Michigan State suffered its worst margin of defeat under coach Mark Dantonio, falling 48-3 on Saturday at Ohio State.
The Spartans (7-3, 5-2 Big Ten), ranked 12th in the College Football Playoff rankings, took a beating from the No. 13 Buckeyes (8-2, 6-1) in a battle for first place in the Big Ten East.
Michigan State allowed a whopping 335 rushing yards from Ohio State. The Buckeyes outgained the Spartans 524-195.
1. Michigan State was blind to the motivation right in front of it.
It shouldn’t have taken much for the Michigan State coaches to get their players fired up for this game or for the players to do it themselves. Had they won this game, they would’ve been two winnable games from a berth in the Big Ten championship game. Instead, the Spartans came out looking lethargic and a bit dazed by the enormity of the stage. When things went awry, they didn’t respond well. They opened themselves up to further humiliation. That’s on the coaching staff for failing to adjust.
2. That said, the Spartans were simply overmatched in the trenches.
For all that Michigan State did wrong, Ohio State must get some credit. It came in angry over its 31-point loss to Iowa a week ago and had the physically imposing linemen necessary to make Saturday a nightmare for the Spartans. Michigan State’s offensive line had struggled to get the necessary push to open holes for its running backs, but never had been so dominated in the pass rush this season. It started with a rough opening drive, allowing two sacks, and didn’t get much better.
On the other side, Michigan State’s front four was overwhelmed. Without the help on the line, the linebackers too easily were occupied by blockers. The Spartans hadn’t allowed 100 yards rushing since Michigan put up 102. Ohio State matched that number in the first quarter. Mike Weber broke off touchdown runs of 47 and 82 yards, the two longest against the Spartans this year. So much for one of the nation’s best run defenses.
3. All is not lost.
No need for fans to just move on to basketball. No. 2 Michigan State will take on No. 1 Duke on Tuesday, after all. But who even saw the Spartans battling for a division title this late in the season? They still could wrap up the regular season at 9-3 and earn a nice bowl berth. Any bowl berth would have looked nice going into the year. To finish the season strong, though, the Spartans must flush this performance. There’s plenty to be learned, but the humiliation that comes with such a defeat cannot be allowed to linger.
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