't change.
"That's something we're watching very closely with guys that are starting to get some notoriety. You know, [Ezekiel Elliott] has a chance to get 1,000 yards, and the minute he becomes something other than Zeke Elliott, that's a problem, and same with J.T., same with Joey Bosa. I've just got to make sure they don't change."
For now that means it’s fine to publicly talk about awards or tout Buckeyes as candidates. But Meyer doesn’t expect to have any other conversations after that.
This is a good time to take a look at the Big Ten recruiting efforts, where some teams are having success and some need help. The numbers below help show the makeup and statistics behind the recruiting classes within the conference.
Commits from different states:
Michigan versus Maryland:
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Urban Meyer’s team deserves the attention.
Yes, it has more talent on the bench than most Big Ten teams feature in their starting lineups. But OSU rise behind freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett rates as a truly unexpected story of national significance.
Take a moment, though, as Michigan State honors 18 seniors on Saturday, to appreciate the legacy of Spartans like Jeremy Langford, Tony Lippett and Taiwan Jones.
It’s shame that their careers are closing on something of an anticlimactic note.
They’ve anchored the most consistent and most winning program in the conference over the past four years and traveled various paths, as Matt Charboneau of the Detroit News writes, to earn a shot to equal the 2013 senior class as the best in school history.
If they beat Rutgers on Saturday, Penn State next week and notch a win in a bowl game -- perhaps among the New Year’s Six -- the MSU seniors would finish 42-12.
These seniors have already won two Big Ten crowns and three bowl games, including the Rose Bowl last season. The News article shows that Michigan State's senior classes since 2010 have posted the five highest win totals in program history. It’s an incredible accomplishment. And all but Jones, who did not redshirt, have been there in East Lansing with each class.
They deserve a share of the spotlight this month.
Staying with the Spartans, coach Mark Dantonio made an interesting comment Thursday on his radio show about quarterback Connor Cook as a future team captain. That would, of course, only happen if Cook returns next season for his senior year.
Cook is considered a potential early-round selection if he declares for the NFL draft. No Big Ten quarterback has been selected in the first round since Kerry Collins in 1995.
Cook could end the drought.
MSU junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun also faces a decision. Calhoun, ranked on Mel Kiper's 25-player Big Board, said this week that he had not reached a decision.
"My primary focus is this season," Calhoun told MLive.com, "and this season isn't over yet. I'm just trying to do great things to help my team win."
These decisions figure to factor heavily in the bid of the Spartans' senior class of 2015 to match the accomplishments of the five that came before it.
As Gordon has nearly pulled even with leader Marcus Mariota in the Heisman Watch and Barrett continues to surface in conversation for out the award, what could it mean for the Big Ten to send two finalists to New York for the ceremony?
It wouldn't exactly change the suffering national perception of the league, but it couldn't hurt, what with the Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC unlikely to produce more than one finalist apiece.
Only the SEC, with Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, can match the Big Ten with two potential finalists.
Just as important, when Gordon and Barrett play during this stretch run of the season, it's a must-see TV event.
Wisconsin and Gordon, after his 408-yard explosion against Nebraska, visit Iowa (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) on Saturday. And the Hawkeyes are taking notice.
Barrett stays home to face Indiana. That could get out of hand.
Around the rest of the league:
- Rutgers is preparing for the late-November elements at Spartan Stadium.
- Brady Hoke says he's seen a lot of growth in his team this year at Michigan.
- Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs will not play before the Terps' bowl game.
- This Penn State defense is earning its place in school history.
- Nebraska needs a strong performance from its secondary in run support against Minnesota.
- Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner looks to bounce back after a rough game against Ohio State.
- Immaturity has plagued Northwestern, says Pat Fitzgerald.
- Place-kicker Paul Griggs is a bright spot for Purdue.
- Purdue defender Earnest Thomas III has grown into a leader.
Mitch Sherman: Melvin Gordon goes over 2,000 yards for the season during the second quarter against Iowa.
I learned from the prediction last week of colleague Adam Rittenberg that it’s not a good idea to underestimate Wisconsin’s superstar back. Gordon needs 91 yards to get to 2,000 and likely secure success for the #GordontoGotham campaign. He could reach 2,500 by the end of the season. But against the Hawkeyes, the milestone carry will arrive before halftime. (ESPN Stats & Information projects it to happen on his 11th carry, based on Gordon’s 8.6-yard average.) Iowa’s rush defense ranks 46th nationally, and it held Gordon to 62 yards last year. But as Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said of Gordon – the Gophers get him next week -- he’s “on a different planet right now.”
Austin Ward: Ohio State's defensive line pins down Tevin Coleman.
Brian Bennett: Ohio State cracks the 60-point barrier.
Maybe this isn't that bold, as the Buckeyes are playing Indiana. But Urban Meyer's team has been ridiculously explosive at home, scoring 55 against Illinois, 56 against Rutgers, 50 vs. Cincinnati and 66 against Kent State. After two straight road games, Ohio State will enjoy its return to the Horseshoe -- and a few style points certainly can't hurt the cause. J.T. Barrett will account for five total touchdowns, break Troy Smith's passing touchdown record and enjoy the final quarter-and-a-half from the bench in this romp.
Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern wins another shootout in the Hoosier State.
My bold predictions generally have been terrible, so keep that in mind. Also, the weather in West Lafayette is supposed to be nasty. But I think Northwestern found something on offense last week at Notre Dame and could have put up way more than 40 points if its receivers could hang on to the ball. Purdue is much improved on offense and has big-play threats in the backfield with Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert. I see both teams making plays on offense and eclipsing 35 points despite the weather, but Northwestern will score a late touchdown to prevail at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Josh Moyer: Three Big Ten running backs set single-season school records.
It's been the Year of the Running Back so far this season, and this Saturday should make it a bit more memorable. David Cobb needs just 115 yards to break Minnesota's single-season record for rushing yards set by Laurence Maroney in 2005 (1,464 yards). Indiana's Coleman needs 128 yards to break Vaughn Dunbar's 1991 mark of 1,805 yards. And Wisconsin's Gordon is 201 yards shy of surpassing Ron Dayne's 2,109-yard record from 1996. At least two of those records should easily be broken Saturday, and I'm predicting that all three will go down within hours of one another. The only real reach is Gordon, who's averaging fewer than 201 yards a game -- but it's difficult to bet against a guy who just set an NCAA record with 408 rushing yards in a game.
Dan Murphy: No Big Ten back will set his school's single-season rushing record Saturday.
Josh and I are on opposite sides of the fence on this one. All three -- Cobb, Coleman and Gordon -- will almost certainly get to the top of their school's record books before the season is over, but I'm guessing the celebration will have to wait until the final week of the regular season. Cobb faces a Nebraska defense eager to redeem itself and he'll come up just shy of the 115 yards he needs. Ohio State can key on Coleman and keep him from the 128 yards he needs. And Gordon might have another big day against Iowa, but not quite 201 yards big.
HOUSTON -- Clemson's Vic Beasley, Ohio State's Joey Bosa, Washington's Hau'oli Kikaha and Arizona's Scooby Wright are finalists for the Lombardi Award for college football's best lineman or linebacker.
Beasley, a defensive end, leads the Tigers with eight sacks and 14½ tackles for losses. Also a defensive end, Bosa is fifth in the nation with 11½ sacks and has 17 tackles for losses.
Kikaha, who is a linebacker, is tied for first in the country with 16½ sacks and his 22½ tackles for losses leads the nation. Wright, who is also a linebacker, has 12 sacks and is second to Kikaha with 21 tackles for losses.
The award will be given Dec. 10 in Houston.
Jalin Marshall Dominates Second Half With 4 TDs
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
2:24 2nd Qtr 16 Wisconsin 9 Iowa 3 7:41 2nd Qtr Maryland 3 Michigan 6 Final Penn State 14 Illinois 16 Final Indiana 27 6 Ohio State 42 Final 25 Minnesota 28 23 Nebraska 24 Final Northwestern 38 Purdue 14 Final Rutgers 3 11 Michigan State 45